A division of the United States Department of State and therefore within the purview of its Secretary, (Jaime and the King, The Solid Gold Kidnapping) the OSI's activities primarily center around the creation and protection of new technologies vital to national defense. It has occasionally sent agents on more traditional diplomatic details, especially when those missions would benefit from the unique technologies it has developed. Rarely, the OSI has been used as the lead Federal agency on fairly ordinary domestic crises. (Eyewitness to Murder)
The organization's mandate is thus a flexible one, requiring good working relationships with other departments within the executive branch of the US Government. In particular, it maintains a strong relationship with the Department of Defense, by whom many of its technological innovations are used.
LocationsThe organization is headquartered in Washington, DC, home to Oscar's office. Rudy has a known lab in Colorado Springs, Colarado, at which both Steve and Jaime recuperated soon after their bionic replacement surgeries. (The Six Million Dollar Man (Pilot), The Return of the Bionic Woman (Part II) and Welcome Home, Jaime). He has additional laboratories at the Washington headquarters. (The Solid Gold Kidnapping). An additional facility exists in Los Angeles, California, appearing first in "The Return of Bigfoot" and continuing to appear for the final two seasons of both shows (as well as the first reunion movie).
The overwhelmingly dominant name used in televised (and audio) stories is Office of Scientific Intelligence. This was seen on props (like agent identification cards) and sets (such as the outer glass door to Oscar's office) in many episodes, including "Operation Firefly," "The Last Kamikaze," "Return of the Robot Maker," and the "Kill Oscar" trilogy. However, other names have occasionally cropped up.
The single most consistent alternative is Office of Scientific Information. This was used throughout the reunion movies. Given the fact that the movies were set several years after the final events of the series, it is possible that the Office of Scientific Intelligence, like many government agencies, got a name change in the intervening years.
Other in-story variations are not so easy to explain, largely because they happened only once and are sandwiched between other stories that revert back to Office of Scientific Intelligence. These are potentially best explained as production errors:
In addition to the filmed content of the series, spin-off material has provided a variety of different theories as to what "OSI" stands for.
The box art of the Region 1 release of The Bionic Woman Season 1 on DVD uses in the description on the back the Office of Scientific Investigations, a variant of the "Welcome Home, Jaime" version above, despite the prevalence of "Intelligence" on both shows.
Perhaps the biggest source of variation can be found in Charlton's The Six Million Dollar Man and The Bionic Woman comic books. Within the space of just 14 total issues, no fewer than three different names were used, mostly within the confines of the illustrated text stories at the back of the issues.
The most-used name in the comic books was Office of Strategic Intelligence. This name appeared once in the context of the main comic story, "Rico, Come Home!" in the first issue of The Bionic Woman. Since the two books otherwise stuck to the acronym in their comic stories, this meant that, technically, the story offered the only name officially established in the Charlton comics continuity. Additionally, this name also appeared in the Jaime Sommers fact sheet at the back of the same issue, and in the illustrated text story, "Forbidden Reef" from issue #3 of The Six Million Dollar Man.
However, it is unclear how exactly to perceive Charlton's attachment to the name, given other illustrated text stories. "Win a Few" in issue #2 of The Six Million Dollar Man used the series' most common variant, Office of Scientific Intelligence, while "No Way Out" from issue #1, and "The Ransom" from issue #4 told readers the name was actually, Office of Strategic Information.
Perhaps taking its cue from Welcome Home, Jaime, the back of the Region 2 Bionic Woman season one DVD packaging gives a plural variant, Office of Scientific Investigations.
The Office of Strategic Intelligence variant is also used in The Bionic Woman Action-Adventure Activity Book, a children's book published by Grosset & Dunlap.
In the Martin Caidin series of Cyborg novels, the organization to which Steve Austin owes his recovery was the OSO, or Office of Strategic Operations. The acronym was maintained for the first pilot telefilm, but was replaced with OSI in Steve's next TV adventure, Wine, Women and War. It crops up again in James B. Sikking's credit for The Solid Gold Kidnapping, as 2nd OSO Agent.
Later, when the pilot was prepared for syndication, it was padded with scenes from other episodes to create the two-parter, "The Moon and the Desert." Because some of those scenes contained reference to OSI, a discontinuity was introduced. Fans' conjecture for this syndicated anomaly, have included a theory that the OSO is actually a subdivision of the OSI, or vice-versa. Others speculate that the producers' intent was to retcon the OSO out of the narrative, by way of an agency name change heralded by the arrival of Oscar Goldman taking over for Oliver Spencer as Steve's "boss."
Steve's adventures in the British Look-in comic strips retain OSO in many adventures. However, Look-in's Bionic Woman reference OSO in its first story only, while the rest frequently proclaim that she works for the OSI.
Intriguingly, there appears to be a real OSO within the US intelligence community. The Operational Support Office is part of the National Reconnaissance Office (NRO) and is apparently responsible for broadcasting data to military units. However, it's doubtful that awareness of the real OSO prompted the in-series name change, since the NRO's existence remained secret until 1992. However, even before the NRO another OSO, the Office of Special Operations, was widely known to have operated in the years following World War II, as a division of the Central Intelligence Group, a precursor to the CIA formed by President Harry Truman in 1946.
The OSO variant appears frequently in the novelizations written by Mike Jahn and others, as these books attempt to maintain continuity with Caidin's works. (Examples where OSO is used include International Incidents and Wine, Women and War). However, as noted above, this contradicts the Bionic Woman novelizations by Eileen Lottman that use Office of Strategic Intelligence. Unusually, an early book on the making of the two bionic series, The Six Million Dollar Man and the Bionic Woman, also uses OSO when referring to the organization in the two shows.
The specific building used for the Washington location is the real-life Russell Senate Office Building, which is located just northeast of the US Capitol Building; the iconic view is taken from the intersection of Constitution and Delaware avenues, and can be seen on Google Street View here. However, neither series positively identifies the building as anything other than the OSI headquarters. It is thus possible that in the world of the bionic series, Senate office space is located elsewhere — especially as it makes little real-world sense why a division of the executive branch would be housed in a building maintained by the legislative branch.
The OSI is not, as some viewers might assume, an analogue for the CIA. Unlike the Director of Central Intelligence, Oscar is clearly the subordinate of a Cabinet Secretary, as evidenced by episodes like The Solid Gold Kidnapping and The Jailing of Jaime, and identified explicitly as the Secretary of State in several episodes. (In the 1973 pilot, however, Oliver Spencer is shown answering to a "board of directors" of sorts, apparently headed by one Mrs. McKay. No such hierarchy is suggested during the Goldman era, save for his answering to "Mr. Secretary" and the revelation in The Jailing of Jaime that the OSI is subject to review by another security agency.)
The closest real-life analogue to the OSI would probably be the extremely short-lived Interim Research and Intelligence Service. This subdivision of the State Department was the result of the devolution of the functionality of the OSS to the Departments of War and State in the immediate aftermath of World War II. By 1946, these functions would be again removed from War and State and reconstituted into the newly-formed CIA. Indeed the fact that the CIA arose out of the efforts of Truman's Secretary of State James Byrnes  may also be seen as a possible reason that the fictional OSI is a part of the Department of State. The modern State Department includes the [Bureau of Intelligence and Research], known as INR, but its intelligence gathering activities are not primary covert.
Historically, there was a real Office of Scientific Intelligence that was part of the CIA. On December 31, 1948, the CIA formed the Office of Scientific Intelligence (OSI), by merging the Scientific Branch in the Office of Reports and Estimates with the Nuclear Energy Group of the Office of Special Operations (OSO). In August of 1963, the CIA's Office of Secret Intelligence was transferred into the Directorate of Science and Technology.
A real OSI exists within the Pentagon, although just as in the series, there appears to be a difference of opinion as to what the initials stands for. In 2002, a New York Times article referred to an "Office of Strategic Influence", while others call it the "Office of Strategic Information"  (by coincidence this is also one of the names used in the Charlton comic book series). This OSI, which was created after the September 11 attacks, appears to be tasked with disseminating information relating to the War on Terror.
OSI in Other Movies and Literature
The Office of Scientific Investigation is the unifying element of a trilogy of sci-fi movies written by Ivan Tors. The movies include The Magnetic Monster (1953), Riders to the Stars (1954), and Gog (1954). The adventures of the Office of Scientific Investigation in Tors' movies resemble cases that would involve the OSI in SMDM and BW.
The Office of Secret Intelligence is an organization that plays a prominent role in The Venture Brothers series. The abbreviation OSI is obviously inspired by the Six Million Dollar Man. One of its former operative is Steve Summers, a clear reference to Steve Austin.
The Office of Scientific Intelligence is the name of the government organization in the 1984 film Firestarter. In this film, the OSI attempts to control a girl, played by Drew Barrymore, who has the power of pyrokenesis.
The Office of Scientific Intelligence is the name of the government organization involved in combating an alien invasion in the 1994 film The Puppet Masters. The film is based on Robert A. Heinlein's 1951 novel of the same name. In the novel, the goverment organization is simply called "Section."
- ↑ It is currently unknown whether the comics of The Six Million Dollar Man magazine ever fully defined "OSI".
- ↑ http://www.globalsecurity.org/space/systems/gbs.htm
- ↑ http://www.gwu.edu/~nsarchiv/NSAEBB/NSAEBB35/
- ↑ Sarah-Jane Corke, US Covert Operations and Cold War Strategy (Routledge, 2008), p. 24-25. Google Books archive
- ↑ The building looks virtually identical in the recent Street View images compared to the 1970s. Noticeable differences include the fact there is no parking along the Delaware Avenue side of the building now, a large planter is set in front, and there are security gates on Delaware that prevent regular traffic (including the Street View cars) from traveling alongside the building. The window used for "Oscar's office" remains clearly visible, however.
- ↑ Richelson, Jeffery T. A Century of Spies. Oxford University Press (US). 1995. 216.
- ↑ "Fair Media Advisory: Pentagon Propaganda Plan is Undemocratic, Possibly Illegal", Fair.org, Feb. 19, 2002, citing a New York Times article of the same date; accessed Feb. 5, 2008
- ↑ Lou Morano, "Propaganda: Remember the Kuwaiti Babies?", United Press International, archived at Propaganda Critic.com, Feb. 26, 2002, accessed Feb. 5, 2008