To head the Pentagon's missile-making Advanced Research Projects Agency, Defense Secretary Neil McElroy announced last week that he had secured the services of a scientist who is also a proven industrial manager: Mathematical Physicist Charles Louis Critchfield, 49, Ohio-born research director of California's Atlas-building Convair Division of General Dynamics Corp. McElroy and retiring ARPA Director Roy Johnson could not talk Critchfield, father of four, into taking the job until they offered to hire him as a WOC (without compensation), pay his expenses ($15 a day), and let him continue to draw his Convair salary of about $40,000 (instead of the U.S.'s $19,000).
Among Congressional Democrats, the "without compensation" arrangement raised cries of conflict-of-interest despite Critchfield's promise to take no hand in decisions on Convair projects ($4,000,000 of ARPA's $500 million budget). Among hard-pressed military missilemen, Critchfield raised hopes of at last finding a boss who knows his way around with two kinds of rare birds: missiles and scientists. Critchfield knows his way around in still another way that should stand him in good stead in the Pentagon: he is a shrewd and lucky poker player with a tested wizardry for figuring the odds on any hand. "You're better off," said a poorer but wiser Convair colleague, "to give him your paycheck to start, and stay out of the game."