An unfinished legacy: President Reagan and the Socrates Project

In the closing days of his administration, President Reagan had an executive order drafted to create a new government agency — the first new federal agency since the creation of NASA in the 1950s. Why would a president who built his reputation on reducing the size of the government want to create more government?

Reagan recognized that America’s future depended on remaining an economic superpower. He also recognized that America’s competitiveness on the world stage was declining and that countries like China and India posed a significant threat because of their ability to use technology-based planning to gain a long-term competitive advantage.

During Reagan’s two terms in office, a program within the US intelligence community uncovered data and drew conclusions about the cause of America’s declining competitiveness. The program, called the Socrates Project, also developed the means to reverse our decline and sustain our leadership in the world for decades to come.

The Socrates team used all-source intelligence to generate a holistic, bird’s eye view of competition worldwide. Their view and understanding went way beyond, in terms of scope and completeness, that which was and is available to the university professors, think tank analysts and consultants. A key finding was that at the end of WWII decision-makers throughout the US began shifting away from technology-based planning and began adopting economic-based planning.

In technology-based planning the foundation of all decision-making is the acquisition and utilization of technology (where technology is any application of science to accomplish a function) to produce the best product or provide the best service. Technology is manipulated, both offensively and defensively, to acquire and maintain the required competitive advantage. In contrast, in economic-based planning, the manipulation of the funds is the foundation of all decision-making, and the measure of success is the efficiency of the economic manipulation.

As US decision-makers began utilizing economic-based planning as a standard, unchallenged foundation for decision-making throughout industry, government and academia, the rest of the world continued using and refining their technology-based planning. While we in the US were coming up with increasingly sophisticated economic shell games to maximize profits, China and India were systematically out-maneuvering us in the acquisition and utilization of the technology to eliminate our ability to produce products and services that had a competitive advantage in domestic and foreign markets.

President Reagan, and the Socrates team, saw that to rebuild America’s competitiveness we had to re-introduce technology-based planning as the foundation for decision-making in the US. But he also saw that the US could not just adopt the level of technology-based planning that US decision-makers had used before WWII. To regain and maintain our economic health, US decision-makers needed to execute a level of technology-based planning that far surpassed that which was executed by China, India and others.

To determine how to leap-frog the tech-based planning of all countries worldwide, the Socrates team mapped out the evolution of tech-based planning, and two things became obvious: first that tech-based planning makes an evolutionary leap forward every few hundred years — the scientific revolution, the automated industrial revolution, and so forth; and second that mankind was poised to make the next big evolutionary leap forward in tech-based planning — the automated innovation revolution.

With automated innovation, acquiring and utilizing technology — research and development, technology alliances, etc. — is standardized and automated. The result is that the acquisition and utilization of technology can be executed with previously unimaginable speed, efficiency and agility — a rapid stream of previously unimagined products and services based upon technology breakthroughs being generated and utilized at an astronomically fast rate.

  • DCPodinski

    This article doesn’t really go into much detail about why Pres Bush abolished Socrates. I looked it up and according to wikipedia- “Project Socrates was labeled as “industrial policy”, and began to fall from favor”. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Project_Socrates

    Industrial policy, eh? Considering who this is coming from (Bush I), I’ve got to wonder what else was really behind the cutting of this program…

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Jason-Nellis/658073624 Jason Nellis

    I think this is relevant, and amazing. One of the core ideas is about technology being the answer, how we have the means to unite, to eliminate greed… From a very old movie, the amazing Charlie Chaplin giving a rare speech (in character)- this is so poignant and relevant and from what I gather shares the same core values as this project’s long-term goals, I believe.


    “Let us fight for a world of reason! A world where science and progress will lead to all man’s happiness.”

  • DeannaLawson

    Wow, how is it that the Socrates Project became so buried and never really reached the public ears? (Well, guess that *was* the era before internet/Wikileaks, etc…ha) But in all seriousness, it makes you wonder what the nation/world would be like today had the project been allowed to go on as planned.

    • rachelgarratt

      Yes, my boyfriend is a handsome techie, and we’ve talked about it as well. How impacting a group focused ENTIRELY on creating strategic moves against non-allied countries would’ve been. The wars that could have been avoided. Can you imagine the health of our economy??!!

      • DeannaLawson

        hehe, a handsome techie? 😉 I could use one of those myself 😛
        But as for the topic– it sounds like a good idea, but a pretty idealistic one, don’t you think? I mean, when have *any* politicians been able to agree, cooperate, and work together long/well enough to accomplish a feat like that? Unless you don’t mean a group of *politicians*?

        • rachelgarratt

          Ha! Get your own nerd. Ya, hence why they didn’t get it off the ground. Stupid politicians just get the way. It just makes too much sense to do it, hence why they dropped the ball. Ya think?

    • DCPodinski

      Deanna– if you look @ the Wikipedia article I linked, you’ll see that Socrates was under the DIA… So basically, it was all classified. Explains why no one knew anything about it.

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  • toddwinstontoo

    I’ve always wondered why the government is always about tax cuts and less about making our country competitive. Just like the fed printing more money, tax cuts are not doing much as long as we ignore our real problem. We are getting beat and headed towards the U.S becoming a third rate country. China is knocking on our backdoor folks, and our defense is tax cuts?

    • rachelgarratt

      I think the tax cuts will offer some temporary relief but yes I agree. Get rid of the IRS, and put this project together then at least we’ll have some guidance or direction in both the federal and private sector. But ya, I agree, it sounds very neat.

      • DeannaLawson

        Yeah agree it would be good to have the program but problem is, is there even a single politician in Washington who can see the big picture in this way? who is not totally blinded by a)current long-held system of economic based planning & b)their own personal agendas???

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