Bill Todd -- Jones: A Novel of the Early Cold War
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 Chapter 15

Dean Jensen

Heike picked Jones up at his hotel the next morning and drove them, without incident, the short distance to JOAD. Immediately on their arrival, they found, not only some outlandish Christmas decorations put up by the secretaries, but a hotbed of rumors. One man came frenetically up to Jones and said,

"The university wants to steal our computer and sell it to the highest bidder."

Heike looked uneasy, but Jones wished him a very Merry Christmas.

They all knew that JOAD was, in theory, part of the university. Indeed, their paychecks had the university's name on them. But it was easy to forget. They worked a good many miles away, and only on Navy projects concerning submarines. Jones and Heike, like most of their colleagues, had never seen the inside of the university. It was generally assumed that the connection was only a matter of cover, to conceal from the Soviets the fact that the Navy had recruited a permanent stable of scientists to help it penetrate Soviet targets. But, now, all of a sudden, the Dean of Faculties, the number two man at the university, had popped up in Chevy Chase.

Jones and Heike had hardly finished hanging up their coats when Admiral Benson introduced them to Dean Jensen. Jones's first thought was that this university adminstrator was as far removed from Dean Loomis in Cincinnati as anyone could be. Tall, handsome, and admirably tailored, Jensen congratulated Jones on his new doctorate and asked them both about their work. In response to one question, Heike asnwered,

"There's already a fair body of computer theory, and I think it'll soon be recognized as a normal part of mathematics."

"Ah, then it'll be open to anyone who cares to study it. Trying to keep it secret would be like trying to keep Euclidean geometry secret."

They could hardly disagree with that, and Jensen continued,

"As an academic person, an historian in fact, I like to see things as open as possible. There have to be military secrets, of course, but it doesn't seem to me that it should extend to any sort of theory. Would you regard your programming techniques as being straight-forward applications of logic?"

Since he and Heike intended to keep their techniques secret from everyone, including the navy, Jones tried to give the required assurances without betraying any misgivings. But he feared that he wasn't a very good actor. Heike seemed to be even worse. Dean Jensen smiled warmly as he conducted them into the seminar room.

Once in, Admiral Benson seemed inclined to pass by his customary seat at the head of the table, but Dean Jensen said loudly in his deep voice,

"You sit at the head, admiral, you're in charge here."

It was remarkable that telling a man he was in charge amounted to telling him that he wasn't.

Jensen took the chair to the admiral's left, but pushed it back a little, and twisted it a little to face the rest of the table. Heike sat across from him, and Jones sat to her right.

Wentworth Thurmond was part of what amounted to a hastily convened ad hoc committee, and he sat on Jensen's left. Another former submariner, Jeff Kelso, was across from him. At the other end of the table, Captain John Stallman, the second in command at JOAD, looked ready for trouble.

Where Went, Jones, and even the quiet Kelso, had distinguished combat records, Stallman had been a staff officer the entire war, specializing in logistics. There was, growing in the service's unconscious, the idea that expendable heroes could always be found to man and command the subs, but that men who could run complex organizations were harder to find. If one were taking bets on future chiefs of naval operations, the shortest odds in the room would, by far, be on Stallman.

Admiral Benson, never comfortable in his first words to any audience, said,

"Well, the unversity is finally taking an interest in us."

The tone belied the words. It wasn't gruff or challenging, and yet, not quite plaintive. It sounded a little hurt, but, more than anything, questioning. The admiral was clearly confused, and he looked inescapably at Dean Jensen. Since the admiral stopped dead without saying anything else, Jensen was virtually forced to speak. He did so with a smile,

"I'm sure that many of you have found the exact relationship between JOAD and the university puzzling. Perhaps we can make it clear this mmorning."

With that, he looked at the admiral, and then at the rest of the group. If he had waited long enough, someone would eventually have said something. But he didn't wait quite that long.

"It's really quite simple. JOAD is as much a part of the university as the department of physics. That department also conducts research for government agencies. In each case, the university signs the contracts, is paid the money, and, after taking its adminstrative fees, funds the department's budgets. I would say that, sooner or later, every department wonders why it has to pay a part of my salary."

There was, of course, laughter. The dean added,

"Perhaps you shouldn't laugh. After all, I don't make most of the tough decisions. Departments usually make their own hiring and firing decisions, as does this one. I very seldom do anything beyond rubber stamping those decisions. It might be argued that I do nothing more than slicing up the university's academic budget, handing out portions to the various colleges and departments. Up to now, JOAD's case has been even simpler. All the income has come from the navy, and, with the exception of that adminstrative fee, it all goes to JOAD."

Until his meeting with Reggie, Jones had never come across a powerful man who tried to underplay his role. Naval officers wore their rank on their sleeves, and they openly grabbed as much power as they could get. It was Captain Stallman who said,

"I hadn't realized that our existence depended on a whim of the university."

"It doesn't. We've contracted with the navy to conduct research, and the contract has almost ten years to run. The navy can cancel it, but we can't. Since so many of you are active or retired naval officers, you should feel fairly comfortable with that."

Jensen still sat back in his chair with one long leg over the other. The hostility in Stallman's tone hadn't been enough to make him lean forward. Not only that, he looked engagingly around the table as if to elicit confirmation that everyone was, indeed, comfortable with that. He neglected only to look in Admiral Benson's direction. To Jones' surprise, it was Heike who said,

"I suppose we are comfortable fulfilling our naval contract. But might JOAD be asked to do something else in addition to that?"

That struck a chord in the group. JOAD couldn't be terminated, but it could be aimed in a new or additional direction, one that might not come from the navy. Jensen looked surprised for the briefest moment, and then replied in an encouraging tone,

"Innovation is the thing closest to a dean's heart. Have you any ideas for the extension of your mission, Miss Herrnstein."

"I'm only a programmer, I don't make suggestions of that scope."

She looked deferentially to Admiral Benson, who fumbled the ball in silence. Captain Stallman was about to take it up when Dean Jensen addressed Heike,

"I do think that programming, and computer expertise in general, is absolutely essential to anything we might do. Would you say that your skills and techniques would be applicable to other defense questions, not strictly naval ones?

There was, of course, only one answer to that. With Heike's assent in hand, the dean rejoined,

"I'm glad to hear that. There's nothing in any contract which would prevent JOAD from offering its skills to the other armed services. In addition, of course, to the navy."

Admiral Benson finally found his voice and asked,

"In that case, would the computer we're supposed to get be sent somewhere else?"

"Oh, certainly not. You're happy to have it here, I suppose?"

On being assured on that point, he added,

"It just means that Miss Herrnstein and Dr. Jones might range a bit more widely in their work. I'm sure that they're capable of it."

"If we don't have them full-time, would we get other people to make up the slack?"

"Certainly. Contracts with the other services would bring in more money, and that could be used to hire additional people."

Jones, inwardly pleased, noticed what seemed to have escaped Admiral Benson's notice. Namely, that Dean Jensen had effectively removed he, Jones, and Heike from the exclusive control of the navy. Since they would have effective control of the computer, the navy could only have partial control of that as well. Captain Stallman's reddening face reflected his realization of that fact, but there was nothing he could do. Admiral Benson had already been bought off with the promise of new hires. After another brief silence, Jensen continued,

"Incidentally, the prospect of these additional contracts are already making some things possible. We've just succeeded in putting through a ten per cent pay raise for everyone at JOAD."

Amid his own pleasure, Jones noticed that Jensen tended to use the royal "we". All the faces were brighter, and even Captain Stallman's square-faced scowl was diminished. There were murmured thanks, but Dean Jensen waved them away.

"Don't thank me. The fact is that, having won one war, we're faced almost immediately with the prospect of an even bigger one. People like yourselves are becoming increasingly important in the new, more scientific, defense community."

Went spoke for the first time, asking with his usual ironic smile,

"Does that include those of us who aren't noticeably scientific?"

"Most emphatically! We need a seamless mix of military and scientific talents. I haven't much scientific training, but I'm finding my way, bit by bit."

No one wanted to deny that he was finding his way, and he added,

"Our university has, by far, the largest presence of any in the defence community. Our sceptics say it's just because we're so close to Washington, but I don't think it's just that. In any case, it falls to us, most of all, to keep salaries competitive. We can't lose you to IBM."

Jones thought that only Heike was likely to be lost to IBM, and he suspected that the dean was aware of that fact.

On that note, the meeting broke up. However, only half the people were out of the room when Stallman confronted Jensen and said,

"You don't have to bribe us to let other agencies use our computer. You could just give us orders."

The dean reacted as if Stallman were joking, and put his hand on his shoulder as he replied,

"I'm certainly in no position to give orders to naval officers. Apart from getting additional revenue to expand JOAD, we're just trying in our small way to foster inter- service co-operation. It's more important than ever these days."

Naval officers automatically distrusted inter-service co- operation, but, before Stallman could find a way of expressing that distrust without sounding parochial, Jensen said,

"You know, captain, you're getting the newest best computer. But it won't stay the best for very long. When someone else gets a newer one, you may want a share of theirs."

Stallman obviously didn't think it likely that JOAD would get a share of someone else's computer, but he was just polite enough not to make a rude noise. Jensen continued, this time including Admiral Benson in his audience with a graceful sweep of his arm,

"There's another advantage for us in this. Our young people will be loaned along with the computer, and Miss Herrnstein and Dr. Jones will be able to represent JOAD's point of view to the larger defence community."

Jones was some eight feet away with Heike. He didn't trust himself to react, and Heike, too, looked excited. He pretended to be too involved in conversation with her to have heard, and he moved slowly away, drawing her gently with him. Went was off to the right. He had also heard, and, with a big smile, he was all set to say something to them that shouldn't be said. Jones managed not to catch his eye. When they were well out of earshot, Heike said,

"That man is amazing! Instead of telling them that they're going to lose us and the computer part time, he's claiming that we'll be ambassadors to the rest of the defence department."

"He knows how to move people. I just hope we can manage not to look too pleased."

Heike replied,

"That last item caught me by surprise, but it's great for us. We can bring whatever messages we want back and forth. Backed by computer studies we've conducted."

"That's what I thought. These people, particularly the unscientific ones, are convinced that computers have magical properties. They'd believe us if we told them that the computer says that there'll be war in five years if they don't take our advice."

"When we get out in the big world, there'll be other computer people whose models won't agree with ours. But we can find mistakes in their work faster than they can find our hidden adjustments."

"You can, Heike. Actually, even philosophy could be useful. A lot of it consists in finding counter-examples to other people's generalizations."

"As before, the big problem will be to discover what results we want to produce."

It was two hours later, after Dean Jensen's gracefully executed farewell, that Captain Stallman came up to Jones and said,

"That bastard tried to make it sound as if possibilities were only being considered. We've just found out that the decisions have all been made. Jensen must have known that."

"Yeah, I imagine he did."

"Asking Heike in what directions we might move! Shit! He already knew what we're going to be doing."

"He was just being charming."

Stallman gave him a very funny look, and Jones realized that he had made the sort of remark that Went specialized in. Was it catching?

In a hastily convened meeting with Admiral Benson, Heike, Jones, and Stallman were seated around his desk. The admiral said, as if to himself,

"If our mission remained the same for two months running, I might be able to accomplish something."

Stallman was still seething sub-vocally. To him, they had been cheated and betrayed by an academic con man. Benson, on the other hand, was just bitching in the traditional naval way about the screwed-upness of higher headquarters. Jensen was just another bureaucrat to be despised. He had gone away, was unlikely to come back, and could be forgotten. Nothing personal. Benson went on to grouse,

"All these damned abbreviations. What does ODM mean?"

Heike suggested,

"Operation for the Destruction of Mankind?"

Benson was never in a flippant mood, and he looked at Heike with a mixture of disgust and condescension.

"It says down here. It's the Office for Defence Mobilization. Despite Dean Jensen's recommendation, they see no need for our services. Thank God for that! We'd be out on the street handing out rifles and hand grenades to Boy Scouts."

This was closer to irony than Benson usually came, but he recovered himself before anyone could rescue him.

"There are others. ROTE wants us. But not us. You two. And the computer. I have no idea who they are."

Jones said,

"That sounds like ROTC, the Reserve Officers' Training Corps."

"The 'T' probably does stand for training. Reserve officers training elephants, most likely."

Stallman had simmered down somewhat and asked,

"Have we really no idea who they are, admiral?"

"It's probably somewhere in these papers that were just sent over."

With that, he pushed a large stack of papers, hideously askew with one another, toward Heike. She was the closest thing to a secretary in the little room. He might also have shrewdly realized that she would be the quickest to find the needle in the haystack.

In the event, it didn't take long. She announced,

"Research Office for Tactical Enhancement."

Jones actually laughed as he remarked,

"It would be hard to find a more convoluted way of saying nothing."

Stallman nodded and replied,

"It's cover. They want us to give them our resources without our even knowing what they do. If we called up and asked for clarification of their mission, they'd say that they're trying to enhance the tactical capabilities of the armed forces. Moreover, if they do borrow Jones and Heike, they'll have to swear not to come back and tell us anything."

Heike, looking nervous, replied,

"To be fair, the JOAD acronym isn't much better. We're not joint, and we're hardly an office in any ordinary sense. We don't directly attack anyone, and our idea of deployment is spreading people through the building in our various cubbyholes."

Stallman, after wincing, replied,

"Well, we're trying to hide from the Soviets. ROTE is hiding from the other services. So we don't even know if it's army, navy, or air force?"

Heike looked further.

"It seems not to be any of those. The chart here shows it dangling directly from the Department of Defence."


Bill Todd -- Jones: A Novel of the Early Cold War
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