As World War II drew to a close, a major concern of researchers was the suspension of activity by the Office of Scientific Research and Development (OSRD), which the government had created to oversee defense and medical research. But in March 1946, the government executed a contract with MIT under the sponsorship of a tri-service committee, which consisted of the Army Signal Corps, the Office of Naval Research and the Air Materiel Command. The contract awarded RLE its first research funding in addition to surplus Radiation Laboratory equipment. This Joint Services Electronics Program (JSEP) was essential in maintaining the momentum created by the Radiation Laboratory.
Much of RLE's first research funded by JSEP carried over from the Radiation Laboratory. The initial emphases were on microwave and physical electronics coupled with the basic study of microwave physics, and communication science and information theory. Today, JSEP in RLE focuses on fundamental studies of electronical and optical processes. An important emphasis is not only the development of scientific understanding, but also the construction of novel theoretical and experimental tools to produce and observe the phenomena under study.
The results under JSEP complement achievements in industry, the Department of Defense, and other JSEP-funded academic laboratories. JSEP at RLE has continued since 1946, making it the oldest sponsored research program at MIT as well as the federal government's oldest university-based sponsored research program.
A version of this article appeared in MIT Tech Talk on October 30, 1996.