This episode is from the WNYC archives. It may contain language which is no longer politically or socially appropriate.
Mellow, Director of Civilian Personnel of the US Army Ordinance Missile Command, discusses the work of the Army in the field of missiles.
Frank Titus moderates.
Panelists: Charles Tuck, Angela Descala, and Charles Rosema
Putting the Army out of the space business was not a good idea. Dr. Wernher von Braun's talents have been transferred to NASA. There is a place for women at Redstone Arsenal Base in support areas and in science and in engineering. Responds to criticism of civilians working for the military. The Army is an impressive employer for engineers and scientists. Security precautions at Redstone. The Soviets have demonstrated some capabilities more than the US, particularly in thrust, but the U.S. has more capabilities than them in other areas. It's difficult to compare the two programs. Nike Zeus program. Program funding.
Audio courtesy of the NYC Municipal Archives WNYC Collection
WNYC archives id: 72055
Municipal archives id: LT9072
This is a machine-generated transcript. Text is unformatted and may contain errors.
Is the army obsolete has been this. Is America are ahead in the missile race for the answers to these and other questions listen now to your city stations campus press conference and this transcribed discussion in the editors of college newspaper is question a news worthy personality I will moderator on campus press conference is W I N Y C News editor and reporter Frank Titus now to introduce the panel and today's guest here is Mr Titus Good evening welcome to Compass press conference tonight our guest is Mr Robert F. Mello director of civilian personnel for the United States Army Ordnance Missile Command at Redstone Arsenal Alabama the United States Army is no longer involved in space work this is been the case since the transfer of Dr Beneful Brown and his team to the National Aeronautics and Space Administration however the Army still has a very important mission to perform in the field of missiles vital to our national defense this is the area of our inquiry to light our guest Robert F. Mello college reporters Charles tuck and July discolor pace college press and child Columbia Daily Spectator who takes the first question Mr Mellow. Dr Von Braun has left the Army and the army is now out of the space business do you think that putting the army out of the space business was a good thing well I think this has been answered many times by a lot of people and I might just get mine at Layer two I happen to think not however the decision has been made and the army has has accepted it Dr Von Brown's talents which have been transferred to the. National Aeronautics and Space Administration were a vital part of the Army's missile program but I think it should be understood by the listeners that only five percent of the Army's program was actually transferred to NASA and that was a Saturn program we did lose eighty percent of our people out of the army ballistic missile agency including Dr Marc Brown but the Army still has ninety five percent of its workload still to accomplish with the same with this reduced number of personnel Oh no we have had to restaff an artery staffing However we will not be as large as we were with Dr Von Brown through the organization which had about fifty three hundred people will be reduced to about twenty six hundred fifty and when do you expect to be back up to full strength within one year why this gap between what you had and the expected. Increase Well one reason is when we transferred Dr one BROWN We also transferred the facilities with a it was so before we can fully staff we must restore Adly some of our laboratory facilities that they army needs and its weapons systems management program Angela discolor. Oh definitely yes we do not discriminate against the first sex that's for sure we have. Of course women and the support areas and the clerical administrative areas but we also have scientists and engineers who are making a very major contribution of the program down there we're very happy to have a woman who are qualified in these scientific skills to apply our Charles talk what do you think of gentleman recent criticism of the civilian workers in the defense program how you really put me on the spot now. I don't think that I'm really qualified as he is to answer that question I know General Musharraf very well and I was his director of personnel for four years and he has a very positive idea is it for a man to make that statement you've got to know an awful lot about and I'm sure he does I know some of the reason for his for his comments and I think that one of them was a nice book if I recall and also in a recent article and looked magazine where he said that they were adding additional. Levels of supervision in the Defense Department which made it harder to get a decision I think that what has happened from my standpoint is that the more levels they answer they add to our Defense Department or any level in the Pentagon the more people who have the right to say no if you are of the right to say yes sometimes this is very delaying in the program do you feel we have enough incentives and a civilian program to attract top notch press now Oh definitely the Army's missile program in scope is one of the most attractive from a scientific sense of any that I know of course there are other attractive programs too but since I am a salesman for the army let's stick with that let's look at the programs from an engineering standpoint you take that you little red eye missile or as a starting point which is zero level missile for interim three troops to use against a low flying aircraft a heat seeking device very simple to the Nike Zeus which will be the intercontinental ballistic missile and of course in between you have the cross and I and they Pershing and the sergeant all of these others the scope here from an engineering sense from a research sense and from an electronics scientific sense is just absolutely amazing I would think from an engineering point of view that this is really the place to work. Is there any conflict of authority between civilian and military personnel in Huntsville No No And I say this positively because that if there is conflict it is not because an individual a civilian or it is military as the conflict is because of misunderstanding Now sometimes it's pointed toward a military or civilian relationship but I do not believe this is so I am a staff officer on the commanding general staff I have the same responsibility as military who have similar offices mice say so is just as strong as there is I see no conflict with the middle man develop but just a bit further do you think you could do a better or worse job with private industry workers under your supervision you seem to favor the civil service system while I do favor the system. Of course we're talking about the Army's missile program now and I'm I'm very much aware of the scope and the challenge that is involved there I know of very few private industries that have the same opportunity I believe that the. Scope of a contract many times restriction creativeness the army is not bothered with this so much we're involved with systems management I don't mean that we can just go off hog wild No but we are not so much restricted by the profit motive as private industry is I think that there is a real challenge there an opportunity for civilians Charles was a much we had had on occasion around the New York metropolitan area a couple of. What appeared to be missiles going off at the wrong time a couple of years ago there was some difficulty down in Middletown Township and then just last year the pier that missile went off around Fort Dix what could be the consequences of a missile going off at the wrong time if it were armed Oh it would be a mess. Of course this is purely accidental The missiles are so little armed unless they are being made ready for a test or for a foreign or some kind of course I don't know what caused these that could be disastrous depending upon the type of missile it is the opportunity for a missile to go off with a nuclear warhead is almost nil because they would sell or have one of the standby position with a nuclear warhead on it you say they would seldom have one do they have a well not that I know of I say seldom because I'm only talking about the armies of missile program but they are but there may be others that do have them I'm not aware of and I'm going to stop them do you think the security the security precautions taken and. Are good enough to prevent. The recent occurrence we had in Washington what occurrence is that I'm going. To have to defected to Russia Oh. Well I'll say this that the security at Redstone Arsenal is good at it and it is very rigid. Redstone is a close post and everyone who works there is carefully investigated. I think that this was the same situation with the two individuals you're talking about so I suppose that. On a pure small numbers basis it might happen sometime but I see no reason for it to happen down there at Redstone but accidentally something might be missed that we have some twenty four thousand people down there and. There might be someone we overlook but I doubt it then generally you would say our security has been very adequate in the missile program I would say that the security at Redstone Arsenal is very good many critics have said that the Defense Department has a tendency to published reports and pictures of missiles that are not yet operational but have only been tested and create an impression among the general public at these operational Is that true no not that I know of you might have seen something and I haven't but I believe that the African the army standpoint we've been pretty honest about it and of course we don't publish what goes in the paper we provide information to the newspapers which they publish and we try to be pretty honest about what we say I don't think that we try and give the impression that something is operational when it is not this would be a serious mistake many people have also criticized in the past Department for publishing pictures and providing information to the general public to aviation magazines and technological magazines which the some have said economists have made you so is this true wow. Again I don't know what use They've made of it but. I don't. I know of any highly classified information that has been put out that would be misleading I think that the point you're getting at is that we're pretty honest in what we try and tell our people and this is so and I don't know if we'd want it any other way on a comparative basis I know in talking before the show went on here we were talking about the capability of Russia and some of the things they do they're rather silent about what they do I think an informed public is important now admittedly information can be misleading at times and you can say too much you're say not enough and someone will make assumptions so possibly We've made some mistakes but I think it's a good idea to let the public know what's going on I think they have a right to know up to a point where it does not hamper the program and does not result in a violation of security that might put us further behind in our program Charles was a man Mr. There is some there is comment about that the next army will be just a group of button pushers do you see any future in view of your work with the missile program in the use of conventional weapons Oh definitely I think that. The pushbutton warfare. If it is coming it's a thing far into the future. There are some there is still a man behind the gun now you can say there is still a man behind the missile as well. You can fire a missile I'm doing area but if you want to hold it it takes troops to do this there's also going to be a lot of time when you're not going to be using. Nuclear weapons or something like that where such total damage would be done I think that the the doughboy is here for a long time to come as well as the man aircraft I think that they are far from obsolete is it possible to put poison gas warheads on missiles I suppose it is but I really don't know either any plans to do it I don't know and you know all the G.I.'s you want protected in the next war are they protecting unprotected No I would say that they object to the missile program are to say that they are more protected and using a missile you are dealing with. Automation and the objective here is to get. The personnel the man who fires the gun further and farther away from the impact area so that there is less personnel exposure also they are developing weapons to protect the doughboy I spoke earlier of the redeye the purpose of this missile is to protect the infantry soldier from low level straffing by an aggressive plane so I really think every precaution is being taken every effort to reduce the personnel exposure and protect the individual how significant has been not tonnage in space well. This again can be answered several ways but let's talk about this big booster and tonnage business for a moment see if we can rationalize something out of it. How much you put out into space does not necessarily indicate the success of the mission what it might very well indicate is the capability of a big booster Now Russia has put up. Heavy vehicles and hardware and outer space some of it might be even be considered as have a garbage you heard of say that something floating around out there we don't know what good it's doing but it has demonstrated a capability of thrust that they have something that has a lot of power what we have put out there has given us a lot of information electronically so really the size of the object up in orbit does not necessarily indicate how much you're getting out of it I think some of it is more cosmetic in value that it might be scientific and its results I do think it's significant but not necessarily the answer but isn't it significant from the point of view of the military who have to fire heavy tonnage and to have a capable destructive force Oh no I don't think so at all. Nuclear weapons. Are smaller and smaller they can be put in smaller warheads it really the amount of tonnage you put up there doesn't indicate how destructive it will be and all the tonnage would be put up there to carry something but it might not necessarily be up there to for a warhead purpose is to mellow let me see if I can get a summary at this point in your opinion are we on a par with the head of or behind the Russians in our missile and space programs Well I can't answer that almost with three inches right here. In the first place there are a lot of people would like to know that and I'm one of them let me say this that they have demonstrated some capabilities that we are pretty sure are greater than ours and that is in the area of thrust me amount of tonnage that they can put up which means I've got a big boost. We have demonstrated capabilities in the area of accuracy and then scientific data on a return basis it's come from from our missiles that we feel is probably the most significant of so in this area and we may be on a par or ahead but really I don't know I think that it would be hard to answer that question specifically unless you said are we in ahead in what phase what I would really don't know let me break it down how about the missile program and you satisfied with the work of your own agency Yes I am I think they're doing a good job I think that there's a lot more we'd like to do course and there's a lot more we'd like to be capable of doing with the the taxpayers' dollar in them and the Army's missile program is being handled very well it's being managed well and are getting a return on their investment there are some very wonderful missiles in the making and more in the future are reported spoke about protection of the soldier How about the civilians do you think our missile defenses are adequate today this is