Seth Bonder

ORSA President, 1978


Seth Bonder was the 27th President of ORSA. He spent 35 years applying O.R. to tactical and strategic level national security issues and the past 15 years to applying O.R. approaches to health care delivery problems.

Over the past five decades he developed new procedures and directed analyses for planning and operations analysis of military forces. He conducted most of these analyses while serving as the CEO of Vector Research, Inc., the Operations Research firm he founded and led for 32 years. The company conducted studies for both public and private sector organizations. Under Bonder’s technical and managerial leadership the company became one of the preeminent military operations research companies in the world. Bonder and his staff addressed issues in military processes (e.g., combat, strategic lift, intelligence, logistics); the evaluation of arms control policies and treaties; and analysis of force design, system acquisition, and force utilization issues. The results were used to advise senior DOD management, members of Congress, and the defense industry.

A respected researcher, Dr. Bonder, together with the late Robert Farrell, developed the “Bonder-Farrell Theory of land combat operations. It turned Lanchester theory from mathematical curiosity into an O.R. methodology that was used by many national and international O.R. organizations for analysis of ground combat systems and tactical operations. He and his colleagues also used this methodology as the foundation to develop the first synthetic models of campaign level operations that were used to analyze air and land systems, operational concepts, strategic lift alternatives, and arms control treaty options.

In 1995 he started focusing some of his efforts on improving the planning and operations of healthcare delivery enterprises from its current retrospective, trial and error approach. He developed models of healthcare delivery enterprises and used them in prospective analyses of healthcare system reengineering and chronic disease management. During the past five years he participated in NAE, IOM, and NSF committees on the use of O.R. approaches to improve the physical and mental health care delivery systems.

When he became the President of ORSA in 1979, the society’s equity was only $50,000 and its expenses significantly exceeded its revenues. He slashed the budget by terminating a number of the society’s activities and cutting all journal pages by a third. He implemented a policy that the council could not start new activities until the organization’s equity exceeded its annual expenses. In the mid1980s he, along with Sid Hess, created the ORSA/TIMS joint council to obtain long term efficiencies, including a joint annual meeting, some joint publications, and a single administrative office. The joint council was fully integrated when INFORMS was created in 1995.

Dr. Bonder was also President of the Military Operations Research Society (MORS) and a long-time member of the Army Science Board. He is a recipient of both the MORS Wanner and Steinhardt awards for his contributions to military OR, its David Rist award for the best study of the year, and the Secretary of the Army’s Patriotic Service Award. He was awarded ORSA’s Kimball Medal in 1993 and the INFORMS President’s award in 2001. He is an inaugural Fellow of INFORMS and a member of the National Academy of Engineering.

Dr. Bonder was a member of the faculty of the University of Michigan until 1972 when he started VRI. He continues as an adjunct professor in the Industrial and Operations Engineering Department and as an advisor to major universities. During his career he developed new approaches to the teaching O.R. (e.g., the “modeling studio”) and wrote a number of papers to improve the structure and content of OR curricula. In recent years he presented a number of INFORMS keynote addresses (including the Omega Rho Lecture) that provided needed introspection regarding the domain and content of the OR profession, with an increased emphasis on the “science of operations”. In 2002 he established two endowed graduate “Bonder Scholarships” in INFORMS, one for Applied Operations Research in Health Services and the other for Applied Military Operations Research.

Seth Bonder died on October 29, 2011 after a long illness.

BSME, 1960, Maryland; PhD(Industrial Engineering and Operations Research), 1965, Ohio State

Seth Bonder's Awards