Organizing for the Space Age

April 1, 1961

In two gigantic steps the Defense Depart­ment has revolutionized its management concepts to catch up with space-age tech­nology and further unify the national security effort.

The US Air Force has, in effect, been named the Department’s single manager for the development of military space systems. In turn, USAF has reorganized to centralize direction of all its development and pro­curement programs and improve the management of both its own projects and those it will develop for the Army and Navy.

Robert S. McNamara, Secretary of Defense, made it clear in announcing the first decision that the assign­ment of space development projects to USAF does not “predetermine the assignment of operational responsi­bilities for space systems which will be made on a project-by-project basis.”

The assignment, essentially related to the issue of roles and missions—a subject not mentioned in the Defense directive—will be made when a project gets close to the operational stage, the Secretary said, on the basis of the “competence and experience of each of the services and the unified and specified com­mands.” This raised the probability that future assign­ment of space-age weapons will be to commands such as Strategic Air Command or North American Air De­fense Command, which operate in combat under direct supervision of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.

The Secretary said he recognized that all of the military departments—Army, Navy, and Air Force—may have requirements in space. For this reason each is permitted to explore preliminary research and de­velopment requirements through feasibility studies. Such projects will be reviewed by the Director of De­fense Research and Engineering. They will become defense projects only if approved by the Secretary of Defense. With few exceptions, they will be developed by the Air Force.

USAF’s reorganization, while following closely the DoD directive, climaxed studies of systems manage­ment that go back about two years. In short, USAF will concentrate all development and procurement of systems—space, aeronautical, electronic, and ballistic—in a single new command. It will be called the Air Force Systems Command and will be headed by Lt. Gen. Bernard A. Schriever of the now-defunct Air Research and Development Command.

This means, of course, that the traditional role of the old Air Materiel Command will be changed. The huge headquarters at Wright-Patterson AFB, Ohio, no longer will have responsibility for purchase of sys­tems; the new Systems Command will take charge from concept to delivery. AMC’s name is being changed to the Air Force Logistics Command. It will remain under the leadership of Gen. Samuel E. Ander­son. Eugene M. Zuckert, the Air Force Secretary, esti­mates that about thirty percent of the dollars formerly spent by AMC will go over to the new Systems Com­mand. The latter office, which will remain at the old ARDC Headquarters at Andrews AFB, Md., will have a budget of about $5.8 billion for hardware in fiscal year 1962.

There has been no estimate offered on how this figure will change as the Air Force takes on the re­search and development of space projects under the unified program set up by the Defense Department. The directive giving USAF responsibility for almost all work in this area said only that projects approved for development for any of the three services will be chosen on a project-by-project basis and that this kind of consideration will be maintained until the system is assigned to a using command. It seems clear, how­ever, that for budgeting purposes the USAF Systems Command will be given allocations for work on space system developments carried on for the Defense De­partment, even when the project originates in a sister service and may be assigned to it.

Basically, the USAF reorganization, like the De­fense Department directive on development of space programs, is a huge step ahead in the management of modern technologies. What USAF wants to do is:

• Provide rapid decisions and accelerated action on designated system programs. This includes the en­tire ballistic missile program.

• Ensure efficient, responsive management of the space development mission now assigned to USAF.

• Provide for close integration and participation of the Army Corps of Engineers in the ballistic missile site-activation program.

• Provide for effective liaison and active partici­pation by the Army, Navy, and National Aeronautics and Space Administration on projects being developed for those agencies by USAF.

In the past ARDC has been responsible for research, development, and testing. AMC has been in charge of procurement, production, and support.

The new USAF organization (see chart, pages 42-43) has redistributed the resources and realigned functions and responsibilities. The task of providing all system programs from development and test through production, installation, and checkout—de­livery to the using command—will be up to the new Systems Command. It will have four management divisions:

Ballistic Systems Division, at Inglewood, re­sponsible for the Atlas, Titan, and Minuteman pro­grams. –

Space Systems Division, also at Inglewood, re­sponsible for military space programs assigned to USAF and for development projects in support of the Army, Navy, and NASA.

Both of the above are to be made up of elements of the old ARDC Ballistic Missile Division and AMC Ballistic Missiles Center.

Aeronautical Systems Division, at Wright-Pat­terson AFB, responsible for such programs as the B-70 Mach 3 bomber, the new jet transport to be built by Lockheed, and the GAM-77 Hound Dog air-launched missile. It will contain elements of the old ARDC Wright Aeronautical Development Division as AMC’s Aeronautical Systems Center.

Electronic Systems Division, at Hanscom Field responsible for command and control systems such as the Ballistic Missile Early Warning System (BMEWS) and the Air Defense Control System used by NORAD. It will be formed from elements of the old ARDC Command and Control Development Division and AMC’s Electronic Systems Center.

General Schriever will have a Deputy Commander of his Systems Command at Inglewood to ensure prompt decisions on the spot. In addition, the Army, Navy, and NASA will have resident representatives located at headquarters of the Space Systems Division to make sure these agencies have proper liaison and are not impeded in monitoring progress on their projects. The Commander of the Ballistic Systems Division will have a Deputy Commander with full responsibility for site activation. He will be in charge of installation and checkout as well as actual construction of the sites. This is one of the few jobs that was filled on the day the reorganization was announced. The deputy is Brig. Gen. A. C. Welling of the US Army Corps of Engineers.

General Anderson’s new Air Force Logistics Command, no longer responsible for systems procurement will continue to buy and supply an immense list of items used by the Air Force. It will concentrate on supply and maintenance activities to support systems in service and keep them operational after delivery. Under this command will be the nine Air Materiel Areas, the depots, and other support installations.

USAF’s own basic research, the kind of activity that looks to the weapons of tomorrow and, under the new Defense space directive, is still within the purview of each branch of the armed forces, will be done by a new USAF Office of Aerospace Research. This unit, like the two new commands, will report directly to the Chief of Staff.

Provision has been made in the reorganization to speed review and approval of some high-priority systems, such as the Minuteman ICBM and the B-70 bomber. Projects like this will have a direct channel from the System Program Director to Hq. USAF.

The Defense Department’s directive on space systems development brought an instant and frequently heated reaction in Washington. There were widespread reports that the Army and Navy had been deprived of just prerogatives and that their talents would be neglected with USAF holding full developmental responsibility. Fears were voiced, particularly in the early newspaper reports, that USAF would neglect Army and Navy requirements and try to retain the right to operate all space systems that went through development.

These apprehensions continued to be voiced in the weeks that followed, despite the fact that Gen. Thomas D. White, USAF’s Chief of Staff, had given immediate reassurance that his commands were conscious of their new responsibility and the requirement to meet the needs of the sister services. Within thirty-six hours of the announcement by Secretary McNamara, General White also had called a meeting of all his major commanders and impressed upon them the seriousness of USAF’s new role.

Up on Capitol Hill, Rep. Overton Brooks (D.-La.), Chairman of the House Committee on Science and Astronautics, hastily called hearings and summoned top Defense Department and military executives to testify. After the flying rumors and apprehensive head­lines, buttressed with smatterings of misinformation, it was here that the Administration explained the his­tory and intent of the space directive in clear language. Top spokesman was Roswell L. Gilpatric, Deputy Secretary of Defense.

Mr. Gilpatric pointed out that, in his opinion, the directive contained at least three safeguards to pre­serve the effectiveness and capabilities of the Army, Navy, and Air Force. He listed them:

1. Each branch of the armed forces can carry on preliminary research to develop ways of using space technology to perform its mission.

2. No space project can be developed beyond the preliminary stage unless it has been approved as a Defense Department project.

3. Under unusual circumstances, an exception can be made and a service other than the Air Force can carry on development.

Mr. Gilpatric emphasized that USAF has nothing to say about which projects will be developed, not even its own. Also, he observed that there is nothing in the directive about operational responsibility. This was, as has been noted, reserved for future action. In view of the fact that unified and specified commands will be responsible for operations in event of war, this ap­peared to leave them open for the assignment in ad­dition to the three branches of the armed forces (see “Airpower in the News,” page 16).

Under cross-examination by the committee, Mr. Gil­patric made it clear that this Administration considers firm management of the space program a vital neces­sity in order to keep Army and Navy scientific talent busy on projects of primary importance to those serv­ices. He cited specifically the Navy’s important under­water task, the antisubmarine mission. And he pointed to the Army’s Nike antiaircraft missile systems and the research and development needed to improve the tools of ground warfare. Firm management at the top, he said, was the way to ensure that these vital needs are taken care of. At the same time, such management would eliminate the overlapping of interests and serv­ice straying from areas of primary missions.

The directive on space came out of Secretary Mc­Namara’s new Office of Organization and Manage­ment Planning Studies. This is a unit within the office of the Department’s General Counsel. Its mission is to “provide timely and effective solutions to defense management and organizational planning problems.”

Their study, Mr. Gilpatric said, showed that USAF already “was responsible for over ninety percent of space research and development and that with respect to projects not assigned to the Air Force for research and development, the Air Force was playing a con­siderable part in the development of those projects through provision of the boosters, launch facilities, and services.”

It was decided that good management called for assignment of all space research and development to USAF unless an exception were granted. At this point, according to Mr. Gilpatric, a draft of the directive—an early version—was circulated to the Army, Navy, Air Force, and other Defense Department offices, as well as to the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. The Joint Chiefs, he said, were not asked to com­ment collectively, but each member had an oppor­tunity to join in the deliberations of his own service. A week was allowed for this process, during which Mr. McNamara and Mr. Gilpatric discussed the draft with the service secretaries.

At another session, USAF Generals White and Schriever appeared. The Chief of Staff shot down a rumor that he favored having USAF swallow NASA. This was accomplished by declassifying a memoran­dum of April 14, 1960, which General White called “a sermon from the chief to the staff.” The sermon preached the doctrine that USAF was under obliga­tion to cooperate to the maximum extent with NASA and that he wanted this policy made “crystal clear.” He ordered his subordinates to “supply all reasonable key personnel requests made on it by NASA.” General White disclosed that there are seventy-seven USAF officers now working for NASA, all of them there by specific request of the civilian space agency. He said he will send more if they are requested, adding that USAF’s relations with NASA are “optimum.”

Queried about his attitude on how space systems will be allocated to the armed forces for operational purposes, General White emphasized once more that air and space are an indivisible continuum. He said traditionally the Army has had the antiaircraft artil­lery mission and that he considers any weapons anal­ogous to this artillery should properly be used by the Army. He put Nike Zeus and any other point defense system in this category.

On the other hand, General White claimed for USAF any weapon system for area defense and analogous to the traditional fighter-interceptor mission. He said area defense could be a responsibility of either serv­ice, but he considers it corresponds more closely to the USAF mission.

Neither the DoD space directive nor the Air Force’s own reorganization should be looked upon as sudden moves brought about as the simple result of a change in political Administrations. These organizational changes result from changes in technology more than they do from changes in the civilian hierarchy.

The space directive, it has been pointed out, does not in reality alter the existing situation to any great degree. The Secretary of Defense already had the pre­rogative of determining which systems will be de­veloped. The services already had the right to con­duct feasibility studies and examine the state of the art. The Air Force already was spending most of the money and doing most of the development work in space. The Army and Navy already were engaged in “exception” projects.

So far as the USAF reorganization is concerned, it results from a two-year examination of USAF’s prob­lems in an era when technical advances have threat­ened to overwhelm established organizational capa­bilities. The new Systems Command will be the major development and system procurement agency of the space age. It will handle USAF’s biggest challenge, biggest opportunity, and biggest responsibility to the cause of freedom.—END

Setting Course for Space

Here, excerpted, are significant portions of the new Defense Department directive establishing space development responsibilities:


This directive establishes policies and assigns responsibilities for research, development, test, and engineering of satellites, antisatellites, space probes, and supporting systems therefor, for all components of the Department of Defense.

Policy and Assignment of Responsibilities

A. Each military department and Department of Defense agency is authorized to conduct preliminary research to develop new ways of using space tech­nology to perform its assigned function. The scope of such research shall be defined by the Director of Defense Research and Engineering in terms of expenditure limitations and other appropriate con­ditions.

B. Proposals for research and development of space programs and projects beyond the defined preliminary stage shall be submitted to the Director of Defense Research and Engineering for review and determination as to whether such proposals, when transmitted to the Secretary of Defense, will be recommended for approval. Any such proposal will become a Department of Defense space de­velopment program or project only upon specific approval by the Secretary of Defense or the Deputy Secretary of Defense.

C. Research, development, test, and engineering of Department of Defense space development pro­grams or projects, which are approved hereafter, will be the responsibility of the Department of the Air Force.

D. Exceptions to paragraph C will be made by the Secretary of Defense or the Deputy Secretary of Defense only in unusual circumstances.

E. The Director of Defense Research and Engi­neering will maintain a current summary of ap­proved Department of Defense space development programs and projects.