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Mr. Merrill is a frequent contributor to THE SUBMARINE REVIEW and is a published author of several books on the history of undersea technology. He is a retired engineer with lengthy experience at the New London lab of the Naval Undersea Warfare Center. He currently lives in Wate1ford, CT.

Not many persons in the general public think about or are even aware of operations research, but the U. S. Navy began its support for OR in early 1942 and never stopped. The United States Occupational Handbook 2010- 2011, a nationally recognized source of career information, pointed out that for the year 2008, there were about 63,000 OR analyst positions in the United States.

Further it commented “Employment of operations research analysts is expected to grow 22 percent over the 2008-2018 period, much faster than the average for all occupations.” With these positive remarks about the OR profession, a sampling of the milestones and early history of the evolving field including contributors seems appropriate. The initial part of this essay recalls the early origins of OR, questions raised at the end of WWII regarding how the Navy should address continuing OR at the end of WWII, the movement of OR to industry and satisfying the academic needs for the new OR profession.

Under the aegis of DOD(l) during 2008, the Defense Sci- ences Board (DSB) Advisory Group on Defense Intelligence Task Force on Operations Research Applications for Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance (ISR) assessed current OR sponsored by DOD and issued a final report. The closing section of the essay brings to notice some of the DSB findings about contemporary DOD use of OR.

At the end of World War II, the release of information about OR to the public after the war years of necessary secrecy and confidentiality brought some of the high drama and effectiveness of the physicist’s and engineer’s wartime technologies to a new audience.

With the successful OR introduction to the military of both England and United States by probably less than 300· people total in both countries, it is remarkable that a half- century later there would be 63,000 analysts pursuing this new and growing field of expertise applicable to the management of business and industry as clients as well as the original users, the military. Added to these users, a highly interested academic participation became available to meet student needs in the new field of OR. It was soon noticed that OR methodology for solution of military problems could be applied directly to business or industrial problems.

In the United States, the basis for the decades of OR after 1950 focused heavily on the work accomplished by MIT acoustic physicist Philip Morse and his associates during the years 1942-45. Morse’s interest in OR never waned. The careful documentation of his teams’ work and results and its availability in book form in the early 1950s pointed the way to the extensive theoretical and practical growth of OR. Morse’s insight and guidance for this professional field earned him on occasion the title Father of OR.

Operations research· (OR) and its other image operations analysis (newly brought to fruition in the late 1930s) was somewhat obscured with a continuing classified status. Awareness of its capabilities and wartime uses was in the purview of possibly several hundred wartime scientists, technical and military personnel who observed OR utility and effectiveness. Certainly, with OR improvements in solving various wartime naval operational needs by factors of 3 or 10, a continuing post-War military interest in the methodology would follow. Brief definitions of OR include Tidman ‘ s 1, “analysis conducted on the basis of operational data.” And from the Industrial Engineering Handbook, The essence of OR ” … 0 .R. may be viewed as a scientific approach to solving problems. ”

The end of the War did not imply a public awaiting the OR methodology. It was well understood by the wartime OR leadership and others that there was an immediate need to document the OR-developed techniques to prevent their possible loss. This end was achieved.

In the period after WWII, questions were raised as to how the U.S. Army, Navy, and Air Force should adopt and implement OR. At this time, OR was generally unknown to industry and academia. The first decades after 1945 witnessed OR growth and acceptance, and it was the cadre of WWll OR scientists and others who provided the guidance.

The intention of this essay is to bring brief renewed attention to some historical aspects of OR and to briefly highlight more than fifty plus years of Navy and OR. Esoteric aspects and intricacies of OR are not of consideration. Detailed attention is given to prewar development of OR in Great Britain, because OR was one of the cornerstones of the U.S. effort when attention was directed to the U.S. Navy’s applying OR to solving ASW problems in early 1942.

Today after more than seventy years, the preWWII work by British scientist A. P. Rowe, cited below, adapted scientific techniques soon to be called operations research to success in solving problems related to implementing the newly developed British secret early warning radar system.

In the United States, it was the Antisubmarine Warfare Operations Research Group (ASWORG) formed in May 1942 under the initiative of Admiral King and the leadership of Philip Morse from MIT that fostered OR as a significant tool to remove the German U-boat from the Atlantic Ocean scene. At this point in Morse’s career, he was a successful physicist who was both an experimenter and a theoretician.

OR’s immense progress in ultimately winning the con- stantlychanging debates on submarine technology measures vs. counter measures saw evidence of success by May 1943. During the next two years of the War, OR also grew and broadened into other operational areas while meeting with success in the Atlantic and Pacific in the multitude of air and sea challenges presented.

Even now, more than a half century later and into the 21 51 Century, OR techniques and methodologies of the skill are with us; that are widely followed in industry and business as well as the military. Colleges and universities offer OR study opportunities. The Navy became connected to operations research and benefits from it. This essay offers some thoughts and glimpses of OR.

Starting point: a need

In 1934 at the British Air Ministry, H. Wimperis (a scientific research director) and A.P. Rowe (on Wimperis’s staff), on studying the records at the British Air Ministry were astounded to find that there were less than fifty documents out of thousands that related to the subject of air defence. Because of the increasing importance of air defence, Wimperis suggested to the Air Ministry that an Air Defense Committee be formed. This was approved and the Committee was placed under the chairmanship of a well-known physicist, Henry Tizard, with both Rowe and Wimperis on the committee. The Committee lasted until the beginning of the War in 1939. The first meeting took place January 28, 1935. The Committee, all scientists, included P. M. S. Blackett,A. V. Hill, A. P. Rowe, and Sir Henry Tizard, and. H. E. Wimperis.

As a result of immediate action in radio direction finding by the Committee, the following month (February 193 5) the BBC short-wave transmitter at Daventry was successfully used to identify the approach of a Heyford bomber eight miles away. In April, funding of £13,200 was appropriated to continue the research. By April 193 7 aircraft were being detected at a distance of 100 miles and in September 1939 a fully- operational air defense system was in place along the southeast coast of England.

Operations Research Begins

Effort to apply science to management of organized systems and to their understanding was a precursor of operations research. It began as a separate discipline in 1937 in Britain as a result of the initiative of A. V. Rowe, then superintendent of the experimental radar station at Bawdsey Research Station’s center for radar development. In teaching military leaders how to use the then newly-developed radar to locate enemy aircraft, Rowe organized teams to do operational researches on the communications system and control room at the new British radar station to improve the operational efficiency of the system. This prewar scientific effort invoking OR efforts at Bawdsey became the seminal force behind modern operations research.

In July 1938, a second major air-defensive exercise was carried out at Bawdsey including four additional radar stations installed along the coast. Post-exercise analysis indicated failure to meet expected results. Rowe proposed and immediately implemented a crash program of research into the operational as opposed to the technical aspects of the system should begin immediately. Operational Research was coined as a suitable description of this new branch of applied science.

The Committee (known as the Tizard Committee during its five years before dissolving during the first years of the War) made four primary accomplishments. First, Radar and its development was supported by senior airmen and introduced secretly into the Air Force. When war came in 1939, the whole east and southeast coast of England had operational radar chains. This was a decisive factor in the winning of the Battle of Britain in 1940.

Second, senior officers of the Armed Services were brought into much closer intimacy with the research and development scientists in the government establishments. The third achievement was the creation of mutual confidence and understanding between serving officers and university scientists.

Fourth, it was the recognition that scientifically trained research workers had a vital role to play, not only as of course was traditional in the development of the increasingly more technical weapons of war but also in the actual study of • 6 operations.


Outnumbered in fighting planes, England ‘s success in combating the initial heavy German bombing and strafing during the summer and early fall of 1940 was in part due to the beginning in 1936 of scientific operational investigations before the radar chain was constructed. Preparations for enemy fighter interception addressed problems in fighter direction and control, experiments using simulated radar data, and input from the Observer Corp personnel.

With a limited number of fighter planes, Britain used the tactic of holding planes on the ground until the right moment. Then control directed the plane to location within visual sighting of the enemy aircraft. Radar range capability at the time was 120 miles out to sea with 50-mile detection of low- flying aircraft. These experiments integrated the radar into the early warning systems, the Observer Corps, and fighter direction and control. The June 1940 successful introduction of early warning radar in England in a comparatively short time was followed by formal OR research groups being established in all three of Great Britain’s military services.

P. M. S. Blackett,

physicist, protege of Nobel Laureate Ernest Rutherford, and active participant in the early warning radar development during 1940-1942, later successfully with his assistants applied OR methods to resolving antiaircraft-radar operational challenges. In March 1941 he moved from the Anti-aircraft Command to the Coastal Command to advise on problems arising from the air-war against U-boats. The Coastal command’s assignment included antisubmarine operations, convoy protection and attacks on enemy shipping primarily, an offensive role. Blackett established his new operations team as part of the British Command’s senior staff. The team members included physiologists, mathematicians, astrophysicists, and a surveyor. “Blackett’s biggest contribution was in convincing the authorities of the need for a scientific approach to manage complex operations, and indeed he is regarded in many circles as the original operations research analyst. ” 8 Antisubmarine (ASWORG) Warfare Operations Research Group

The U.S. Navy was aware of British success with ASW due in part to their civilian scientists’ OR efforts. After the first few months of the war, it became apparent that the Navy needed detailed ASW data analysis for tactical decisions. The requisite analytical skill including statistics and probability were not within the ken of the U. S. military. In March 1942, the Navy requested Vannevar Bush ‘ s National Defense Research Committee (NDRC) to provide civilian scientific support in the U-boat campaign to the Boston ASW unit. The NDRC appointed MIT acoustic research physicist Philip Morse, then at the Harvard Underwater Sound Laboratory, to form the group.

Philip M. Morse·

Morse, a mathematical physicist, received his PhD from Princeton in 1929. This was followed by a year’s work study sponsored by the International Fellowship- fall and winter study at the University of Munich and at Cambridge University the following spring and summer.

Prior to Morse’s departure to Europe, Carl T. Compton, then at Princeton, was about to become the new president of MIT. Compton asked Morse to join the physics faculty when he returned from Europe. Morse agreed. Now ten years later in 1941, Morse’s broad spectrum of capabilities and interests included acoustics. Morse directed a successful U.S. Navy project on sound measurement and control for defense against acoustically actuated mines. He wanted to contribute further to the ongoing defense efforts.

In early 1942, considering the then out-of-control problems with German U-boats in the Atlantic, Morse felt that the key to success in combating the submarines lay not just in the hardware but also in understanding the Navy’s operational problems and interactions among hardware, people, and tactics.

A new Atlantic fleet ASW unit was established in Boston March 2, 1942. Morse met with USN Captain Wilder Baker at the ASW unit late in March 1942. Baker had recently returned from several months in Europe where he had discussions with Blackett and understood the value of scientists assisting with the operational enhancement of military equipment. Baker asked Morse if he would organize a scientific task force to help Baker’s unit analyze the U. S. antisubmarine effort.

By April 1, Morse, as director, immediately became in- volved in recruiting top scientists for the ASWORG at Columbia, California Institute of Technology, Harvard, MIT, Princeton, and Stanford. Dr. William B. Shockley (future Nobel Physics Laureate for the transistor) on loan from Bell Telephone Laboratories had recently designed a submarine radar prototype. Shockley was made Research Director of the ASWORG and Morse’s assistant supervisor. “In two weeks three of us were at work and by the first of May there were seven … By September we had seventcen.” 10 On May 1, 1942, “Preliminary Report on the Submarine Search Problem” ASWORG’S first memorandum was published. The recommendations of the report were immediately put into effect and improved the tactics of convoy protection and the search for U- boats.

It is interesting that Morse looked for people with a more theoretical outlook than experimentalism. He needed mathematicians, insurance actuaries, and theoretical geneticists, as well as quantum theorists. Half of the first group were mathematicians, most of the remainder physicists.

By the end of 1942, the first seven scientists were joined by 21 additional team members and by mid-1943 the number increased to forty-four 12 and by the end of the war there was a staff of 80 scientists and an annual budget of $800,000.

Morse and Shockley in the remaining months of 1942 established contact and relations with the US Army Air Force and assigned scientists to naval commands. By then, having a grasp of Navy’s submarine warfare, they visited England to meet with Blackett and other members of the British OR organizations to have knowledge of the British view of ASW.

The May 20, 1943 establishment of Admiral King’s Tenth Fleet, an administrative arrangement for the consolidated and centralized command of all Atlantic ASW, provided the broadest possible support to defeat the U-boat challenge. ASWORG became part of the Tenth Fleet in August and moved from Boston to Washington, DC. The OR group evolved into a center for the entire American ASW effort. An IBM state-of-the-art data processing system provided help in analyzing and tracking the expanding U-boat data. A large percentage of the OR team was eventually widely scattered at various Navy and Army commands in both the Atlantic and Pacific.

Morse and his scientists, in search of unbiased operational data pushed to be penitent to directly observe field operations themselves. This was unusual but authorized. These six-month field assignments ensured accuracy of data being gathered, direct knowledge about ASW operations and opportunity to observe the status of OR- implemented recommendations. On another issue, the scientists pressed for access to senior Navy decision makers to promulgate results and obtain consensus on the OR findings.

Scientists’ recommendations on tactics and even strategy were included in the decision processes. As Admiral King pointed out later, ” … Operations research, bringing scientists in to analyze the technical import of the fluctuations between measure and counter measure, made it possible to speed up our reaction rate in several critical areas.”

Post WWII: Military-Academia, 1945

How to continue the work of the Operations Research Group as advisor to the Navy during peacetime was a challenge. The wartime success of OR was evident in the methodology in the group’s wartime files and the minds of the wartime scientists but what type of arrangement would be best suited during a non-war time environment? OR was well established in all three branches of the British military and its usefulness was understood by the U.S. Navy and Army Air Forces.

Admiral King, a strong OR advocate reported the need to Secretary of Defense James V. Forrestal. Emphasis was on the continuation of not only a scientific approach to advice for the Navy but an academic viewpoint needed to assure the independence and integrity of the participating activity’s findings.

To meet the academic requirement as the institution sponsored to perform OR, the Navy up until 1962 contracted with several universities and not for profit organizations to carry out the OR effort. The first contract for continuation of OR with MIT was signed November I, 1945. The staffing was reduced to 25. Operation Research Group was changed to Operations Evaluation Group (OEG) and Navy OR continued. In the years ahead, Navy contracted for OR support with universities and nonprofit organizations that included among others the Franklin Institute in Philadelphia, University of Rochester, and Hudson Institute.

The respite at the end of the WWII allowed the Navy to come to grips with the contracting needed for the OEG to continue its studies and analyses covering past operations, operational capabilities of new equipment, strategic alternatives, etc. This was quickly upset with the unleashing of North Korean troops across the 38 1 h Parallel on 25 June 1950. OEG mobilized to meet the contingencies of the Korean War period (June 1950 to January 1953) growing from forty to sixty by the end of the war with emphasis again on OR team members in the field. OEG’s Korean War participation is detailed in Tidman’s The Operations Evaluation Group published in 1984.

Significantly, 1946 saw the consolidation of the OR learn- ing of the war years with the writing of Antisubmarine Warfare in World War II, Methods of Operations Research, and Search and Screening. Motivation to urgently document the basic methodology texts on operations research details of the WWII OR work by ASWORG was fear of Joss of information as the OR WWII team was returning to their peacetime vocations. Eventually, the documents were issued for public release and proved valuable for the generations of OR analysts that followed. In 1951 MIT Press published a declassified version of Methods. The book was well received and later translated into Russian and Japanese. In the post-war period with OR still in a nascent stage, a broad number of non-military potential OR users and academics benefited from the availability of the documents created from the extensive wartime efforts of the ASWORG.

In the Methods book, Morse and co-author George E. Kimball point out, ” … while a general scientific background and training in the operation being studied will be important in performing OR, “above all” an operation researcher must have “a personality that will pen nit him to talk successfully to all kinds from the bottom to the top, as the measure of his achievement may depend on this basic ability to adapt himself to all grades of personnel. ”

In addition to the military’s ongoing OR involvement, there were three significant activities promoting OR toward professionalism and growth. The formation of the American Operation Research Society in 1952, the academic community’s specific OR interest and in the establishment of OR education ultimately through the PhD level, and the application of OR techniques to problems in business management, industry and society. In addition to government, industries using OR included airlines, finance, logistics, petrochemicals and among others. Interest and growth in application of OR is reflected in the three professional organizations cited below.

Operations Research Society of America (ORSA)

Seventy-three individuals from academia, the military and corporate America mapped out plans May 26, 1952 for a professional organization for OR in America. Morse led the group and was the obvious choice to serve as first president. Morse’s post war years were heavily concerned with OR research, academic, industrial, national and international. A Society journal was started the same year, Operations Research. As late as 1955, some analysts still viewed OR with skepticism. By 1964, the ORSA membership was at 5,000.

Institute for Operations Research Sciences (INFORMS) and Management With strong growth in the application of OR to manage- ment, in 1956 the Institute of Management Science (TIMS) was formed and thrived. By 1995, TIMS and ORSA common interests brought the two organizations together as The Institute for Operations Research and the Management Sciences (INFORMS) which is the largest professional society in the world for professionals in the field of operations research, management science, and business analytics.

Military Operations Research Society (MORS)

In support of the Operations Research Community of Southern California, the Office of Naval Research sponsored the first Military Operations Research Symposia at the Corona Naval Laboratory Corona, California in August 1957. In the following years, in addition to meetings for local needs on the west coast, the first national meeting was held at Fort Monroe, Virginia in April 1962. On occasion, the meetings have attendance of 1,000. The Society was incorporated in 1966 with a further change in 1989 to become the Military Operations Research Society Symposia (MORSS).

During the Cold War and since 1962 a civilian organization (Center for Naval Analyses (CNA) a Federal Funded Research and Development Center sponsored by the Depart- ment of Defense, the only one sponsored by the Navy) was established to handle the contracting with the various private contractors who do the defense studies including OEG. Collectively the established Federal Centers continued OR ‘s utility to military operations.

Real Cases of using Operations Research Between the years, 1985-1998, a number of countries, national cities, and a wide variety of industrial organizations as diverse as airlines, police departments, petroleum corporations, oil companies and others applied OR to an equally wide variety of applications. The purposes included development, production operations, optimization, addressing airline customers’ needs, gasoline products optimization, and the U.S. Military Airlift Command for evacuation in “Desert Storm.” The yearly savings from using OR for some of the organizations involved were from a few millions of dollars to slightly more than a trillion dollars in one instance.

OR Academic Programs In 1948, MIT offered a summer course in non-military OR. In June 1952, a two week OR program was given at the Case Institute of Technology in Cleveland, Ohio. In 1955, interest in OR brought about the creation of MIT’s Operations Research Center to accommodate student demand for OR courses. The same year MIT and Johns Hopkins conferred their first OR degrees. Case’s first OR degree was conferred in 1957. By 1962, these three schools had granted thirty-one doctoral degrees and seventy-six master’s degrees in OR.

To meet the OR demand, by 1959, thirty universities instituted studies offering 24 degree programs, 19 offered a doctoral programs, and 5 offered a master’s program. 16 The Chief of Naval Operations (CNO) directed in January 1950 that a program of study in operations research be established at the Navy Postgraduate School in Monterey, California. The School granted the first anywhere masters degree in OR. The program grew and a doctoral program was inaugurated in 1971. By 2001, 3 ,300 School OR alumni included members the United States Coast Guard, Marine Corps, Air Force, Army and representatives from 31 other nations.

In addition today, the Navy has a sub specialty coding system for officers based on their undergraduate education. Chief of Naval Operations, NS I, initiated the program. The first code is the 3211 E code to support the navy’s need for officer analysts. The code identifies junior officers who have analytical skills and training that qualify them to fill designated shore billets that involve analytical studies important to the future of the U.S. Navy. Officers with a 3211 E code will be given special consideration for assignment to Naval Postgraduate (NPG) School in Monterey to earn a master’s degree.

DSB 21′ 1 Century assessment of OR for broader use within DoD January 29, 2008, the Defense Science Board (DSB) Advisory Group on Defense Intelligence was tasked by the Under Secretary of Defense for Intelligence (USD(I)) to examine the manner and extent to which OR is employed by the DoD; how OR can be used to support Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance (JSR) decision making, and the manner in which OR can be institutionalized in DoD. The final report was submitted January 13, 2009.·

Initial guidance to the DSB advisory group suggested:

  • Consideration of OR throughout DOD and the services
  • Examination of resources available to conduct OR Commitment of decision makers to the use of OR
  • Private sector OR application models
  • Recent and historical uses of OR in support of national security requirements.

The OR findings mentioned below by the DSB sixty years after the initial 1942 establishment of the Antisubmarine Warfare Operations Research Group (ASWORG) provide historical background and an update of OR and its role in DOD as of January 13, 2009.

Currently, the Navy uses operations research in modeling and simulation, warfare capability assessments, requirements determinations, investment balancing, manpower modeling, recruiting, cost analysis and inventory management. In the Fleet, operations research is used in exercise reconstruction, battle experiments, and campaign analysis, war gaming; strike planning, logistics support planning, readiness and tactical analysis.

Final DSB Report Executive Summary Comment Four aspects of inquiry stand out:

1. Operations Research represents a powerful tool to help improve the quality of investment decision making by illuminating key issues, suppositions, and sources of information.

2. Operations Research is applied inconsistently throughout the Defense and JSR Communities. These communities do not posses standard OR processes and practices, a consistent organizational model, or a consistent commitment to the use of OR.

3. OR – and its use – can be strengthened in the Defense and JSR communities through effective institutionalization. The Task Force commends to the USD(I) for further consideration models employed by the private sector (of which FedEx appears to be a strong example) and the Army (TRAC and CAA). The Military Operations Research Society (MORS) is a domain expert resource that should be used in building a plan for institutionalization.

4. The utility of OR can be more firmly established through appropriate test cases. The Task Force points out two cases for USD(I) consideration: Bio metrics and Investment in a Balanced Intelligence Cycle, with specific emphasis on Unmanned Aerial Systems (UASs).

Initial perusal of the DSB final report reinforces what has been known from long experience, OR works and needs highest level consistent top down interest, free from bias, in the OR effort. Natural long-term support and funding and the strongest possible commitment from all involved especially the decision makers is essential. Decision Makers (OM) In the event of institutionalizing OR, significant and strong emphasis is placed by the Board on the criticality of the DM in achieving success. Likewise, the professionalism of the analytical support must meet similar standards. Relevance to the needs of ISR is not lost sight of by the Board’s findings. Advocacy for the OR at hand by all involved is an absolute requirement.

OR’s Standing in the U.S. Workforce Today

Imbedded may best describe OR’s growing place among the occupations.

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