Remarks by Dale N. Hatfield
January 11, 2013
(As Prepared for Delivery)
I first met Tom in about 1970 around the time that the Office of Telecommunications Policy was formed and Tom became its first director. My connection to Tom was initially through Walter Hinchman, a physicist whom I had worked with at the radio laboratories of the Commerce Department in Boulder. As I recall, Walt had working in the White House under the Commerce Technology and Science Fellowship program and that is where he met Tom. I don’t remember my first meeting with Tom, but, at the time, I was a rather junior analyst in a small group within the Commerce Labs in Boulder that supplied analytical support to OTP which, of course, was in the Executive Office of the President.
While I don’t recall the details of our earliest meetings, I do remember that we seemed to hit it off pretty well. We were almost exactly the same age – we were both born in 1938 – and we were both from the Midwest and early in our respective careers. And, as I will have a little more to say about in a moment, we were both licensed amateur radio operators – “Hams.” Not surprising, I suppose, I was totally awed by Tom. I was awed not only because he was so smart, knowledgeable and intellectually curious about so many different things, but also because -- while we were the essentially the same age – he had already worked in the White House and now headed a White House agency dealing with critical issues of public policy.
I think Tom and I hit it off pretty well for another reason beyond the three reasons I just mentioned. Tom had degrees in Electrical Engineering and a doctorate in management from MIT. The latter included, among other things, management decision-making, system analysis and Operations Research. I had an undergraduate degree in EE, an MS in industrial management from Purdue, plus a year of additional graduate level study in management science and Operations Research. Operations Research – or OR – is a term that is applied to the use of quantitative, mathematical techniques in decision making.
Thus we both shared a background and an interest in management science and Operations Research – especially when applied to issues of public policy in the telecommunications field. But that shared interest is not the point I want to make here this evening. The point I want to make is that in establishing OTP, Tom created an environment or norm built around using serious and objective technical and economic analyses to inform the telecommunications policy-making function at a critical time in American history; a juncture where it was being decided whether we would continue a history of monopoly control in telecommunications or embrace our more traditional reliance on open entry and the competitive free enterprise system.
At this important juncture, there was a raft of issues that lent themselves to objective technical and economic analyses – interdisciplinary studies if you will. In the case of the Open Skies debate that Henry Goldberg just addressed, there was the question as to whether or not there were enough “parking spaces” in the geostationary orbit to accommodate competitive entry. The opponents argued that there were not. Likewise, were there compelling economies of scale in the provision of the associated earth station network that would make competition and open entry unwise from a public policy perspective? The opponents of competition and open entry argued that there were such economies. Similar questions were posed in other crucial areas such as the terrestrial long distance communications market and in the then just emerging cellular mobile radio field. When I look out over this audience, I see people like Don Jansky – as well as Bruce Owen to my immediate right [left] – who played key roles in the interdisciplinary analyses of these issues.
But Tom’s contribution through OTP was not just the policy recommendations themselves – as important as they were – but also in establishing an environment conducive to serious and objective technical and economic research and, importantly, protecting the people like me in the trenches from political interference. Part of Tom’s legacy in terms of supporting technical and economic analyses in telecommunications – indeed interdisciplinary research more generally – lives on in the form of the annual Telecommunications Policy Research Conference – or TPRC. To paraphrase its mission statement, TPRC, on an annual basis, brings together a diverse, interdisciplinary and international group of researchers from academia, industry, government, and nonprofit organizations to challenge each other’s ideas and research results and to interact with policy makers and members of the private sector. The first in its series of annual conferences was organized by OTP in 1972 and TPRC held its 40th anniversary conference last September. I believe by any objective measure that it is one of the premier – if not the premier – conferences in the telecommunications policy research area internationally as well as domestically. Bruce Owen was instrumental in the creation of the TPRC during Tom’s tenure at OTP.
As I mentioned earlier, Tom and I both shared an interest in amateur radio – or ham radio as it is often referred to. In fact, we both received our amateur radio licenses and call signs from the Federal Communications Commission when we were in our early teens. In preparing these remarks, I communicated with both Margaret and Tom’s sister, Susan, and learned more about Tom’s early interest and experience in ham radio. The essence of the amateur radio service is the use of radio communications as an avocation – as a hobby – although it can play, and has played, a critical role in disaster situations when other forms of communications are disrupted.
There are two important aspects of amateur radio – being able to communicate with other amateurs both close by and around the world and providing an opportunity to build and experiment with the associated radio equipment and systems. Tom’s grandfather had been a station master on a railroad line in Oklahoma and Tom used his grandfather’s old telegraph key with his ham gear to communicate with other hams using Morse Code. Tom also built some of the necessary equipment and experimented with it and the associated antennas. It gave him early “hands-on” experience with radio before his formal training in engineering at MIT.
Now as I understand the charge given to the panelists, we are to provide further context and color to the historical record surrounding – as Chris put it in a message to us – a highly consequential moment in government, business and economic development. While I cannot speak with certainty regarding the consequences of Tom’s boyhood experiences with amateur radio, I am convinced that its ability to allow him to communicate with people far beyond his early home in Kansas and in its provision of an outlet for him to experiment with wireless communications played an important role in deepening his interest in and technical understanding of issues involving wireless communications of all types – broadcasting, cellular mobile radio, microwave and satellite – both nationally and internationally.
My allotted time is just about up so in the couple of minutes I have remaining I would like to touch on my work with Tom after we both left government. I worked as a consultant to Tom when he was doing the Galaxy satellite program at Hughes Aircraft and, after that, my consulting firm and I were heavily involved with a company that Tom founded called National Exchange. National Exchange was intended to provide telecommunications services in the U.S. using advanced satellite technology with a novel method of routing communications traffic among very small transmit-receive satellite earth stations. I also worked with Tom on a number of his projects when he had his own small consulting firm – Clay Whitehead Associates. While I feel much honored to have been associated with Tom during the momentous years at OTP, I also feel especially privileged to have participated more closely in some of his later ventures where I was able to observe first hand his innovative thinking in technology, business and public policy. Through those ventures he changed communications here in the U.S. and all over the world.