The Assistant Secretary of Defense for Research and Development (Quarles) to the Director of the Bureau of the Budget (Hughes)


Dear Mr. Hughes: In this letter I wish to convey the results of the Department of the Navy’s study of the logistic costs for an Antarctic expedition in support of the U.S. Program for the International Geophysical Year (IGY) during 1957–581 and certain other views of this Department upon this IGY effort. This study was undertaken by the Department of the Navy at my request, with the reminder that it should be as complete as the limited time available would permit. The following is submitted with that instruction in mind and with the understanding that the requirements for the scientific stations to be established in Antarctica are known only in general terms and may be subject to appreciable modification.

Based upon data available to us, it appears that an austere Antarctic expedition consisting of two surface vessels, such as an AKA2 and an ice-breaker, to establish, re-supply and relieve a main base, would cost $2,000,000 to $2,500,000 in out-of-pocket charges, plus an additional regular ship operating cost on the order of $2,400,000 a year. Aircraft for such a minimum logistic effort [Page 1740] would be limited to a few small twin-engine models, and perhaps two helicopters. Establishment of any satellite bases would necessarily be by over-surface vehicles with minimum reliance upon aircraft. The cost of establishment of the two satellites by over-surface means is not now known and is not included in these figures; neither are the regular operating costs of the aircraft.

On the basis of a major effort, involving seven ships of various types, including an aircraft carrier, and employing a large complement of aircraft (about 20) for air lift and air drops to establish the two satellite stations, it is conservatively estimated that out-of-pocket costs would be at least $15,000,000 and might run to as much as $25,000,000. To these figures must be added the regular ship operation expense of on the order of $14,000,000 per year. For the purposes of both of these estimates it is assumed that the ships would be engaged full time on expedition business for at least two and one-half years. Thus, the total cost of the austere effort would be not less than $8,000,000 and total cost of the major effort would range somewhere between $50,000,000 and $60,000,000. In the case of the major effort, it is pointed out at least 60% of the total out-of-pocket cost is attributable to the need for extensive air lift. The regular aircraft operating costs are not immediately available and are not included.

The Navy study emphasizes that the type of ships needed for the expedition are in extremely short supply; that AKA’s and icebreakers are now fully committed to high priority operations and cannot be made available without important modification of those priorities—modifications which cannot be accepted without careful evaluation of their expected impact upon the defense mission of the naval forces.

Based upon the Navy’s report and knowing the extent of commitment of the Army and Air Force, it seems clear to this Department that there is no current military requirement of any kind that would justify a major effort of the magnitude expressed above. It seems indeed, that a minimal effort cannot be easily endorsed by the DOD 3 in view of the fact that its cost-benefit ratio does not compare favorably with other military operational and training plans.

Other reasons for justifying Antarctic expedition expenses by this Department, such as politics and science, have been alluded to in earlier letters. It is premature at this time to state categorically the part of the expense that could be borne by DOD interest in the political factor. This general matter is under study. Consideration of DOD science interest in the IGY has been developed in my letter [Page 1741] of May 21. Our endorsement of that general program as a valuable scientific contribution included an endorsement of the Antarctic research phase of the program. It is difficult to see, however, in light of our other pressing commitments, that this DOD scientific interest is adequate to compel a logistic expense several times the cost of the science itself. On the other hand, I feel equally certain that the DOD interest in science or politics should not be the sole grounds for arguing in favor of an expedition. In my judgment, the Antarctic phase of the IGY program is such that its virtue should be weighed in terms of the larger national interest, both scientific and political. If it can be reasonably demonstrated that the sum of these broader considerations, which range beyond the responsibility of this Department, warrant an Antarctic expedition in support of the IGY, the DOD will be willing to cooperate to the extent of requesting special budget consideration to cover additional costs of a modest expeditionary effort and of executing the expedition should funds be made available.


Donald A. Quarles
  1. The International Geophysical Year (IGY) was conceived in 1950 and sponsored by the International Council of Scientific Unions. The purpose of IGY was to promote simultaneous scientific observations in all parts of the world in order to shed new light on many of the most troublesome problems of geophysics, including the origin of cosmic rays, the laws governing global weather patterns, and the aurora. On June 7, 1954, President Eisenhower transmitted to Congress a request for supplemental appropriations for fiscal year 1955, including a request for $2.5 million for the National Science Foundation to permit preparations to begin for U.S. participation in the International Geophysical Year. On June 25, 1954, the White House released the texts of an exchange of letters between the President and Dr. Chester 1. Barnard, Chairman of the National Science Foundation, concerning governmental support for IGY. The texts of those letters are printed in the Department of State Bulletin, July 5, 1954, pp. 20–21.
  2. AKA—Naval Attack Cargo Ship.
  3. Department of Defense.