Booz Allen and the Development of

Operations Research in the 1950-1960s

The 1950s and 1960s marked a key time in operations research. Founded in 1952, the Operations Research Society of America (ORSA) navigated through its first decade and a half while key OR methodologies were being independently developed across multiple institutions. This coordination of ideas and people required dedication, commitment, and support from pivotal persons and organizations, such as Booz Allen Hamilton and, more specifically, their OR division (and once independent institution), Booz Allen Applied Research.

A preeminent management consultant firm in post-war America, Booz Allen Hamilton had expanded its business into a diverse array of fields with clients across the globe. In order to match this profile diversification, a group of the firm’s partners split away and formed Booz Allen Applied Research, Inc. (“BAARINC”) in 1955. This separate entity was established with a clear focus on the United States intelligence and defense communities. During the same period, Booz Allen Hamilton partnered with the US Navy’s Polaris Fleet Ballistic Missile Program and codeveloped the Program Evaluation and Review Technique, a progress tracking system to assist managers in large projects. The name was devised by Vice Admiral William F. Raborn, the Polaris program director. He insisted the technique be called “PERT” in honor of his new bride who went by that nickname (Craven 2001).

While using PERT, the Polaris program was completed eighteen months ahead of schedule. This helped pave the way for PERT’s implementation in further US Navy and Air Force projects. PERT proved particularly useful at identifying the critical activities, or the “critical path”, within a project, which, if delayed, will push back a project completion date. Having such insight into the dynamics of a project goes a long way in guaranteeing it won't stall and get sidetracked. “By the 1960s, PERT was the standard, with every complex project in government and industry using some kind of critical-path chart to plot progress” (Kletter 2015). This development in OR solidified the relationship between Booz Allen and Washington, DC, providing a platform from which the company could grow. With the backing of a committed and very large customer, Booz Allen personnel (BAARINC leadership in particular) were able to lend their time and foster an important partnership between themselves and ORSA.

A central player in this relationship was George Shortley, the Director of BAARINC headquarters in Bethesda, Maryland. Shortley served as the inaugural editor-in-chief of Operations Research, ORSA’s flagship publication, and served as the Publications Committee Chair until 1961, the same year in which BAARINC’s G. Ronald Herd was brought on as an associate editor for the journal. This made BAARINC one of only two organizations (the other being the RAND Corporation) with multiple people on the editorial staff. “Through [Shortley’s] efforts, the journal played a leading role in the world community in establishing standards for the scientific and professional literature of [OR]” (INFORMS Miser-Harris Presidential Gallery: George Shortley).  By the early 1960s, there were fifteen additional Booz Allen employees volunteering as journal referees, comprising one of the largest industrial contingents on the journal’s operations.

The heavy presence of BAARINC personnel among the referees and editorial staff corresponded with a significant recruitment drive. In the early 1960s, there were targeted ad campaigns in Operations Research for Shortley’s group at BAARINC’s Bethesda HQ and the Glenview, Illinois Office under John H. Roseboom. These advertisements met the explicit “need [that reflected] expanding opportunities for experienced statisticians and mathematicians” (Booz-Allen 1961). The demands of the government customer were rapidly growing following the successful implementation of PERT and other OR techniques.

By 1963, BAARINC was running full page advertisements in Operations Research, highlighting a portfolio of over 1,200 clients in industry, government, and the military. The institution’s initial plan to focus primarily on the intelligence and defense community was being stretched. BAARINC recruited for such specific and groundbreaking areas in OR as simulation and system analysis in a wide selection of fields, ranging from space flight control to corn syrup refinery. In 1965, BAARINC announced the establishment of the Combined Arms Research Office, a continuing military OR program located at Fort Leavenworth (BAARINC 1966). Applicants were asked to apply to a company-wide Director of Professional Appointments, Robert Flint, as the hiring process had become much more expansive than the immediate needs of regional offices. The larger Booz Allen Hamilton took notice and absorbed the spun-off entity into a semi-autonomous subsidiary by the end of the decade.

BAARINC’s rapid growth matched the evolution of ORSA and Operations Research. More committees were formed and the Council of the Society leadership expanded. Shortley was elected ORSA Vice President in 1964 and served as President in 1965-66. The field of OR was advancing at an exponential pace and the application opportunities were necessitating more people and resources.  The diverse portfolio of advertised BAARINC projects encompassed new perspectives in weapon systems analysis and transportation systems programs. There were also numerous confidential and classified projects. In Operations Research, they touted themselves as the organization “planning for the day after tomorrow” (BAARINC 1967) and considered “a good indicator of [their] success” the developing “need for new talent to respond to still greater challenges” (BAARINC 1965). By the late 1960s, BAARINC had grown to 500 scientists and engineers “of many diverse disciplines”, who prided themselves on “ultimate efficiency of [an] approach to creative synthesis” (BAARIN April 1969) and for possessing an “eclectic bent”  (BAARINC June 1969). The company’s full page advertisements in Operations Research were also among the earliest to incorporate unique graphic designs to match and stay ahead of the competitive curve.

There was an eventual and gradual decline in Booz Allen’s direct influence on Operations Research. By 1964, the number of journal referees from BAARINC dropped to eight and, by 1968, fell further to four. This decrease in representation was not due to a decrease in interest – rather an increase in diversification of ORSA membership. More organizations were becoming actively involved in the operations and support of the society and its journals. When George Shortley left the editorial staff and completed his extended term as a Past President (1966-69), the make-up of the Operations Research staff had become largely academic. There were more editors from Stanford and Purdue University than traditional private OR heavyweights like RAND, BAARINC, or Arthur D. Little. Though other commitments dwindled, Shortley did remain chair of the Frederick W. Lanchester Prize Committee through the decade’s end and in 1974 received the inaugural George E. Kimball Award for recognition of distinguished service.

Booz Allen’s operations research division would’ve been unable to achieve the heights it did without the aid of the ORSA community and recruiting power of the Operations Research journal. To this day, Booz Allen is considered “the one firm that helps government and commercial clients solve their toughest problems with services in strategy, operations, organization and change, and information technology” (Shorrock 2008). Many of the important techniques developed in the 1950s and 1960s, including PERT, remain in active use. By the same token, ORSA and Operations Research would’ve faced significant growing pains without the key support of Booz Allen in the first fifteen years of their existence. While there have been significant expansions in both camps over the five decades that have since transpired, there remain strong relationships between the company and professional OR groups like ORSA, its successor INFORMS, and the Military Operations Research Society. Booz Allen leaders have served, and continue to serve, as presidents and chairpersons across these societies and their respective committees well into the twenty-first century.

Compiled by: Reed Devany

Links and References

Aeronautical Systems Division, US Air Force  Systems Command (1961) “PERT: program evaluation review technique.”

BAARINC (1961) [advertisement] Operations Research, 9(1), xvi.

BAARINC (1965) [advertisement] Operations Research, 13(4), xxiv.

BAARINC (1966) [advertisement] Operations Research, 12(6), xxxiii.

BAARINC (1967) [advertisement] Operations Research, 15(1), iii.

BAARINC (April 1969) [advertisement] Operations Research, 17(2), xv.

BAARINC (June 1969) [advertisement] Operations Research, 17(3), xv.

Craven, J. P. (2001) The Silent War: the Cold War Battle Beneath the Sea (pp. 61). New York, NY: Simon & Schuster.

INFORMS. Miser-Harris Presidential Portrait Gallery: George Shortley. Retrieved: April 2, 2019 (link)

Kershaw, G.A., D. Crowder, J.E. Davis., E. G. Loges., & E. Merendini (1966). Mechanization study of the Foreign Technology Division, Wright-Patterson AFB, Ohio. (Report No. BAARINC 914-1-1; NTIS No. AD 489 996.) Bethesda, MD: Booz, Allen Applied Research. Sept.

Kletter, D. (2015) “Roundtable Profile: Booz Allen Hamilton”. OR/MS Today, Vol 42. No. 2., pp 22-25.

Malcolm, D. G.]  J. H. Roseboom, C. E. Clark, W. Fazar. (1959) “Application of a Technique for Research and Development Program Evaluation,” Operations Research, 7(5), 646-669.

Shorrock, T. (2008). Booz Allen Hamilton and "The Shadow IC". In Spies for Hire: The Secret World of Intelligence Outsourcing (pp. 38-71). New York, NY: Simon & Schuster.

Associated Historic Individuals

Shortley, George H.