Interviewer: Brad Peinhardt
Interview Date: November 6, 2012- 3:00pm
Location: Haggard residence, Covington, GA
Listen: Read Transcript
Region 8 History Project Public History Program
Transcript of Interview with Sid Haggard
Brad: We are here with Sid Haggard. This is the Region 8 History Project Public History Program in conjunction with Auburn University. My name is Brad Peinhardt and it is 2:15 p.m. A lot of people in our interview project had more traditional jobs in the Forest Service, but I think you are one of the few people who are on the technical side of it. That is the bulk of the questions that I am going to ask you. First off, talk about how you came to be with the Forest Service.
Sid: In 1966, I was with Gulf Oil Corporation in Atlanta. The Forest Service was getting into computers and they needed someone to come over and supervise their operations and I applied for that job and was selected. And that’s how I was hired into the Forest Service. At that time, I was a Grade 9. They had the Univac 1005 computer, which most people have never heard of. It was a very early stored program computer developed by Sperry, used quite a bit by the Army. Like, I said, it was very small, probably 1,000th of the size of what we have today, but anyway …
Brad: Oh, sure.
Sid: We were doing primarily financial accounting type work. We did some timber volume computations and, you know, those kinds of things.
Brad: Had that model been mostly used by the military?
Sid: Yes. It was fairly new. I Googled it last night just to see. It started out as a Univac 1004, which is a plug board, if you know what a plug board is. Back in the early days before stored program computers, you had a big board like this, and you plugged wires into it. And by plugging those wires in, you make connections and that’s how you programmed the machine. You took that plug board out, as we called it, and put this module in, and that is what stored a program that you had written. And we had something, I think we had like 2K. You have never heard of a machine so small, right?
Brad: How big of an apparatus was used for that amount of size? How big was the actual machine?
Sid: It would take up the area where they are sitting over there. Quite wide.
Brad: OK, so about six feet wide? This particular model, was it, at this time in the Forest Service, just used for financial stuff?
Sid: Primarily financial and like I said, some timber volume computation when they did cruising of timber, those type of things. And those systems were used in the smaller regions. In the larger western region, they used CDC 3100s, which were bigger stored program computers, larger capabilities.
Brad: How long had they had been using computers?
Sid: I don’t exactly, but not too many years. They did a lot of things, along with financial accounting, including road design. At that time, the Forest Service was the largest builder of roads. Because, unknown to most, to cut timber, you don’t just take a bull dozer and plow a road. You have to design that road according to specifications of the bureau of public roads, and submit your specifications and designs to them. And so we took the CDC 3100 road design system, and put it onto a Univac 1108, which is a large scientific computer with the National Bureau of Standards. And we could actually communicate with a 1005 to Gaithersburg, Maryland where NBS was located and do that. Later on, we started using Georgia Tech’s 1108 and I moved that system to Georgia Tech including all the graphics. At that time, you had no on-line access like you do today. You’d punch the cards, take them over to Ga. Tech, turn them in, and the next day you went over and got your output. That’s the way things worked.
Brad: Were there districts or areas in the service where this technology hadn’t reached by the time you were there?
Sid: At that time, there was no technology out on the forest supervisor’s office or districts. The regional offices had the computers.
Brad: That was it.
Sid: that was it.
Brad: You said you helped implement the Service-wide computer system program, what all did the computer system program entail?
Sid: Well, that’s jumping ahead a few years from ’66 and I moved to Washington in 1972.
Brad: I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to jump ahead.
Sid: That’s ok. We were still doing pretty much what we were talking about here with the elementary stuff with the Univac 1108, I moved to Washington and we started or created the Fort Collins Computer Center in Fort Collins, Colorado and that was with the Univac 1108 because the work that we were doing with some of the volume computations and so forth and the road design. This did not fit an IBM 360 type environment. So we created that computer center, put the 1108 in out there and I was involved in that. And then I moved to Albuquerque as the Regional Computer Science Director and then moved back to D.C. in 1977.That’s when we started planning and strategizing on how to put the technology out into the field. We developed the project then called the Forest Level Information Processing System, which got to be known as FLIPS, which we tried to do away with because they kept saying, when it gets to the Hill, they are going to say “FLIPS flopped.” We never was able to do that with that name. But, anyway, that program, or that project actually placed many computers, Data General mini-computers in every FS office except a few very small districts; about 900 offices.
Brad: That had been the first time it was service-wide?
Sid: Right. And that was all networked for electronic mail and some file transfer. These were very small systems. Still, having that capability to communicate, brought in a lot of apprehension about, well, you know that ranger out on Dry Gulch, Montana could send the Chief an email message. And we don’t want that ranger talking to the chief, you know. You know, he’s got a telephone now, you know, he don’t need to talk …etc.
Brad: It brings you a lot closer together.
Sid: So anyway, it brought a lot of apprehension about that, about how do you use that stuff. Just like today with some of the things with Face Book and those kind of things, but anyway we put that system in and it was in 1980-81 that we did that. In 1985, we had that pretty well implemented, so I moved to what we called the Department, which is the Office of the Secretary in the U.S. Department of Agriculture and managed their telecommunications network and policy until I retired in 1994.
Brad: Other than introducing people to this technology, were there any other obstacles that you had to face when you were first trying to pretty much network all the rangers in the districts?
Sid: Well, like I said, you ran into things of policy or some of the standards that you had to have because nobody had ever done this before as far as we knew. The Defense Department, over at DARPA [Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency] had done some of this but not on the scale that we were talking about. When you talk about some standards, for example naming standards, grew to department-wide in terms of if you describe certain elements within the organization, they have to be standard names. And nobody had ever thought about standard naming conventions before, so you would get in to some of that. In the Forest Service, we had some problems with placing these systems on the forest or on the district, mainly the forest, in that people had things they wanted to do, but they didn’t have a computer system to do it. But once they got this computer system, suddenly they discovered they can do all these other things. And well, these other things loaded the systems up pretty quickly and so they became almost dysfunctional. There had to be some policy established, in terms of what you used the system for and what you do not use it for. If you used floppy disk, what do you store on the floppy disk? You don’t want the corporate information stored in somebody’s desk drawer. And so you get into some policy.
Brad: So there was still a desire to use hard copy at the time? There was trepidation there?
Sid: Well, you still had to print things out because, like I said, the FS was used to the electronic version, but to send something over to the department or the secretary’s office, they didn’t have the capability to receive it electronically. Matter of fact when I moved from the Forest Service to the Department in 1985, they were writing things on a pad of paper and walking them up the hall for the secretary to type. Well, I wasn’t use to writing because I was used to composing everything on the keyboard. And so I finally found some money over there and they bought me a WANG Word Processor because that is what the secretaries used. I could type a document or letter, put it on a 5 ¼ floppy and walk it up to the secretary.
Brad: Can you think of any technology that was developed specifically for the Forest Service? I know you had to appropriate, probably, a lot that was already out there, but can you think of anything that was there or that you had a hand in designing yourself?
Sid: Personally I didn’t, but there were some things that had to be done. There were some pretty smart people in the Forest Service and what helped get a lot of this done and an example is electronic mail that I’ll tell you about. The FS was the largest user, or customer, of Data General Corporation. In my opinion, the FS contract might have saved the company but that was not the reason they got the contract. We were also the largest user of the TELENET Corporation, which was the USDA data communications company. (That was later brought by Sprint.) They were both compliant with the X400 standard, which was the NBS standard for electronic mail. That standard was so wide, you could both be compliant but you could never see each other, because, you were on different ends of the standard. So I took the TELENET people up to Boston to Data General and we sat down in a room and I closed the door and I said we’re not leaving until we figure this out, because we needed a system to communicate within Forest Service and the rest of USDA, especially Soil Conservation Service and people like that. And so, yeah, they listened to us when you are the biggest user and they fixed it. The solution was that USDA had an email system that would work with different platforms.
Brad: I guess the Forest Service was one of the first people to use electronic mail.
Sid: On a wide-scale, probably yes, except for, like I said, the Defense Department had the DARPA Office doing research type stuff, but in terms of the scale the FS might have been the first. Matter of fact, when the FS wrote the specs for the procurement, for FLIPS, some of that stuff that was put in there was not available. Nobody had that capabilities, and it was required anyway and forced the people to go ahead and develop this to meet the specifications.
Brad: These were things that didn’t exist yet?
Sid: Right. At least that is what I was told. I was not the technical guru of that. We had some people in the Forest Service that knew that stuff. And they could go up to Data General and sit down and talk to these system engineers down in the third sub-basement, you know, that wore flip-flops and t-shirts in the wintertime. You know what I am talking about. They could talk that language, so that helped out.
Brad: During this time, when all this was being implemented and you had these people that were pretty much inventing this stuff, was there events or emergencies that were impetus for these innovations, or was it the necessity for communication alone or was there any major event happening within the service?
Sid: That really drove the requirement for the FLIPS project?
Brad: Was there something that happened that made you say this is why we really need this project?
Sid: Well, it was pretty well known that the technology was progressing, it was moving along. The chief we had at that time, Max Peterson, Max was a civil engineer and very technically competent in terms of things were moving that way and the Forest Service really needed to get on with it. Forest Service has a large requirement to communicate with the public about if they are going to do some work on a piece of land they must have public input and public hearings and so forth. It was the capability to communicate the plan from the forest to the Regional Office and to the headquarters and also over to the environmental people. I think that, in my opinion, that was probably one of the driving forces. Plus, like I said, the technology was coming along. I know even when we were implementing FLIPS and we were trying to do it on a standard basis across the Forest Service, you had some people say, well you know this thing called PCs are coming out? We want to get some PCs out here. Well, you can’t have these people doing PCs and these people doing mini computers and these people doing other things. If you’re going to do it, it must be standard across the FS. You had to have some direction from the chief. Chief Peterson was the one that provided that direction.
Brad: What were some of the first PCs that were being used and what were they being used for?
Sid: I can’t even think of anything. I was so involved with the FLIPS.
Brad: I was just curious.
Sid: The DGs had a portable, if you want to call it portable, it’s a pretty heavy portable, a DGl they called it that would actually do some communication, but it was not like a PC or LAPTOP today.
Brad: At this time, were you in the Office of Information Resource Management, or had that been created yet?
Sid: When we were doing the FLIPS Project?
Sid: I was in the FS until 1985. The office at the department when we were doing FLIPS was the Office of Information Systems, or something like that, under the assistant secretary of administration. It later was renamed Office of Information Resource Management. In the FS, we had the Chief and five deputy chiefs, one being Administration who had budget, personnel, etc. One was Computer Science and Telecommunications. And that director was Hobby Bonnett. Hobby was the one that really pushed technology and the one that got FCCC created. Later, they brought in Dr. Hermann Habermann. Dr. Habermann came over from research. Herman, along with Jack Arthur who was in Missoula, was really the one that drove FLIPS and the service wide automation of the FS.
Brad: So there were elements within the Service that were resistant to establishing the system?
Sid: I don’t know that there was any resistance to it. At that time, there was some budget problems and some cutbacks. I recall one time I went to Arizona to a meeting with the forest supervisors and rangers in New Mexico and Arizona, the Southwestern Region, to tell them about what we were doing and where we were heading. We’d already had a contract awarded at that time. The contract was 242 million dollars. Right before me on the agenda was how they were going to place the people they were laying off because they didn’t have enough money to keep everybody. I was a little uneasy but well received. There was some resistance on the Hill with the House Appropriations Subcommittee. We had a lady up there, a staffer. Matter of fact, when Hermann and I went up to brief her, her first remark was “do you see any of those computer things in my office? No and you don’t need any either.”
Brad: So that was it, huh? Obviously I guess she came around.
Sid: The way she came around was we had a good friend on the Senate side that we worked with, her counterpart, and when they had the appropriation bill, it went to conference to work out the House and Senate differences, our friend on the Senate side made sure the language she wanted restricting the expenditure for computer systems was not in the bill.
Brad: Was it relatively unchanged by the time it went through Conference?
Sid: Yeah after it came out the final bill, it did not have the language in there restricting us to spend the money that we wanted to spend. It was not designated money. It was money for the Forest Service operations. But she was just putting language in there so we could not use any money for automation.
Brad: That is what you were there for pretty much.
Sid: Well, that is what we were trying to do. That’s what the Chief wanted to do. So we had to work with her and the Senate staffer.
Brad: That was a major obstacle. Once FLIPS got going, did you have any major hiccups or kinks to work out?
Sid: We did in terms of the size of the systems, because we bought what we could reasonably afford, not necessarily exactly what we needed. The systems we put out there, as I said, were actually very small. And so we start putting all this other stuff on it and all of a sudden they are overloaded and you didn’t have the storage capacity to do what we wanted to do with the systems. And that was one of the biggest problem we had.
Brad: At what point did you join the Information Resource Management Office?
Sid: The Office of Information Resource Management? That is when I moved to the department, to the Office of the Secretary, which was the Office of Information Resource Management. The Director was Glen Haney, a former Forest Service employee, and Director before Hermann Habermann came in. The department had a nationwide network, mainly data communications. Back in those days, they managed data and voice and video telecommunications separately. They had some problems there. He and his deputy, who was also former Forest Service, Bill Rice, asked me to come over to head up that program. My wife and I liked the Washington area education system. We had three kids in school then in Fairfax County, Virginia, which is one of the top education systems in the nation, especially if you’ve been to Albuquerque for a year. Coming back to Georgia, was not an option for the same reasons.
Brad: Was there any kind of telecommunications methods that were unique to the Forest Service or weren’t really used anywhere else?
Sid: The Forest Service used microwaves systems out west primarily, which other people didn’t use a lot of. In the west, people and places are pretty remote such as Dry Gulch, Montana or Springerville, Arizona. Regions installed microwave systems to enhance their radio communication, used primarily for fire. There was a microwave system put in Region 3 in New Mexico and one in Arizona. Those are the two states that make up that region. Then there is a connection between the two. We connected that microwave system to TELENET, which was our nationwide carrier at that time. The microwave system was pretty unique to the Forest Service.
Brad: Other than FLIPS, what other innovations do you think were important to the Service that you witnessed or had a hand in developing?
Sid: The ones I was in involved with mostly were the ones related to FLIPS. The word processing or the file transfers and those type things that we purchased with FLIPS. There were other things that I wasn’t directly involved with. They started using portable data recorders out in the field instead of writing things in a logbook. The workers would record the data, bring it back into the office and transfer it electronically.
Brad: These were not simple audio recorders. They were data input systems?
Brad: Do you remember what they were called?
Sid: No, Tectonics’ comes to mind, but I really don’t remember.
Brad: You retired shortly before the web became a major presence. When the so-called Information Age was starting to come about had that made an impact on the Forest Service?
Sid: When I left the Forest Service in 1985 and moved to the Department and managed the network there, we did have the internet and it was just really, like I say coming onboard. After I left the FS I don’t know a lot about what happened , but they continued on and they finally replaced the data general systems with the IBM system called 615. This was an upgrade of the technology.
Brad: You mentioned having to go to the hill and have that particular funding approved. Were there kinds of legislation or anything like that during your tenure that really helped or hindered the effort you were behind?
Sid: The Forest Service FLIPS project we were talking about?
Brad: Sure, or anything else that you might have been a part of?
Sid: As it relates to the Forest Service FLIPS project, like I said, the only real connection we had with the hill was the House sub-committee that did not want us to spend any money on the technology, on FLIPS. And, like I said, we worked around that. There is a funny story related to the Senate Staffer, if you want to hear it. He called the Chief one day and said he needed some computing equipment. The FS management did not want the person on the Senate staff communicating to the Ranger districts, directly. We didn’t want to tell him no and make this guy mad, because he was a good friend, but we didn’t want to give him one of our data general systems and put him in our network either, so what do we do? Well, what they did was they called me and told me to go up there and figure this out. Well, what the guy had, remember this is a Senate Committee and, this is 1983 or 1984. They were preparing their appropriations bills, on an old Burroughs machine. And, only one person could use at a time. This guy says, but I’ve read that you can get one where two people can work on it you can share data. I said, Are you talking about a WANG Word Processor?” and he says, “That’s exactly what I saw.” I said, “Is that what you want?” and he says, “Yeah.” I said, “Let me have your phone and I will call the WANG guys and get something up here tomorrow.” Problem solved.
Brad: What was the main purpose of the Fort Collins Computer Center?
Sid: It was for the scientific computing requirements of the Forest Service. The road design system, again, was the largest, the planning activities that they did – ForPlan was the name of this system. And, those type of things associated really with forestry was the primary thing. But we also did use it for some financial stuff also. It is just the word size, the system itself was more adapted to scientific than. The IBM system, was used at the Washington Computer Center, Kansas City Computer Center, and the National Finance Center in New Orleans.
Brad: This is well before the proposed budget. Was this when the Forest Service was doing a lot of hiring for computer specialists?
Sid: This was probably around 1974 when we created the Fort Collins Computer Center, right before I went to Albuquerque. The Computer Centers actually, were owned and operated by the department. The agencies did not own computer centers and so the Forest Service gave the Department so many positions, for staffing, and so much money to start this system. But it later closed when we moved work into Kansas City, which is now the only computer center USDA has.
Brad: So that Fort Collins Center is no longer in operation?
Sid: It is no longer in operation. The staff is doing other things, but they no longer have large mainframes that we had at that time.
Brad: Did you have to do any type of fieldwork besides going out and setting up small systems that you were talking about?
Sid: No. Early in my FS career, we were going to do some work with some timber staff. And so I went through a compartment prescription school in Greenwood, South Carolina for a week to learn what these people were doing and what they were talking about when they said a timber stand or a timber compartment and those type of things.
Brad: After 1985, you became Policy Director for Telecommunications.
Sid: When I moved in 1985 to USDA OIRM, Office of Information Resource Management, I went over there to manage the departmental network (DEPNET), which was part of the telecommunications division. That contract was a department mandatory use for the entire Department of Agriculture with TELENET Corporation. That network contract was expiring about 1989. And so, we had to get a new contract, so I started a new procurement for the agriculture communications network – AGCOMNET. We were developing the requirements when GSA developed a contract for FTS2000, which was going to be telephone, data, everything nationwide. It started out not being mandatory. If you wanted to use it, you could. Well, Congressman Brooks from Texas decided it was going to be mandatory. All of a sudden instead of developing our own network, we had to find out how to use the GSA network. We didn’t have a lot of input into GSA’s network, because we didn’t intend to use it. Of course, we thought we knew more about it than they did, especially the data side. So our job was figure out how we could put the USDA’s requirements within FTS2000. As it turns out, we were using the packet transfer at that time across the data network. And we were sending more data across our network than AT&T was totally in their commercial network. Of course AT&T’s attitude was “Well we are AT&T, so you have to use us.” For example, we were going to place our orders for our systems within USDA, and we’re talking about USDA now, not Forest Service, and they said, well you have to fill out three pieces of paper for every location. I said we have all of the data for all the locations for the last couple of years if you want it, to show you what the data requirements, you know, the transfer and so forth. I can give you all the information electronically. No, you have to fill out three pieces of paper. I said, “You want 45,000 pieces of paper, because I’ve got 15,000 locations.” Well, that’s all right.
Brad: Why did they insist on that?
Sid: Because that’s the way they did it. Well, as it turns out my staff developed a system on a PC, probably in Word Perfect back in those days, to actually do it and give them a floppy with all the stuff on it. They would not take the tapes off of the Computer Center at Fort Collins to help them configure the network.
Brad: If they had, you would have had a much smoother process I would imagine.
Sid: Oh yeah and they, just a number of things there . My job there was to plan the transition, which I later turned over to the staff in Fort Collins, the telecommunications operations staff. But, once the network was starting to be implemented, maybe about a year in, they had a Congressional hearing; Senator John Glenn chaired that Senate sub-committee. He had a hearing on how well this was going. I don’t know how to this day, they got my name, but they requested me as one of the five to come testify before the Senate committee.
Brad: What was that like?
Sid: Well, it was OK with me. AT&T and GSA were not real thrilled. The process is that you have to prepare your testimony, which is five minutes of testimony, and submit it to the White House OMB for approval. GSA tried to get me to change some of the stuff.
Brad: What were you saying, if you don’t mind?
Sid: Well, it’ was things like if you want to put a T1 into Plum Island, New York and AT&T can’t do that physically, so they just don’t process the order. They just lay it aside and there is no requirement in the contract for them to ever process that order. So I coined the term that it goes into the black hole. The AT&T Black Hole had a lot of things in there that we couldn’t get out. They didn’t want to hear this. But anyway, I went and presented the testimony and answered the Senator’s questions along with four other people. It was interesting.
Brad: What was the outcome of the hearing?
Sid: Nothing. It was all a show.
Brad: Were there any policies or any decisions in the Forest Service that didn’t have anything directly to do with telecommunications that ended up drastically affecting your department or the work that you did?
Sid: I can’t think of any that comes right to mind. Like I said, I was involved in getting the contract awarded and implemented and moving to the department and working on the problems they had there and planning the next generation of telecommunications. You asked about the policy job; after I turned over the transition from DEPNET to FTS2000 to the telecommunications operation group in Fort Collins I moved into the Telecommunications Policy Division, and I managed that staff along with other assignments. For example, Secretary Madigan wanted to be able to communicate with the farmers without having to fly around the nation to do that. He asked if we could do things like that and we said sure we can. So we started eight pilot projects, one of them being video town meetings. Remember this is back in 1989 and 1990, We had a 2-way video town meeting with the farmers in Hale County, Texas at Wayland Baptist University. We brought in a satellite truck to do it. We had them actually meet with the Secretary and his assistant secretaries in Washington by a Larry King-type conference. This is very common now using the internet and SKYPE, but it wasn’t common back then. And so we did some of those type things.
Brad: When that technology became available, did those groups jump at the chance to do that or did that have to be brought to their attention?
Sid: I guess it had to grow on them to build video conference rooms, especially if you have a secure environment with some of the stuff, like over in the Department of Labor. They do more video conferencing now than what they did then. Matter of fact, I know they do. But it was not something they just rapidly grabbed hold to, partly because it was costly to do that. Some things like collaborative computing that they do today. I had some of that technology after I retired and took back over to Agriculture from a firm that I was doing some consulting with to do some of that.
Brad: Do you do any work still with Forest Service? I know that you retired from it, but are you active at all with it? Have you ever been asked or tempted to go back to work?
Sid: When I retired in 1994, I didn’t really intend to do anything. A friend of mine was with a small company owned by a first-generation American from South Korea. He was trying to get into the federal government market. He was doing work with MCI and IBM and other people, but nothing with the federal government. He asked me to come help them, so I agreed to do that for six months to help them out. Well, during that six months, my deputy in USDA had been sent over to GSA to help with the next generation of FTS2000, FTS2001. He called and said, “I need some help. I don’t have anybody over here that knows how to do the kinds of things we need done and I need to do some best practices to study. I want to know how General Electric manages their telecommunications program, from all of the aspects to it, security, billing, everything. But nobody knows how to do that.” Well, I’d already learned, the answer is always ‘sure we can do that!’ and then you figure out what it is, right? So I got a three million dollar contract to do those studies which required going out and interviewing General Electric, Chrysler, Hewlett Packard, US Air and one other (an oil company). There were some other tasks. I had to run the projects. That is what got me into the consulting business. From then on I worked with Dr. Byung Yu for a long time and several other firms afterward. Last year, I decided that was about the end of that. But I never did a whole lot with the Forest Service; some, but not a whole lot for them.
Brad: You obviously earned the privilege to do that.
Sid: I am now involved with the Forest Service in terms of the Southern Forest Service Retirees Association. I don’t know if you are familiar with that or not, but the retirees in all of the different parts of the nation have their own organizations and then there is a National Forest Service Retiree Association. I am currently President of the Southern Forest Service Retiree Association. We have luncheons twice a year and I meet with the Regional Forester or a member of her staff a couple of times a year. In terms of consulting business, nothing.
Brad: I wanted to ask you about the presence that the Forest Service has on the web now, today, as opposed to before. I know you said you were retired before the internet became a major part of it. How do you feel the Forest Service is represented on the internet today?
Sid: I really don’t have any input on that.
Brad: OK. During your tenure with the service, what was the most profound or satisfying that you did with them while you were there?
Sid: Well, it was probably the last thing I did was the FLIPS Project. And like I said, I was the project manager, but Dr. Hermann Habermann and Jack Arthur that came in after me, he was in Missoula at that time, were the technical brains behind all of that. Jack came in and took over CS&T Division when I went to the department. He went to OMB and but then came back to the Forest Service. But then he retired and currently lives in Missoula. I was more of the management end of it, taking care of the staff. The contracting officer that we had was sharp too. The Forest Service really had some sharp people. This guy, the contracting officer, had an MBA from Wisconsin. He later on progressed through the Forest Service, then he became the Deputy Assistant Secretary for Civil Rights in Agriculture. The last job he had was Director of the agency that does all the management and administration for Rural Development. Clyde just retired at the first of the year. When you got people like him and Jack and Hermann, Herman’s doctorate was in statistics, (I never saw him take a note of anything. He remembered everything). That makes your job a lot easier.
Brad: During the late 60s and early 70s, when conservation became a bigger deal, were there any social effects on your job at all when the public began to be more vehement in their support of like national parks and things of that nature?
Sid: No. We never felt it down on our end. We left that to all the foresters, biologists, engineers, etc.
Brad: So the controversy never really came to your end?
Brad: What would you say probably the most difficult or challenging part of pioneering the telecommunications part of-
Sid: Within the Forest Service?
Brad: Yes, sir.
Sid: Well, probably the budget stuff that I was telling you about, dealing with some of the politicians up on the hill and also within the department. We had people when we were doing this in the Forest Service, the department people, did not want us to do this. There thinking was that there was nothing wrong with using the large mainframe computers the way we were using them then and you don’t need all this other stuff, you know, so just leave everything alone. In my opinion that’s probably how Glen Haney moved over to the department. The Secretary asked that he come over there manage OIRM. Glen got things done.
Brad: I guess bureaucracy was a major difficulty.
Sid: Right. In terms of talking about the telecommunications within USDA, like I said, back in the days when I went over there, it was data communications I was dealing with, not the telephones because that was all covered by GSA FTS. There is a paper on data communications within the US Department of Agriculture that you might find interesting if you are interested in that kind of stuff. One of the first computers generated or built was for the Census back in the early 1900s and the USDA had that system later. I think it is in the paper I wrote. Anyway, you may find that interesting if you’d like to see it.
Sid: It is a few years old. So it’s not up to date to where they are now, but it ends at whenever it is I wrote it. It talks about how the Forest Service, when we were doing FLIPS, and ASCS, Agricultural Stabilization and Conservation Service, I don’t know how familiar you are with all of the USDA, but ASCS, which is no longer called ASCS, it’s now called the Farm Service Agency – they rename everything. They were trying to develop a system similar to what we were doing. And so they would come over and meet with us like every other week to find out where we were, what we were doing and how we got this done. They were coming right behind us. After we got a contract award, NASA out of Huntsville called. They wanted to know how we got a lot of this done and how we got some of the standards in there and how we did some anti-gaming within the contracts and so forth. They flew up, I forgot how many people came up and spent a day with me, talking about how things got done; So the Forest Service is out on a leading edge on a lot of things.
Brad: So in effect, you helped consult NASA?
Sid: I wouldn’t call it consulting. Another tidbit, The Government of the Netherlands, after I moved to the department, came over and wanted to know how Agriculture acquired and manage their nationwide network. Again, I am not talking about me. They were talking about how the organization had done things.
Sid: Don’t misconstrue that. I am not saying I was doing all these great things.
Brad: No. No. No.
Sid: The department did. But when you have people like NASA, and The Netherlands who was was putting in a nationwide network and asking USDA for advice, that was impressive to me.
Brad: You hear talk about there being military families and stuff like that. Would you consider your family was a forestry family or a USDA family? Not that your whole family was employed, but is your family involved with what you do?
Sid: Yes. If you are employed by the Forest Service, your family is part of the Forest Service family.
Sid: When I first went to work with the Forest Service, about a couple weeks in or something, somebody from Washington was coming down. And if somebody from Washington came down, that is big time stuff, because these are big people, you know. So we’re going to have a family meeting. I thought, well this is crazy. They are going to bring all the families in? But what they were talking about was the Forest Service family – the Forest Service employees Not so much my family. But yeah, my family was part of the FS.
Brad: On all levels of the Forest Service, there is a general sense of loyalty and unity.
Sid: Oh yeah. Back in the days that I was there, you didn’t see all that much turnover as you do today. You see a lot of new people that come in from other places or agencies or private industry. Back then, it was pretty much Forest Service people. The people working the FLIPS Project was all Forest Service people except one. For example, Clyde Thompson, the contracting officer, came to DC from Milwaukee as a contract specialist, to San Francisco as Regional Director, and back to DC, and then to the Department, as I stated earlier. His wife just retired last month I think it was. She was the Associate Deputy Chief of State and Private Forestry. So yeah, it’s a family. The rest of the USDA, is not like that, as far as I could determine from working in OIRM.
Brad: Your time at the Forest Service, was that more satisfying to you than other aspects of USDA? Is it something that you miss?
Sid: No . I have always communicated back to the Forest Service and visited back over with the people in the Forest Service. When I am came to Atlanta I would stop by the office. I wouldn’t say it’s more rewarding. The things I did there I feel good about what we did over there. We made some improvements. We saved taxpayers a lot of money, which was always a big thing with me in terms of saving that money, because I am a taxpayer and I am very conservative.
Brad: Alright, we think that is about all that I have. I appreciate you sitting down with us and letting us into your home.
Sid: I hope it was useful. Like I said, I don’t know anything about the Weeks Act or of FS things.
The Interviewee: Sid Haggard joined the United States Forest Service in 1966 as the manager of the Computer Operations branch of the Regional Fiscal Management Division in Atlanta, GA. In 1972, Mr. Haggard transferred to the Forest Service’s national headquarters office in Washington D.C. Mr. Haggard was an integral part in managing the Forest Service’s computer sciences program, as well as involved in the planning and creation of the Fort Collins Computer Center, which was established in 1975. In charge of the telecommunications division, Mr. Haggard was one of the first to create a program that brought computers and data processing to every Forest Service office across the country. Mr. Haggard ended his career as the Telecommunications Policy Director in D.C. in 1994. He is now retired and lives with his wife in the Atlanta area.
The Interviewer: Brad Peinhardt is an undergraduate student at Auburn University.
Description of the Interview: The interview lasts approximately one hour and 7 minutes and was conducted at the home of Mr. Haggard in Covington, GA.
Content of the Interview: Mr. Haggard’s interview focuses exclusively on his work as a computer programmer with the Forest Service. Unlike most other Forest Service employees, Mr. Haggard was not involved in forestry fieldwork, but operated in a completely separate, though no less important, division of the Forest Service. The interview follows his career and centers around the technology projects in which he was involved. Because the majority of his work took place in Washington D.C., he and his family remained relatively stationary. Mr. Haggard’s career with the Forest Service provides insight into a less explored division of the United States Forest Service, and demonstrates how the Forest Service blazed the trail for technological advancement and innovation.
Note on Recording: Sid Haggard’s interview was conducted with a Zoom Handy Recorder, model H4N.