our theme because management is our need. Increased scientific and engineering
competence will not speed up the rate of our technical progress, unless we
learn to manage our resources more wisely and efficiently. In systems acquisition
today, management is the pacing factor."
—Gen. Bernard A. Schriever,
There is general agreement that ten years ago, when the
ballistic missile program really began, there was no management capability put
together, in uniform or out, that could handle the job.
We had other things. We had the necessary potential in
technology and some wise men who knew it. Their voice was heard when the
"Teapot Committee," headed by Dr. John von Neumann, said the job
could be done. We had the necessary sense of urgency. The program involved the
security of the entire free world and we were the acknowledged leaders of that
world. The National Security Council and the President gave the ballistic
missile the highest national priority. This priority ensured the necessary
funding without before-the-fact demonstration that the weapon would work and
that it was high in cost/effectiveness. It was a case of faith firmly
buttressed by fact.
When these green lights were turned on, the history of
missiles, guided if not ballistic, was at least as old as World War II, when
the Germans made the first faltering steps. The Joint Chiefs of Staff had a committee
on the subject early in 1945.
In retrospect, if we study the record between the end of the
war and the organization of the von Neumann Committee in 1953, pressing on to
some indeterminate point where USAF's Western Development Division got a
reasonably firm grip on all the tentacles, it is obvious that management was
the stumbling block.
There was more than a decade of fumbling and
experimentation, not with technology, but with organization, coordination,
czars, directors, committees, assistants, special assistants, and collateral
duty for a host of Defense Department officials. Most of this occurred in the
regime of Charles E. Wilson as Secretary of Defense, although George C.
Marshall had taken the first steps at least three years earlier.
Mr. Wilson had been president of the General Motors
Corporation, which probably was a handicap. He had little respect for research
and was impatient with the vagaries of development that he could not see headed
for some profitable spot on an assembly line.
There was a literal parade through the Pentagon. Defense
Secretary Marshall had named K. T. Keller as the first Director of Guided Missiles.
But Mr. Wilson abolished the office, and the work was turned back to the
Service Secretaries. Almost immediately, the missile effort was entwined in
the evolution of the Office of the Secretary of Defense, which was trying to
contend with growing complexity. This is another way of saying that the office
had a management problem.
Commenting on the big parade of people and agencies,
Congressman Chet Holifield's Subcommittee on Military Operations found about
them "an air of improvisation and ad hoc adjustments to emergencies and
to recurrent public demands for bringing order out of chaos in the Pentagon.
Even those agencies that are dignified by statute or by a reorganization plan,
justified at the time of creation by impressive-sounding arguments for
stability and permanence, soon give way to new agencies and new forms of
Then, writing in 1959, the Subcommittee made an observation
that stands as rugged as a gantry crane:
"In part, these changes reflect changing needs and
circumstances; in part they reflect the baffling nature of the problems of
organizing a defense effort which is so large and complex as to be almost
unmanageable or at least to yield to no unique organizational solution; and
finally, they reflect in part the personality and the concept of office of each
new Secretary of Defense. Shall he crack the whip or leave the military departments
undisturbed; does his role demand that he get into 'operations' or is he simply
to 'coordinate'? How far shall he go in apportioning authority and delegating
functions to his subordinates, and how shall they discharge their
responsibilities without running into each other?"
It is true; the answers to these questions have been as
varied as the men who have occupied the office. The fact that the military
services have emerged with creditable weapon systems probably is due to their
ingenuity in the struggle to make decisions. Timely decision-making is the most
important part of good management. Almost as if the technological environment
did not create enough delays, others are created by people.
People, of course, can and do find rational excuses for the
delays they impose. General Schriever himself has pointed out that the number
of alternatives facing decision-makers has increased in fifteen years from a
half-dozen to—in some cases—more than a hundred. Systems proposed to perform a
given mission begin as concepts, pushing the state of the art. There are more
and more unknowns, longer lead times, higher costs.
We have turned to computers and the Air Force has pioneered
in their use. But the hard choices still have to be made by men. That is why
the Air Force, soon after it launched the ballistic missile program, spelled
out a management requirement, almost as it would have laid down specifications
for a new airplane or fire-control system.
Both the Air Force and its industry partners had management
capability long before the ballistic missile program and the management system
We are concerned here mainly with the military evolution.
Ten years ago there were the Air Materiel Command, located
at Wright-Patterson AFB in Ohio, and the Air Research and Development Command,
with headquarters in Baltimore, Md. The management setup for each major system
under procurement was centered in a Weapon System Project Office (WSPO),
staffed jointly by AMC and ARDC personnel. This office was responsible for
systems integration and was the central point where the two commands received
the input from the contractors, the using command, Air Training Command, and
everyone else involved in the project from concept to operation. While a
project was in the development phase, ARDC was the "executive
agent," or boss. When production was undertaken, responsibility shifted to
the AMC part of the WSPO.
There was attached to each WSPO a Weapon System Phasing
Group, and there was further input from an Equipment Advisory Group. Once
production was finished on a system, AMC put the support responsibility, so
far as logistics is involved, up to a designated Air Materiel Area.
This format worked. When the first B-52 was delivered, for
example, it was a complete weapon system. The vehicle, plus its airborne and
ground equipment, were all on site—it was Castle AFB in California—and there
was not an item that failed to function. Only numbers were needed, and
training, to be ready for combat.
Facing the challenge of the ballistic missile, however, it
was clear that a new kind of management system was needed and that the calendar
was not kind. Time was precious. A new formula was ready by 1955. Basically, it
came out of a USAF committee headed by Hyde Gillette, then Deputy for Budget
and Program Management. General Schriever also was a member and a moving force
in formation of the committee. Later, he described what motivated him at the
time: "If you want to move fast, you have got to get yourselves out from
under that red tape, or you just can't move."
The Gillette Committee report covers fourteen pages of fine
type, after deletion of classified material. It properly proposed that the
Secretary of Defense be at the top of the table of organization, and that he
have his own Ballistic Missiles Committee, chaired by his deputy. It said the
interested Assistant Secretaries and a man from the Budget Bureau also should
be members. Right here it eliminated separate justifications and clearances by
five Assistant Secretaries and the Budget Bureau. The Committee was a single
point of contact and a single program and review authority.
The Secretary of the Air Force was to do the same thing. He
was to serve as chairman of his own Ballistic Missiles Committee, including his
assistants for research and development, financial, management and materiel,
and—one man in uniform—the Assistant Chief of Staff for Guided Missiles.
Leaving headquarters, primary responsibility was handed to
the commander at ARDC, whose principal operating deputy was General Schriever,
then chief of the Western Development Division, later called the Ballistic
Missile Division. Provision was made for other commands, such as Strategic Air
Command and Air Training Command, to set up offices as single points of
contact. The goal still was the expedited decision.
The Gillette Committee also laid out procedures to get
planning, programming, budgeting, and reporting all put together in a yearly
document for single action. The OSD and USAF committees were the sole reviewing
authorities for the budget, which was insulated from interference by other
programs. When it came to spending this money for procurement, the Air Materiel
Command worked out of a special office at WDD with broad authority delegated to
it by AMC's Directorate of Procurement and Production. To make sure contractors
went to work as swiftly as possible, this office had the right to issue letter
contracts of any amount. If special industrial facilities were needed, the
Gillette Committee called for elimination of the normal two-or-three-month
review process that bogged down important projects at the OSD level. The power
was delegated to the Secretary of the Air Force, with broader authority granted
In the case of new military construction that would be
required for the missile program, the routine procedure would gobble up at
least eighteen months of critical time before funds were assured, much less
ground broken. Here the Committee laid out a path that put each year's
construction program into the annual development plan for approval in a
package with lump-sum authorization and appropriation. The Defense Secretary,
the Budget Bureau, and Congress would get their review when USAF reported on
how the money was used.
On November 8, 1955, Secretary Wilson acted to put the
Gillette Committee recommendations into effect. The details are not important
to this narrative, except to report that he appreciated the requirement for
speed and that he defined missions for the Army and Navy as well as the Air
Force. USAF was to manage the ICBM and a land-based IRBM. The other two
services were to share responsibility for another IRBM that would back up the
USAF project and provide a weapon that could be fired from a ship. This
resulted in the Army Jupiter, but the Navy pulled out of the effort when the
submarine-based Polaris, with its solid fuel, looked more feasible as a system.
By this time, General Schriever's WDD, later BMD, was more
than a year old. It has been described as a Weapon System Project Office (WSPO)
created, and distorted to some extent, to fit the ballistic missile management
problem. Certainly, like the WSPO, BMD was set up to make sure that development,
production, maintenance, training, delivery, and support were supplied on
In retrospect, it is fairly clear that the interface of AMC
and ARDC that existed in the WSPO was a light flirtation, consummated into a
binding marriage at BMD. There were a few who anticipated the next step, which
was the major reorganization of 1961, when AMC became the Air Force Logistics
Command and ARDC, under General Schriever, was transformed into the Air Force
The reorganization was announced as an effort to centralize
direction, which is another way of saying it was to improve management. AFLC
lost its procurement responsibility except for spares and spare parts, which
can be as small as a screw or as big as a wing or a missile engine. The first
commander was Gen. William F. McKee, later Vice Chief of Staff.
The new Systems Command, successor to ARDC, concentrated all
development and procurement of systems—space, aeronautical, electronic, and
ballistic—in one headquarters. The management goal was faster decision-making,
a quality that had been realized at BMD and for which USAF internally felt a
new urgency. It was earlier in 1961 that the Defense Department climaxed that
parade of committees, czars, directors, and special assistants with the
selection of USAF as the single manager for development of space systems.
Speaking of his new assignment, General Schriever cited the
fact that Senator Henry M. Jackson, who was conducting a scholarly
investigation of how decisions are made in the government, had come up with an
observation that confirmed the General's firm opinion. It was that technology
had outstripped management and that the key to survival itself laid in the
management of that technology.
This was a realization that had led USAF to launch a study
two years earlier, a study that left it prepared to act when it was handed the
space-development role. There was going to be a requirement for close cooperation
with the Army, the Navy, and the National Aeronautics and Space Administration.
USAF already had seventy-seven officers working at NASA and there were more to
come. By 1964 Brig. Gen. Samuel Phillips was in the civilian agency as Deputy
Director for the Apollo moon program.
The immense technological jump from manned aircraft to ballistic
missiles, with the strain it put on both USAF and industry talent and
capability, outdated many of the standard WSPO practices. The priceless
ingredient so far as management is concerned, is the technical direction and
systems engineering. In building airplanes, the WSPO had delegated this responsibility
to the single prime contractor—Boeing did the job, and did it well, on the
B-52, for example, but BMD was working in another world.
Technical direction and systems engineering can be viewed as
a form of architecture. The rub is that, at least in 1954, no single architect
could possibly have been competent in all of the new and exotic technologies
that were making an input to the ballistic missile program. On top of this,
there was a new and stern demand for complete objectivity. The first real awareness
of this requirement probably germinated in the proceedings of the Strategic
Missiles Evaluation Committee, headed by Dr. John von Neumann, in late 1953
(see page 83).
The story of how the Ramo-Wooldridge Corporation came to be
selected for the first systems-engineering assignment is told in Chapter 6 of
the history in this issue of AIR FORCE/SPACE DIGEST. There were differences of
opinion, some of which persist to this day, about how USAF should have handled
this responsibility. In fact, there were dire laments that the Air Force was
shirking responsibility. USAF's General Counsel, Max Golden, replied that the
service "remains firmly in the driver's seat." In the case of the
Atlas ICBM, Convair was eager to retain authority over systems engineering.
And Ramo-Wooldridge itself did not press for a role greater than that of
providing a technical staff for General Schriever. The General, however,
decided that the talent mustered by Ramo-Wooldridge was needed in a line
capacity and that they were hired to determine basic specifications and then
coordinate and direct—serve as the architect—with authority over several large
It is worthwhile, at this point, to explain why a high level
of competence and strict objectivity are so essential. A 1961 report by the
House Committee on Government Operations considered the responsibilities of
the systems engineer in the missile program:
"His organization must be specially competent in a wide
range of technologies to understand the problems in each field and to make
appropriate compromises among conflicting requirements for optimum results.
These fields embrace rocket engines; structures for fuel tanks, engine mounts,
and payload supports; autopilot technology, aerodynamics and structural dynamics
for stability and control; radar, computer, and general electronics for
guidance; thermonuclear warhead designs for the payload; and a whole new
reentry technology for the nose cone.
"In setting the specifications for the system, the
technical compromises are many. Shall an effort be made to reduce guidance
error, with likely increases in cost, weight, and complications of the guidance
system? Is it better to increase the warhead yield to compensate for guidance
error? Or should the reentry vehicle be of improved design, so that the warhead
is a larger piece of the payload? Perhaps a more promising approach is to
raise the specific impulse of the engines.
"The compromises are made and the systems specifications
formulated after careful analytical studies. The finding must assess likely
progress in the state of the art of diversified technologies during the ensuing
development period and the capacities of industrial engineers to reduce complex
subsystem designs to successful practice. Decisions are made in a fluid environment
of rapidly advancing technologies.
"After industry proposals, based on these specifications,
are received and contracts let, the problems of technical conflict and
compromise continue. The integrating contractor doing the assembly work, and
each subsystem or component contractor, naturally looks at the development and
manufacturing job from the standpoint of his own company's advantage. Whether
to 'make or buy' pieces of hardware, whether to choose this vendor or that,
whether to substitute a less costly item or more promising design—questions
such as these give rise to proposed changes and modifications. Immediately the
engineering, work schedules, and performance of the other associated
contractors are affected. The systems engineer, as technical judge or
arbitrator, constantly must resist pressures or resolve conflicts to preserve
the technical integrity of the weapon system and assure its timely
This is the morass in which the systems-engineering portion
of the management problem must struggle. In many ways it explains the evolution
of the Ramo-Wooldridge adjunct to BMD's management machinery. The company's
division working with BMD was called Space Technology Laboratories. STL, part
of Ramo-Wooldridge and controlled by Thompson Products, was in business to
make money and lived in honest anticipation of the day when it would be an
important segment of the industrial world specializing in defense and space-age
production. This ambition was detrimental to STL's reputation with USAF
associate contractors, who expressed a natural reluctance to share their
know-how with such a promising and talented potential competitor.
In late 1958 STL was divorced from Ramo-Wooldridge but
remained a wholly owned subsidiary. It argued for a reasonable return on its
investment but accepted a USAF contract clause that barred it from entering
into the production of hardware.
"In acquiring the services of STL," the House Committee
on Government Operations said in 1959, "the Air Force was not seeking
low-echelon technical competence, for salaries at this level admittedly are no
higher than salaries paid for comparable work in the government. What the Air
Force got was the combination of scientific talent and business-managerial
ability possessed by a small group of company executives."
Without the privilege of contracting to build components,
STL complained about its low level of profit while the hardware builders
continued to voice dissatisfaction with its authority over their operations.
The result was the formation of Aerospace Corporation in mid-1960. Profit was
eliminated, along with any production or ambition to start production. The
emphasis is on management, using an elite corps—twenty percent of Aerospace's
1,600 scientists and engineers have doctorate degrees—that could be mobilized
by USAF or its contractors only with great difficulty.
Max Golden, the USAF counsel who served as midwife at
Aerospace's birth after the idea had been fathered by Rep. Chet Holifield and
his Subcommittee on Military Operations of the House Committee on Government
Operations, views the nonprofit firm as a logical step in history. The prime
contractor, the independent systems contractor, and the nonprofit corporation,
Mr. Golden said, are "progressive attempts to keep forms of management
abreast with technology."
"Each of them," he added, "was created within
the framework of private industry to perform a common function. The first step
was to concentrate this function in a single manufacturer, the second to sever
it from hardware production, the third to sever it from the profit
But the thing that had to be achieved was competent
management. It is essential to point out, in connection with the tenth
anniversary of the ballistic missile effort, that STL has remained in the key
systems-engineering position on the Atlas, Titan, and Minuteman programs. USAF
itself has had a regrouping of functions, in which ARDC was renamed the Air
Force Systems Command and given responsibility for development and procurement,
as noted above.
At this point, BMD was rechristened the Ballistic Systems
Division and moved to a new home at Norton AFB in San Bernardino, Calif. The
all-new Space Systems Division of AFSC remained at El Segundo, a neighbor of
Aerospace's Corporation. In the spring of 1963 Aerospace opened its own office
at Norton, where BSD has requested a staff total of 1,000 by July of this year.
The main block of Aerospace talent remains at El Segundo, where it moves into a
new home this month, in support of the Space Systems Division.
It is necessary to recall the realization of ten years ago
that neither USAF nor the industry which serves it had the management
capability that the von Neumann Committee felt essential to start the
ballistic missile program. There was, in effect, a "management gap."
The struggle to fill it could have been confined in-house, but for the kind and
quantity of talent that was needed the government payroll is not an attractive
place and cannot compete with the substantial rewards offered by private
There is no agreement today, in the Air Force or industry,
that this "management gap" still exists. This reporter has visited
aerospace industry facilities from coast to coast, centering his attention on
companies that have had major responsibilities and are credited with good
execution. In retrospect, their executives give uniform credit to USAF and its
TRW-STL-Aerospace evolution for providing a sensible and workable management
thesis. They are equally quick to point to their own vastly improved management
capability and suggest that the USAF-industry team is ready to press on in the
space age. That they would prefer to serve again as prime contractors and
provide their own technical direction and systems engineering is always
evident, if not always expressed.
The Air Force, as the Defense Department's executive agent
in carrying out development and production of missile and space systems, is not
likely to alter its present approach. In the future there will be fewer new
systems started and there will be fewer of these systems built. But there will
be more systems that are critical, that press the state of the art, that are
increasingly complex. And the Defense Department is reaching into the
management of more and more of them in greater and greater detail.
This means USAF faces an increasing demand for special
management emphasis, as though almost all systems had the priority and urgency
that justified short-circuit techniques for the ballistic missile program ten
years ago. General Schriever expressed an intent, in 1962, to reduce the number
of "designated systems," to try to get the burden down to where USAF
talent, and the even more limited time for Defense Department consideration,
can handle the load.
The General pointed out that the trend toward more detailed
decisions from higher echelons in the Defense Department was frustrating the
intent of "red-line procedures" as they were originated a decade ago
by WDD. The old Ballistic Missiles Committee has no counterpart and documents
move slowly in the office of the Director of Defense Research and Engineering.
Streamlined channels, General Schriever says, "have frequently resulted in
the bypassing of functions that must be performed at the various echelons of
management, functions that are essential to the proper management of the
total Air Force program." What has happened is that, in the effort to
expedite action, the Systems Command's own staff input and recommendations
have been lacking in many cases. The approach, the General has said, did not
have the desired effect. "It did not result in a streamlining of systems
management. On the contrary, it had virtually the opposite effect. While AFSC
was effectively eliminating its headquarters staff as a significant point of
input and control with respect to its assigned functional authorities, the
numbers and types of reviews being accomplished on various aspects of its
programs at every level above AFSC headquarters were increasing rapidly. These
reviews have involved an increasing number of people. More questions have been
asked and additional justifications have been required."
General Schriever has been working more than a year to
further improve his management and to meet this challenge. AFSC itself is
working harder and more efficiently. The General's goal, he said, was to
"reduce the scope of the review effort at Headquarters USAF and to permit
readjustment of emphasis there to matters pertaining to relative priority and
new resource requirements related to program changes. At the Department of
Defense level it should be possible to treat change proposals with a higher
degree of credibility because of the completion of staff work at all levels by
the echelon best qualified to perform a particular aspect of review."
There is some irony in the fact that, after ten years of
experience in the ballistic missile program and the expertise that USAF and
industry has derived from the experience in this kind of management, new handicaps
arise from this new source. The Defense Department has more and more people
performing its staff functions, until it tends to hamper the effectiveness of
what has proven to be a good management tool. The goal in the ballistic missile
program was to speed decision-making by handing up a full package and getting a
quick yes or no. Now the decisions are made bit by bit, line by line, item by
item. There is no counterpart to the old Ballistic Missile Committee, a single
office, or any integrated OSD activity. There are many noes, many demands for
new reviews, few yesses.
In the long run, it may prove out that the Defense
Department needs its own elite corps, competent and objective, its own version
of Aerospace Corporation. Certainly the history of the ballistic missile
program, contained in this issue of Am FORCE/SPACE DIGEST, certifies to the
success of the USAF management approach pioneered by General Schriever.
This account would not be complete without something firm
with which to support the statement that the management has been successful.
Here, in 1964, the report must be in terms of dollars.
There is a lot of emphasis these days on costs, and
Secretary McNamara has correctly focused his eyes on the subject. From the
beginning, the ballistic missile program was trying to get combat capability
in the shortest possible time. Program management and the decision process
pursued tight development, production, and operational schedules. The
financial management followed the same lines. Review channels were
streamlined, just like everything else.
The Systems Command developed a tool called the Contractor
Cost Study. Details are not important here, but the effect was to make cost
estimates more accurate. The system, or variations of it, has been adopted by
NASA and other agencies. The over-all result is that cost, performance, and
schedules are now being governed more rigidly than ever before.
There is a good deal of popular misunderstanding on this
subject, most of which comes out of headlines. The trouble is that the
unsophisticated critic insists on comparing a Model-T Ford to a 1964 Lincoln
Continental. The early B-52, circa 1952, was tagged at about $2.5 million. By
1962, when the lines closed down, the B-52 had grown up. With its new long
pants, it cost at least $8 million. The same thing is true of missiles.
Progress on the technological path costs money.
In the ballistic missile program, financial management has
shifted from what General Schriever's fiscal officers call "wholesale"
appropriation administration to "retail" administration. This entails
more extensive review of each task and the money involved. A lot more detail is
needed than was available in the early days of Atlas, Thor, and Titan.
What were the results? It is difficult to find them in
unclassified financial information, and every procurement officer is timid
because of the eyes looking over his shoulder. But strong control of missile
configuration and hard work on the shopping list have brought results.
A recent review conducted by the Minuteman project office
indicates that more than $90 million will be saved out of the production
program. Another study of the Titan site-activation program indicates savings
of more than $30 million will show up in the final tabulation. Financial
management is not responsible for all of this, but management is.
Recent Defense Department emphasis on cost control and
cost/effectiveness has its roots in USAF programs that go back to early days
of the ballistic missile effort. In fact, RAND Corporation studies made for the
Air Force fathered cost awareness in both USAF and the Defense Department. Many
of the management improvements adapted by Secretary McNamara were, in this
sense, in use long before the current crop of managers appeared on the Pentagon
If we look ahead, for all of the management capability that
has been acquired by USAF, its nonprofit-making assistants and defense
industry, it is impossible to find a parallel with the situation ten years ago
that would facilitate such progress again.
Remember, the green lights of 1954 were in the field of
technology—the ICBM was possible—and urgency —it had to be done fast—and
funding—the money was ready—without justifying proof that the ICBM would
perform the mission at an acceptable cost.
These green lights were turned on by men, basically the von
Neumann Committee, President Eisenhower, and the National Security Council.
There also was Trevor Gardner, whose role is discussed in Chapter 5, page 78.
He was in the civilian secretariat, he saw the green lights and, like the
scientists and military men around him, he recognized the threat.
It is a long time since a new weapon system has been put
into development. We still have technological capability, and we have added to
it a new facility in management that did not exist ten years ago. What is
lacking today is recognition in the government that a new threat can develop
almost instantly from somebody else's breakthrough. The state of the art, the
urgency felt by men in uniform, and even money and management are not critical
in this atmosphere.
Daily Report: Read the day's top news on the US Air Force, airpower, and national security issues.
Daily Report: Read the top news on the US Air Force, airpower, and national security issues.
Tweets by @AirForceMag