Charles J. Hitch

ORSA President, 1959

Charles J. Hitch was the 8th President of ORSA. As the legendary Assistant Secretary of Defense in the Kennedy and Johnson Administrations (1961-65) he played a vital role in using operations research to support strategic thinking at the highest levels of decision making within the Department of Defense. Some of his work during his four years at DOD, involving the application of operations research to defense, is summarized in his book, Decision Making for Defense. As DOD's Comptroller, He was directed by Secretary Robert McNamara to produce a long-term, program-oriented Defense budget that became DOD's Planning, Programming and Budgeting System (PPBS).

Trained in economics he went to Oxford as a Rhodes Scholar. He became the first Rhodes Scholar to be elexted as an Oxford Don (1935), a position he held for thirteen years. While there, he coauthored "Price Theory and Business Behavior," with Robert Hall a particularly important Oxford Economic Papers in 1939. He and Hall defied the conventional wisdom of academic economics and actually went out and asked businessmen how they set prices. It turned out businessmen hadn't heard of marginal revenue and marginal cost, or anything like them.

Charles Hitch helped frame economic policy for the Office of War Mobilization and Reconversion during and after World War II. This was followed by a long tenure as Chief of Economics at the RAND Corporation and later as (1948-61). At RAND Hitch developed systematic interdisciplinary policy research: economists, physicists, engineers, political scientists and others, working together to understand the implications for a national defense policy comprised of new, rapidly changing technologies. He managed to create an atmosphere in which narrow disciplinary perspectives were broken down, and in which value was attached to the importance of the problem studied, the quality and depth of the analysis, the originality of insight and the practical significance of the conclusions. He produced numerous comprehensive studies, some of which were summarized in his book-- Economics of Defense in the Nuclear Age. A distinct feature of his work was clarity of expression. This quality comes through in his frequently cited paper on the problem of sub-optimization of complex systems, which was presented as a presidential address to the Operations Research Society of America.

Dr. Hitch then held key academic administrative posts at the University of California at Berkeley, first as Vice-President and subsequently as President from 1968 to 1975. After retiring from his academic position, Dr. Hitch continued his productive career by assuming the presidency of Resources for the Future. His work there resulted in the book Modelling Energy-Economy Interactions, a seminal work on strategies for dealing with critical energy shortages.

He was awarded the George E. Kimball Medal in 1979 and the J. Steinhadt Prize for his contributions to the Society.

Charles Hitch died in 1985.

BA (Economics), 1931, Arizona; MS, 1935, Oxford (U.K.), PhD (economics) 1935, Harvard. DLL (hon.) Arizona, DSc .(Commerce) (hon.) Drexel, Fellow (hon.) Queens College, Oxford (UK)

Note: For a detailed tribute to Charles J. Hitch see by Alain C. Enthoven.

Charles J. Hitch's Awards