Interviewee: General Sam Phillips

Interviewer: Martin Collins

Date: August 23, 1989

Location: At General Phillips' home, Palos Verdes Estates,California


MR. COLLINS: During our discussion last time, and this is going to take us back a little bit chronologically, you started to talk about your familiarity with the complicated situation at the Hughes Corporation and the spinoff to TRW, when you were at Wright Field as Director of Operations of the Armament Laboratory. During our discussion, rather than getting into that, we carried on with some of your activities at Wright Field. But I wanted to get back and pick up your recollections, the perspective from Wright Field, about what was happening at the corporation.

GENERAL PHILLIPS: My tenure in the Armament Laboratory was some time late in '51, probably through '53 or '54, into '54. But in that period, the Air Force at Wright Field was developing a series of fighter airplanes, starting with the F-80. I guess in those years it was still called the P-80. But the F-80 and 84 and 86, I recall, and then on into the early Century fighters, Century series. The missions of those fighters being air defense, intercept, long-range intercept, and ground attack, and so on. The Air Force was very dependent on the Hughes Corporation for fighter fire-control systems, and the majority of the Air Force's work in fighter-carried guided missiles was with Hughes, with the Falcon series and the outgrowths of the Falcon. I remember the Falcon had both a radar version and an infrared version, I recall, and I recall there was a follow-on which was larger. I've forgotten its name or number.

    So the situation in the very early fifties was one of the Air Force working on a number of fighter airplanes for various Air Force missions, and with very heavy, perhaps even almost total dependence on the Hughes Corporation for fire control and fighter-carried missiles. The management difficulties at Hughes were becoming more apparent, not necessarily to me at my level but in the higher levels of the organization. Oh, I guess my perception was the involved and unstable management situation with Howard Hughes himself, and defection of top people from the Hughes organization, who were dissatisfied with how things were going in Hughes, which led the Air Force, top people in the Air Materiel Organization at Wright Field, to seek alternate sources, work the problem of trying to bring in additional contractors into the fighter fire control business. Also there were some pressures put on Hughes himself and on the Hughes Corporation to try to get them to improve their situation. I don't really recall what those were or necessarily what the results were.

COLLINS: Did you, in your position, have any direct role in monitoring any of the Hughes contract activities at the Armament Laboratory, play any role in that respect?

PHILLIPS: The Armament Lab did. I was not personally involved in dealing with Hughes. The Armament Lab was organized with one branch or division of the laboratory dealing with fighter fire- control systems, and the head of that division and his project officers were working directly with the Hughes project people on their various projects. The way Wright Field worked in those years, the people in the Armament Laboratory worked very closely with Air Force people in the aircraft division of Wright Field who were responsible for developing the airplanes and responsible for equipping all of those airplanes, including with fire control and ordnance such as missiles. So the Armament Laboratory role was in many ways a technical support to the aircraft program offices and project offices. I've kind of forgotten now whether the contracts with Hughes were directly let from the Armament Laboratory or from the aircraft division. I just really don't remember at this stage how that worked. I guess that covers at least the general situation.

COLLINS: Yes. So your awareness of the problems at Hughes was more or less secondhand, not through direct involvement.


COLLINS: Why don't we move on to a discussion of the Minuteman program then. We talked about your experiences with the installation of the Thors in Great Britain, and I believe you mentioned that this was your first extended contact with Bennie Schriever, with whom you were involved with the Thor program. But at the time you were working with SAC [Strategic Air Command], and I'm wondering what was the nature of your interactions or your relationships with Schriever, as you were working on the Thor program, which may have led to your assignment to the Minuteman program.

PHILLIPS: Well, I recall that my position was in the Materiel Organization of the 7th Air Division, which was SAC's organization in England. Within the Air Force, the job of working with the British for the installation of Thor missiles in England was assigned to the 7th Air Division. So the 7th Air Division, which was commanded by Major General Butch Blanchard, established relationships with, as I recall, the Royal Air Force [RAF] Bomber Command, which was kind of a counterpart relationship, and working through the bomber command, established contacts with the Air Ministry and the government organizations that would have to be involved. I was in Blanchard's materiel organization, and just because of the organizational position, was a logical person to work with the RAF and Air Ministry people concerning the planning for and ultimately the deployment of and installation of Thor missiles there in England. So officially, the 7th Air Division was the organization assigned the job of getting it done with the British. Of course here, within the U.S. program, the Air Research and Development Command [ARDC] had established General Schriever's organization, originally called the Western Development Division [WDD] and later the Air Force Ballistic Missile Division [BMD], with the responsibility for developing the Thor as well as the other ballistic missile systems. I recall that Schriever's deputy or vice commander was General Terry Terhune, and the project officer in Schriever's organization or program director on the Thor was Jacobson.

    So very early in the process of working out the planning and working with the British, Schriever sent a team of people over to the 7th Air Division. The team that came over was headed by Terry Terhune, I remember, and included Jacobson, who was the Thor program director, and a number of others. They brought with them a lot of the documentation and briefings on the program, for the benefit of us in the 7th Air Division as well as the British. The Ballistic Missile Division, Schriever's organization, established a liaison group to live with us there in the 7th Air Division. I've forgotten the name of the person who headed it, but I had known him before at Wright Field. So he was an old air materiel or research and development command person. So there was a contingent of people then assigned there to work directly with us.

    As the months of working with the British to do the planning and then ultimately the contracting and the overseeing of the construction and other work went on, there were a number of visits by Ballistic Missile Division people. To my recollection, Ben Schriever never visited over there, or if he did, I didn't see him. I saw quite a bit of Terhune and Jacobson and others. My own perspective is that the person who homed in on me was Terhune, and of course as Schriever's deputy commander or vice commander, they worked very closely together. Just by way of recollection, my prior years at Wright Field, which had included the B-52 program, had given me the experience in program planning, in planning matters of tiers of schedules that are required, breaking work down into the various categories of activities so that you can plan it and schedule it. And so I'm sure that what Terhune observed on his fairly frequent visits over there was the results of my experience from prior work in that kind of field.

COLLINS: You had outlined a little bit last time what your own aspirations were at this point. With a preference I think toremain within SAC for a period of time, for another tour, rather than going back into R&D management work. How did this come about then, if your preference was to remain within SAC for that kind of experience and work towards wing commander? How did these kinds of issues get worked out within the Air Force? I assume that probably somebody in SAC said, "We'd like to keep Sam," and Terhune probably said, "We'd like Sam to come over to us." How were those things sorted out?

PHILLIPS: Well, I was a colonel at that point, and of course overseas at the time, so my visibility of how things worked in the personnel assignment system was pretty limited. But my impressions are that orders were already in process for me to be transferred within SAC, and normally in the Air Force, people who are in a particular major command are reassigned within that major command. That's the normal practice. So things were in progress that would lead to my being assigned first as a deputy wing commander, which would, assuming I did all right, then lead to wing commander position. So that was already going on, and that's what would have happened in the normal course of business. The fact of the matter is that Schriever's organization had the highest priority in the Air Force for assignment of people, and any people that Schriever or his organization asked for were assigned to that organization. It was a matter of priorities. So I have absolutely no doubt at all that Schriever, who as commander out here of Ballistic Missile Division would make the decisions as to who would be his program directors, reacted to Terhune's advice and requested my assignment through the personnel system, and that's the way it went.

COLLINS: I guess before we launch into the specifics of your work with the Minuteman, this might be a good point to ask you to kind of reflect on your perceptions or your understanding of Air Force interests in space, and more generally national interests in space at this point, because your assignment came shortly after Sputnik, I think around the time of the formation of NASA, so there were a lot of things in the air.

PHILLIPS: Well, my assignment to Ballistic Missile Division, to be Minuteman program director, was in August of 1959. In the period from the summer of 1956 until the summer of '59, that three-year period, I was overseas in England in the 7th Air Division of SAC, and of course that is the period that included the Sputnik. The period up from 1950 to '56 is the period that I was at Wright Field in a variety of positions. Now some time in the period of '54 to '56, I've forgotten just when, I can recall attending a major meeting at Wright Field where quite a large number of the relatively more senior people were invited to what I guess you'd think of as kind of a seminar on guided missiles and rockets. That was my first briefing or my first exposure to the project that became the Atlas program. My memory is fuzzy on the details but I remember this was somewhere in the period of'54, '55, that the Air Force at Wright Field had a contract with Convair to do research and development work on large rockets. Now this probably had some kind of technical tentacles into and with White Sands and with the Army's work that stemmed from Project Paperclip--the von Braun organization, the V-2 rockets, and so on that the Army was working with there at White Sands. But I found it interesting to me, as an airplane person involved very much with the Air Force's airplane and smaller guided missile programs, to see a briefing in which it was being projected as feasible to build a rocket the size of what became the Atlas later.

COLLINS: Do you recall the emphasis being on issues of technology, how it works, what it's capable of?

PHILLIPS: Oh, yes.

COLLINS: Or it's strategic implications?

PHILLIPS: No. At least in that briefing it was all technology and engineering and feasibility and that sort of thing. Now, the Western Development Division was organized in '54. I guess in the spring of '54. See this briefing, this seminar I was just talking about I think preceded that, or was at least somewhere in that time period and possibly preceded the formation of WDD. See my impressions or recollections of the very early days of Western Development Division included our organization there at Wright Field observing how the new Western Development Division was able very rapidly to conduct contract competitions and select contractors to get on with major jobs. My boss in that period was Howell Estis, who was at Wright Field in that period I think as a major general. Yes, he wound up retiring as commander of the Military Airlift Command, as a four-star general. So we there at Wright Field under Howell Estis' direction quite rapidly borrowed the same techniques from Schriever's organization, in source selection, contractor selection, conducting competitions, so that the initial fallout was more in the business area.

COLLINS: Just to follow that a little bit further, what were the differences between what Bennie Schriever was instituting and what was already in place at Wright Field in terms of source selection?

PHILLIPS: Well, the biggest difference in the end was being able to do something in a matter of a few weeks as opposed to several months or a few months. To be honest with you, I've forgotten the details, but it amounted to the Schriever organization having worked out a set of procedures to establish a source selection, a board-type procedure. I honestly don't recall the details.

COLLINS: Maybe that's a point we can come back to. I think it's kind of an interesting one. Maybe we could approach it from as lightly different way. Do you recall how Wright Field went about the business of selecting a contractor for a particular project? What was their involvement?

PHILLIPS: Yes. Well, the process involved contractors submitting their competitive proposals, and quite a large organization of review committees were appointed to evaluate the various parts of the proposal, the technical aspects broken down into a number of fields, as well as the business aspects. Not too different than how it's been done in more recent years, to set up the Source Evaluation Panels and committees that review proposals. I'm almost sorry I got off into this field because my memory's so fuzzy on the details now. The end result of breaking precedent, if you will, and Schriever's organization setting up a different process for selecting contractors, really did result in doing it in a matter of a few weeks as opposed to several months.

COLLINS: What I'm getting at is, somehow or other some element of bureaucracy was removed or passed over, as seems implied by your taking less time. I'm wondering what that might be.

PHILLIPS: Well, yes. I've said many times over the years that it seems to me that the way we make major strides in how to do business, or manage the research, development, acquisition business, is periodically to throw away the book and start all over again. In other words, you know, up through the fifties at Wright Field, the organizational hierarchy and the processes by which programs were conceived and managed grew and became more and more bureaucratic and cumbersome. There were a number of organizational issues going on in that period, that resulted in spinning off the Research and Development Command in order to give more predominance to engineering and technology and so on. And with the decisions made at the Presidential level in '54 that led to priority effort to develop long-range ballistic missiles, I think there were two very important decisions that came out of the upper-level considerations in Washington. One was the technical feasibility decision, and the other was that in order to carry out the program, to get it done, they needed to set up special management procedures. These were the so-called Gillette Procedures that I presume by now you've heard about.

    And so Schriever, given command of this new organization, my perception of his instructions was, "Do things within the law but make your own rules within what's legal and proper and so on." In many respects his organization was able to throw away the armed services procurement regulations and this is an exaggeration--but to set up their own procedures. And so, a lot of things that had become standard practice in the Wright Field approach to doing business, which had grown up for their own reasons, were just either not brought along or not adopted, and when a job needed to get done people were able to sit down and figure out, well, what's the best way to get it done, from aclean sheet of paper, and start over again. So just to finish that point, my point being that I have said that I think the way we were able to make major strides in the efficiency and effectiveness of doing business in this complex research, development, acquisition world, is from time to time--and that cycle it seems is somewhere around thirty years--you need to throw away the book and start all over again. My impression is, that's what happened with the formation of WDD.

    With a perhaps somewhat different perspective, I think the formation of NASA in 1958, its formative years, had much the same characteristics. They obviously had to live within the laws, and they had some direction to work in the mold of the Defense contracting, but they were, within NASA, able to write their own rules and to figure out how best to get things done. That is one of the several reasons why I think NASA was so successful up through the Apollo era, and perhaps later. I think my thirty year cycle has been hitting NASA, as you know, starting with [James] Fletcher's going back to NASA in 1986. But I spent quite a lot of time at his request working the question of how NASA managed itself and its programs and could see many, many instances where the evolution of bureaucracy in the federal government as a whole and within NASA in particular had led to bureaucratic encumbrances. I'm making a long speech here, but my point is that at somewhere around thirty years, my impression is that these kinds of organizations need to find a way to break the mold and in many ways start over again, to make major improvements.

COLLINS: To carry this digression a little bit further, about the time of the formation of the Western Development Division--I think actually maybe preceding that by a year or two--was the decision on the part of the services and DOD [Department of Defense] that procurements typically wouldn't require the presentation of a prototype and selection on the basis of a prototype, but essentially a paper competition. Do you recall this transition at Wright Field, and if it had any effect on your activities, and whether it played any part in this sort of revolutionization of selection procedures that you're talking about?

PHILLIPS: That was going on at a level that I was not really sufficiently involved in or aware of at that time to have much insight. I can give you some observations. One of my early involvements at Wright Field, when I was assigned there in 1950, was to be assigned as a member of a Technical Evaluation Team on a project that was originally called the 1954 Interceptor, and it then became Project MX-1172, which ultimately became the F-102. And that project, as the competition was being run, this being now early in 1950, was to become the world's ultimate automated interceptor. I can still vaguely remember. I was involved as a member of the technical panel evaluating crew displays and the mechanization of the pilot/fire control interface. I can vaguely remember some very dramatic proposals from Hughes in particular--as I recall they were the main competitor there--for video-type displays and so on, automation. I keep wandering off in detail on these things; the point being that I think that that was probably one of the early visible evidences of a break with the prior prototype tradition. The prototype tradition had produced the F-80, I guess the 84, 86, probably 89, but then the 102 surely must have been one of the very first to be a paper competition. And of course the F-102 never did come out quite like the proposals that I remember reading in 1950.

COLLINS: My point was--I guess you started at Wright Field at the time of this transition from prototype competitions to paper proposal competitions. I was wondering whether you had an appreciation of that change and its impact on the organization.

PHILLIPS: I can't really shed much light on it for you.

COLLINS: That's fine. Before we got off on this long path, we were talking about your perceptions of the evolution of the Air Force interest in space and you'd cited this seminar in 1954. Before we go on I'm going to go ahead and just switch the tape.


PHILLIPS: Well, I guess I'm trying to address your question of my early impressions of the Air Force role or interest in space. Some of this perspective that I'm going to try to recap probably developed in later years. But I was talking some about the period when the decision was made to develop the intercontinental ballistic missile. That was a period of quite intense interservice rivalry for roles and missions. The Army had established their ballistic missile effort at Redstone Arsenal-- starting at White Sands in New Mexico and then moving to Redstone. I remember in that period General Bruce Medaris was the Army chief, and they, at Redstone, were busily working on outgrowths of the V-2, with the Redstone missile and later the Jupiter. So in the period when WDD was formed, the Army was already at work on the Jupiter, and the Schriever organization started with the Atlas and then undertook the Titan, and in that same period, for reasons that I'm not familiar with, were assigned the job of developing an intermediate-range ballistic missile, which turned out to be the Thor. The interservice rivalry was very, very strong for roles and missions, and Ben Schriever and Bruce Medaris I know had more than one difficult confrontation. Have you talked to Schriever along these lines?

COLLINS: Just informally.

PHILLIPS: I hope you will.


PHILLIPS: He's still around, although I haven't seen him in years. Bruce Medaris is still around, too. Well, somewhere in that same period the Navy could see the potential for ballistic missile weapons in the naval needs, and through some series of evolution, they wound up with Red Rayburn heading their special project office with their first operational system, of course, being Polaris. Now in that same period the potential for orbiting a satellite around the earth became apparent, and my first exposure to that was attending an annual meeting of what was then the American Institute of Electrical Engineers, what is today the Institute of Electrical and Electronic Engineers, IEEE, in New York, and this would have been I think early in '56. By that time the U.S. entry in that International Geophysical Year had become the Vanguard. That project was I think thought of, probably officially was, a civilian program, but the implementation means was the Vanguard, which was largely a Navy technical effort. (Here again, details of which I either didn't know or don't recall very well.) I mentioned the annual meeting of the Institute of Electrical Engineers, which was I think the first one I ever attended. That was in New York. I remember attending a very lengthy evening session to hear briefings on the Geophysical Year and the U.S. entry, the Vanguard, and its promise and so on. Now that effort was, in my perspective, something of a fiasco, not successful, and the USSR succeeded with Sputnik in October of '57. And that led then to the other events like the assignment to the Army of the job of getting up the first U.S. satellite. What did they call that one?

COLLINS: Explorer.

PHILLIPS: Explorer. So perhaps to stress the main point I've just tried to develop so far, my perception is, intense interservice rivalry for roles and missions, Army, Navy, Air Force, largely oriented toward the development and deployment of ballistic missiles for military purposes. With space being kind of a far-out thought insofar as military application is concerned, the interest I think being primarily oriented toward who was going to do it, and therefore have that job to do within the services. It was in later years that I learned of efforts that were triggered largely I think by Sputnik within the upper levels of the government to consider what the U.S. should do in space.

    Here's where people like [Ruben] Mettler and Schriever, in the seminar that's coming up in December, I think can really shed some light on the studies that were going on in that period. The studies that were being done I think within the Air Force would clearly have stressed the capability of the Air Force to take on this role. I think developing a good historical perspective of what went on in that period, which this December seminar can hopefully shed some useful light on, will be very interesting. The final result of this, at least as I understand it, was the decision by President [Dwight D.] Eisenhower to establish a civilian component for the space program, and that led then to the Space Act of 1958 and the establishment of NASA [National Aeronautics and Space Administration], and the assignment to them of the mission of developing space for peaceful purposes, and so on.

COLLINS: A couple of follow-on questions. From your perspective, what was the Air Force perception of why the Navy was pursuing Vanguard? You know, what kind of capability did that add to the Navy? What was their interest in developing Vanguard?

PHILLIPS: I really don't know. I really don't have any visibility on that question.

COLLINS: Okay. Sputnik occurred when you were in Great Britain working on the installation of the Thors. Did this bring any added urgency to your task? Was there some sense that this really needed to get done now that the Russians had made a very public demonstration of their ballistic missile capability?

PHILLIPS: There was a high sense of urgency to the whole Thor effort from the beginning, and the Sputnik event in the fall of '57 merely heightened that sense of urgency.

COLLINS: This was also towards the end of your time in Great Britain and starting with the Minuteman. This was a time of real turmoil in national planning for what to do about space. Did that kind of sense of things being up in the air and a lot of issues to be considered filter down to what you were doing with the Thor or Minuteman in any way? Were you aware of this ferment in planning about what to do and organizing and taking care of the U.S. interest in space?

PHILLIPS: That became quite apparent to me when I was assigned to BMD in the fall of '59 as Minuteman program director. The prior period while I was in England in SAC, thinking of space per se and major military threats in that sense was not a--it was not clear to me that that was a major factor. The thing that was clear was that Russia demonstrating an orbital satellite certainly demonstrated their ability with long-range rockets. And obvious speculation of what one could do with satellites orbiting the earth. In that sense discussion and speculation, I don't recall, at least at my level, any very far-reaching kinds of thoughts about space per se.

COLLINS: Unless you have further comments, let's move on to looking at your experience in the Minuteman program.

PHILLIPS: Just one comment. I mentioned that the space arenabecame much more apparent to me when I was assigned to BMD, and that's because the Ballistic Missile Division here by then was organized into two major elements. One was ballistic missiles and the other was space. When I was assigned here, Dick Curtin headed the space effort. He later became a major general. And John McCoy headed the ballistic missile effort. John's retired now as an Air Force major general and lives close by here.

COLLINS: John's last name?

PHILLIPS: McCoy. John McCoy. And within the ballistic missile part of BMD, we had Atlas, Titan, Minuteman, and Thor was still under way when I was assigned here in '59, and there were other projects that followed. But in the space part, there were projects that went by the names Samos, Midas, and others, numbers. I think each of those projects which had been formulated in the latter part of the fifties under Schriever's organization later came to fruition. Some of them were then selected out, if you will, to become part of the national program in the national structure, and others were developed to become Air Force systems. An example of the latter is the one that today is called the Defense Support Program, which is the infrared satellite system for ballistic missile early warning and detection. That project, which is today the mainstay of strategic alert for ballistic missile warning and launch, was an outgrowth of Midas, Midas being the formative one. The early earth-orbiting observation satellites, visual, were outgrowths of the Samos. Well, the point I wanted to make, which we can get off of now, is that in that period of the latter fifties there was clearly a lot of forward thinking and visionary thinking on the part of the Ballistic Missile Division under Schriever, and clearly in the Air Force leadership that sponsored this kind of work for developing the ultimate potential of using rockets for space application in the military sense.

COLLINS: As program manager for Minuteman, were you kept aware of the developments and interests of the space side of the activity, as opposed to the ballistic missile side of the activity?

PHILLIPS: Yes. Yes, and the mechanism that did that most effectively was known as "Black Saturday." That was something that Schriever's organization started, which was to devote Saturdays--I've forgotten now whether it was every week or once a month, I think it was every week--to major program reviews. Have you heard of this before?

COLLINS: Yes, but I wasn't clear what the content of these Saturday sessions was.

PHILLIPS: The content was what I still think of as a pretty comprehensive program review, starting with Atlas, Titan, Minuteman, Thor, and then on into the space program. All of us program directors were present, as well as the key staff of the ballistic missile division, for several hours of organized presentation and review and discussion of progress and plans and problems. Those meetings were participated in by the Air Force program directors, their supporting staff as might be required for the occasion, by STL with their counterpart technical managers, and on rare occasions, on special problems, a contractor's person might be invited in for a selected period of discussing some problem. So through that means, I was able to keep up with everything going on in all the missile programs as well as the space program.

COLLINS: Would this be more concretely for the period of '59, '60, or did this extend through your whole tenure as a program manager?

PHILLIPS: It extended through my whole tenure with BMD and its outgrowths. Yes, that continued.

COLLINS: When Aerospace was formed in 1960, did they supplant some of the STL role in this respect?

PHILLIPS: Yes. They took over the activities that they were assigned. Let's see, how did this work? The projects that Aerospace was assigned initially were those that had to do with Air Force forward planning, the object being to get STL, which had commercial interests, out of the planning. So at least in the early period, the Aerospace Corporation really had nothing to do with the ballistic missile programs.

COLLINS: I guess my understanding was that they had essentially taken on any new projects that might occur at that point. Minuteman became the mainstay, and STL continued in its role.

PHILLIPS: Aerospace was really not involved in that period in the Minuteman program.

COLLINS: This is also a time, for a brief period there I guess in '58, '59, into '60, when ARPA [Advance Research Project Agency] had a very prominent role in making decisions about what programs would go forward and at what level. Do you recall any contacts with ARPA during this early period when you were a Minuteman manager?

PHILLIPS: No. My answer clearly is no.


PHILLIPS: Now that you've asked, I'm not sure why that's so. I can recall in that period spending a lot of time with an organization called WSEG, Weapons System Evaluation Group. My memory is a DOD staff-level organization. We'd spend endless hours--"we", me and my staff--with these WSEG people dealing with the cost of Minuteman. One of the ultimate objectives of Minuteman was affordability, being able to put in the hands of strategic operators a very large force of missiles that required relatively little maintenance, small manning, if you will. The unattended remote sites containing highly reliable, low- maintenance-required missiles. So WSEG had some figure in mind. They were supposed to cost X million per each and so much per year to operate, and they spent endless hours working on those questions of what was development going to cost. But I really don't recall dealing with ARPA at my level.

COLLINS: Didn't WSEG also have some kind of technical review role?

PHILLIPS: Not that I recall.

COLLINS: Let's look at what you came into when you started as program manager for the Minuteman, what situation you found. The program had already gotten under way, or at least the contracts had already been let I think by late '58, if I recall correctly. What was the situation when you came in as manager?

PHILLIPS: The situation in the fall of '59 was that the Minuteman program was under way. The contracts with the several associate contractors had been let in the fall of 1958, roughly one year before I came in. The lineup of contractors was STL for SETD, Systems Engineering and Technical Direction, working out at Inglewood, which is where the program office was. Boeing Company with the--

COLLINS: Test and assembly, I think.

PHILLIPS: Yes, assembly and test. They were called the assembly and test contractor. Assembly and test, which involved integration of the missile itself, which gave them several pieces of hardware on the missile, the interstage sections, the connecting raceways and cable work and so on, and the aft skirt. They had a lot of work on the missile itself. But then they had the predominant role in the total ground system, which involved a tremendous amount of planning and a considerable amount of hardware for the launch control system, for installation in the silos and launch control centers and so on. The first stage contractor was Thiokol. Second stage was Aerojet. Third stage was Hercules. AVCO had the reentry vehicle initially.

    So that was the contractor lineup that had been selected. The management arrangement was one of associate contractors. Each of these contractors I've named were associates. The program planning and direction was done from the Air Force program office, and I think of it, in partnership with STL, as the system engineering technical direction contractor. When Iwas first assigned, the STL program manager was Dr. Robert R. Bennett, in that early period, of course, Mettler was in the STL management structure, as were Si Ramo, James Doolittle, Louis Dunn. Within the technical structure of STL, Bob Burnett--Dr. J.R. Burnett, had a key role in the guidance and control laboratory technical area. Bob Anderson had the key role in the propulsion engine systems. I could name others but those are a few of the key ones. Within the Air Force program office, the person who was already in place as the deputy program director was John Chandler, who was at that time a colonel. He retired some years later as an Air Force one-star general.

COLLINS: He was your deputy, then.

PHILLIPS: Yes. John Chandler. I had a few very good Air Force officers in the program office. I remember Dick Hemsley was a colonel in charge of engineering within the Air Force program organization. Richard Hemsley. I think he's still alive back in the Washington area. Ballistic Missile Division, the other programs: Atlas was headed by Chris Tadoro, Titan by Red Wetzel, Thor which was still under way by Jacobson. I've already mentioned Dick Curtin headed the space activities. One of the key guys back in that period in Dick Curtin's organization was the one who retired recently heading Lockheed's--I can't quite bring up his name. But within BMD, organizations that supported house programs included a real top group of people in guidance and control. It was headed by a colonel named [Pat] Box. One of his key guys was Bob Duffy. I don't know if that name means anything to you, but Bob Duffy retired only recently heading the Draper Laboratory.

COLLINS: That's where I've seen the name.

PHILLIPS: So there was a small but very competent group of people in guidance and control, headed by Air Force officers, and a small, I don't recall how small, but a very competent group in re-entry systems headed by a colonel named Middlekoff, Dar Middlekoff. He's retired somewhere down in Florida now. One of the really difficult technical development areas was the re-entry vehicle, and Middlekoff's group of people were very competent, and they worked very closely with STL in a good close partnership relationship. That was the period when, transitioning from the large heat sink kind of RVs like were on the Thor, into the ablative kinds of systems that were the fundamental requirement for Minuteman, the development work was going on for that. So these technical groups, and I remember especially the RV group, re-entry vehicle group, were doing "independent" development work to support the program.

COLLINS: Were they in essence a small laboratory?

PHILLIPS: Yes. Think of it as a lab. Through their efforts werewhat grew up out of Kwajalein for testing of re-entry systems. Are you familiar with that?

COLLINS: No, I'm not.

PHILLIPS: Well, ever since the fifties the installation at Kwajalein has been a major test range for developing re-entry systems. They're launched in the main out of Annenberg. They're highly instrumented out there at Kwajalein, which is an island atoll setup with very sophisticated radars and other devices for measuring the incoming trajectory and various elements of it. Kwajalein, I'm trying to remember. It may well be an Army base now. You go back to the Safeguard days, when ballistic missile defense systems were being tested, Kwajalein played big in that role. The point though being that there was a technical group within BMD doing R&D work for re-entry systems to support the program organization.

COLLINS: How did this complement the interests at STL? They had similar kinds of laboratory groups, research groups to work on these problems.

PHILLIPS: They worked together in the same fashion that the program people did. In other words, Middlekoff and his reentry systems people, which I remember as being a relatively small organization, worked in close partnership with STL counterparts, and STL did have some leading technical people in that field, so it was like a laboratory, a joint Air Force/STL lab effort.

    I keep wandering off on these side subjects. The re-entry program in later years assumed a very large role and became what was called the ABRES Program, Advanced Ballistic Re-Entry Systems Program Office, and for a period of time that organization was headed by Bob Duffy. For a period of time it was headed by Ken Schultz, who later headed Minuteman and eventually command of Samso. But the ABRES organization, as I recall, was one of the first ones that was split off from STL to be supported by Aerospace, because it was one of the more futuristic kinds of efforts.

    Another key supporting organization in BMD was concerned more with operations analysis kinds of things, and that organization was headed by one of the big names in the strategic analysis business. I'll think of his name. But that organization was doing operations analysis, strategic analysis, trying to support force planning, and it was out of their work really, and their work with SAC and with air staff in the Defense Department, that we came up with the program of a thousand missiles for Minuteman. And we went through quite a period in which one-third of those missiles were going to be mobile and deployed on rail cars. I almost thought of his name.

COLLINS: We can always fill that in later on the transcript.

PHILLIPS: But they were a key part of BMD, Ballistic Missile Division. I say a key part because they were the ones that carried the burden of the operational employment, the strategic role--strategic thinking and dealing with force requirements and that kind of issue.

COLLINS: So would they be your conduit to that kind of consideration, as you were doing your planning for the program?

PHILLIPS: Yes. Yes, very much. We're still talking about what was the situation when I came into it in August of '59. The program was roughly a year under way, not quite, in terms of being under contract. The big test event that was going on was the testing out at Edwards for silo launch, and when I reported for duty in effect people were on their way to Edwards to witness the test of tethered dummy missiles being launched out of silos that had been constructed there in the Edwards area. The object of those being to develop the data required on how big around the silo needed to be, how deep it should be, what kind of protection was required on the missile to protect against the environment of lighting the first stage at the bottom of the silo for it to fly out. The silos had been built over there, ranging I guess from about ten feet in diameter to--I've forgotten how big the biggest one--but fourteen or sixteen feet in diameter. The missile itself was six feet in diameter at the base, first stage.

COLLINS: If I could ask you to just pause here I'll put in a new tape.


PHILLIPS: We were talking about the tethered missile testing at Edwards. The test was done in a way in which a missile had been built, largely dummy, of the size, shape, weight, configuration of the ultimate Minuteman, but the first-stage engine was a very short burning grain, whereas it burned for--I've forgotten now--about half a minute or so in the normal full-size configuration. It burned only for a very few seconds to provide enough impulse to propel it out of the silo and up to some tens of feet above the ground before it would fall back, the object being to create in the silo the total launch environment, so that measurements could be made that would provide data on which final designs could be based. The missile was secured by a long cable, so that as it flew out of the hole, it would be brought down by this cable tether, so it would fall in a predetermined spot instead of in an unknown position.

    So that was under way, and I can recall, after a few days of these tests, a major review. There were several additional tests planned, and I recall, after a few of the tests had been conducted, conducting a meeting involving STL and Boeing as well as the Air Force people, to review where we stood and figure out what we were going to do with the rest of that series, and deciding in that meeting that we had enough. We'd cancel the rest and devote that money and effort to other things, which was my first controversial decision. It turned out to be a good one, incidentally, but it was controversial, particularly between STL and Boeing. Boeing developing the case that we had all of this data; this was enough now to design the silo and the missile and its protection and so on. STL argued that we could always use more technical data so let's go ahead and fly the rest of them. And I for some reason still remember going through this lengthy consideration and deciding that we did have enough and we'd cancel the rest of those and devote that money and effort to other things.

COLLINS: That raises I think kind of an interesting question. Here you are relatively fresh to a program that is well under way. It's very complicated, and this is a pretty important and fairly technical decision. How did you feel that you got yourself up to speed to be able to make that judgment so soon after you came into the program?

PHILLIPS: By listening carefully and considering carefully the data being presented by the experts, some of whom were in Boeing, some of whom were in STL. I think to answer your direct question, it was a matter of getting all relevant inputs and considering them and making a decision. But I think there's an important point here, which is that in that period, there isn't any question about who was running that program. There isn't any question about the role of the program director or his responsibility and authority, and that's quite different than it has been in more recent years. Again, you know, operating within some obvious constraints and guidelines, I was in charge of that program and responsible for making important decisions, and that was my attitude. That's the approach that I took.

COLLINS: And program managers today don't have a similar charge?

PHILLIPS: One of the major problems in several recent years now, up to now, has been the constraints that are placed on a program director, constraints in what he can decide and do and act on, and in most important things, undoubtedly the case I've just described being one of them, that would have to be reviewed by higher authority and approved. So the situation in more recent years has removed from the program director so much of the clear assignment of responsibility and authority and delegations of authority to decide and act, and instead has required review and approval before acting. Some of that's of course by Congress, incidentally. Too often anymore, in the legislation and authorization of appropriation, there are requirements placed in the language of the bills that require that the service come back to Congress with certain data before they move on to some other action.

COLLINS: Are there any other strictly military motivations for putting these kinds of additional review procedures in place? I mean apart from Congressional interest in these questions and the issue of micro-management, does the military also, in your experience?

PHILLIPS: Well, I suppose some of that is just the normal evolution of a bureaucracy, which would imply that say the air staff needs to be involved in some decision because there are military implications to that decision. You know, there's an element of reason and truth to that, but some of it clearly is just the evolution of bureaucracy that causes this to happen. It isn't entirely Congressional. My point is that some of it is.


PHILLIPS: Well, I was discussing this Edwards test program because that was the major event that was going on at the time I came into the program, and this now being what, nine or ten months after the letting of contracts. I should also mention something I haven't so far in the situation that existed when I came into the program, namely, the role of the Air Materiel Command [AMC]. Remember in '59 the Air Force was still organized with Air Materiel Command and with Air Research and Development Command, and Schriever's organization was part of ARDC, and the procurement function was in AMC, Air Materiel Command, so that the job of contracting and procurement authority all resided in AMC. The way that was structured in BMD was to assign General Ben Funk out here to head what was called the Ballistic Missile Office of then Air Materiel Command, and Ben Funk for all practical purposes worked for Ben Schriever, although he was a member of a separate command. His charter was to provide the procurement and contracting function for BMD. Funk's organization was then organized with program pieces of the organization, so that there was a group of people headed by Colonel Jim Foster, a group of Air Force officers as well as Air Force civil service people, who were from the procurement and contracting field. So Jim Foster I suppose in a pure legalistic, hierarchical sense was my partner and responsible for providing the procurement. The way we set up and operated, Jim Foster really served as a principal deputy to me. I really thought of the way I operated that program office with John Chandler as my principal deputy, with originally Bob Bennett as the STL program technical director--I thought of him as technical director, chief engineer--and with Jim Foster in charge of the contracting function. That was an important piece of how things worked, because a program director without adequate authority over the contracting function is pretty toothless.

COLLINS: Last time we discussed at some length the need for you to have this contracting authority, to make these kinds of decisions. I thought that was a very important point. You had extensive experience in the B-52 program in managing one of these large weapons systems. How directly applicable was that experience to the Minuteman situation? Were there new management regimens introduced or formalized in the ballistic missile program that didn't exist with the B-52?

PHILLIPS: Yes. There definitely were, and for a reason. The B-52 program was a prime contract arrangement in which a relatively small Air Force program office dealt with one contractor who had the whole job to design, develop, build, and so on the total airframe weapon system, the B-52. The process of the ballistic missiles was quite different. It was to structure an associate contractor arrangement. It was not a prime contractor, and the Air Force program office supported by STL was, well, I shouldn't say the equivalent of the prime contractor, but they were the organization that retained the responsibility for overall program planning, direction, system engineering, technical direction, which function in a prime contract largely gravitates to the prime contractor. So there was need for a comprehensive system within the Air Force structure--and when I say Air Force structure, I tend to think of STL as part of a team relationship in that sense--for a comprehensive structure for program planning and control and for the management of system engineering and ultimately the system integration of the total system.

The thing that emerged then from that need, in the technical side, largely went under the name or title of configuration management. The configuration management approach that was developed in Minuteman, in my mind, largely is the way in which system engineering is managed, and it establishes a process, procedure and structure for the development of the technical specification programs and their evolution, for a systematic structure of technical reviews, starting with a requirements review and a preliminary design review and a critical design review. So there was a formalized structure of design reviews all the way through the program that was established, and a procedure and process for, if you will, freezing the design and then controlling changes to the design, and a procedure and process for identifying interfaces between and among the contractors and of documenting and controlling those interfaces. So that was the basic scheme which, as I said, went under the title generally of configuration management, which to me is the Bible for managing system engineering.

     In the program planning and control side, I guess I think of it as some further development of the standard techniques of planning that had been used for years, of scheduling the major events, preparing budgets, and so on, which has always been a requirement on the government or Air Force side. But it really also then brought in a greater depth, that we largely I think took from industry, in the way of scheduling in-depth, starting in effect with work breakdown structure. So you organize a major program with as many elements into discrete work packages, and within those then assigning responsibility and planning the schedule and dollar and manpower and all the things that go with it.

COLLINS: You're saying that was adopted from industry?

PHILLIPS: Yes, largely from industry. In that connection, to give credit where it's due, at least in the scheme we worked up in Minuteman, a lot of what we developed in the way of techniques came out of Boeing. What's the right word--it was quite cooperative insofar as Boeing was concerned. So a lot of the techniques that we developed and I think perfected through the Minuteman program, for program planning and control, were refinements of what had been used in the Air Force for years, but a lot of the in-depth material was really taken from how Boeing did things. Now to finalize that point, in these two major areas, the system engineering and in the program planning and control, a comprehensive set of practices, techniques, and procedures were developed and evolved over the years, and those basically were the structures that later I took into NASA, and which were the basis for managing the Apollo program, and which even today, those still are I think the main techniques of managing large programs.

COLLINS: I'd like a little better sense of the evolution of the thinking about these kinds of things. In the B-52 program, you had a couple of devices which you described to me. There was the engineering change proposal and the mechanisms associated with that. Then you also described these periodic review board meetings which brought together Air Force and contractor personnel to review in a concentrated fashion the changes that might be required in a particular weapons system. How did these things differ or serve as precursors for the kind of thing that you're talking about in the Minuteman program? What's the evolutionary difference between what's going on?

PHILLIPS: I think they're more precursors than they are different. In the case of the B-52, a big event was the mock-up review--just to refresh, we talked about it earlier--in which members of the various commands, including SAC, the operator, and participating contractors would all assemble and spend however much time was required to review in detail and make decisions on elements, how the configuration was going to come out. Probably the counterpart of that in the thing we evolved in the missile program would have been something approaching either the requirements review or preliminary design review in a major weapons system like Minuteman. Because by the time of the PDR,the preliminary design review, typically you would have mock-ups of major systems. By the time of the PDR on the Minuteman, there was a full-scale mock-up of the missile, and by the time we had the PDR on other phases of the system like the silo, there were mock-ups of at least working sections of the silo. So as I say, probably the old mock-up review of the airplane programs would compare with some combination of requirements and PDR review on the missile. So that it's probably more a matter of evolution and adoption than total difference. In the way of differences, there would be a difference of involvement, a difference of roles of government and contractor organizations, although maybe the differences are not as dramatic as my statement might imply.

COLLINS: Could you give some sense of what those were? For example, we talked about the engineering change proposals on the B-52; one got the impression it was more or less a serial set of steps that started with the proposal and worked through a chain and came around and then the engineering change was made.

PHILLIPS: Well, we used the same basic thing on Minuteman, the ECP, engineering change proposal. The management of the ECP became probably as important and pivotal in managing the Minuteman as it had been on the B-52. In other words, it's a key tool.

COLLINS: What I'm getting at is maybe using that as a way of understanding how the relationships among the various participants were a little bit different, as you suggested.

PHILLIPS: Well, as far as ECPs, engineering change proposals are concerned, there probably were more similarities than differences between say the B-52 program and the Minuteman program. In the case of the Minuteman, let's say an engineering change was required, say in the second-stage engine, which was an Aerojet contract. I'm trying to recall the flow. That engineering change proposal would have come from Aerojet into our program office and would have been handled by the mechanism of my change board. Now here's probably one of the differences. In the Minuteman program, I established a configuration control board and that board was the mechanism for considering the ramifications of change proposals and providing the data on which decisions could be made about do or don't make the change. And as I recall, when an ECP came in, like the hypothetical one from Aerojet, it would go to my engineering organization. Remember, I mentioned this Colonel Hemsley who had a small group of people. Dick and his people would consider the ramifications of that change and probably would go and talk to their STL counterparts. Clearly that ECP involving a change of that engine would go to the propulsion people there in STL for their input, but they'd have to consider also the implications of whether it affected guidance and control or structure or whatever. So I guess there were a lot of similarities to how we did it in the B-52. The same kinds of considerations had to be made there. We didn't really have a change board in the B-52 program in the sense that I did establish one in Minuteman. That was a difference.

COLLINS: What inspired you to take that step? Were there configuration control boards for the other programs in the Ballistic Missile Division, the Titan, the Atlas, etc.? Was this something you adapted from them?


COLLINS: You instituted it on your own.

PHILLIPS: My recollection is that it's something we did in the Minuteman program, and it was later adopted by others. That's my recollection. In the airplane program there was not a change board. At least there was not in the B-52 program that I was involved in. The decisions on changes were made by the program director with staff inputs, more of a staff kind of situation than a change board. I think the reason for the change board on the Minuteman was brought on by the difference in contractual arrangements, where we had associate contractors as opposed to a prime, because a lot of the staffing of an ECP in the case of the B-52 had been done by Boeing because they were the ones working with engines and everything else. That sort of staffing was done by us in the ballistic missile program. So the desirability of a change board approach was brought on by organizational considerations of the type that I just mentioned, and the timing. In other words, you could get things done a lot faster by having a scheduled change board meeting every day or every other day or every week, as was required in a particular phase of the program, where the key participants from the major pieces of the program all met for an hour or so and reviewed the list of changes, and made decisions and gave direction.

COLLINS: If we can elaborate, if you think we can, the differences in approaches between say a program like the B-52 and later with the Minuteman. I'm trying to get a better handle on what the evolutionary differences were.

PHILLIPS: Well, one of the evolutionary differences was this ARDC/AMC relationship between engineering and procurement. In the B-52 program, that was in a period when the Air Force solution in grappling with that question was to set up what was called the JPO, Joint Program Office. In that period when I was the B-52 program director, JPO consisted of me on the ARDC side and Ed O'Connor on the AMC side. Ed O'Connor, incidentally, retired some years ago as a lieutenant general in the Air Force. And the Air Force wrote a regulation, I remember, in that period when I was at Wright Field, to define the transition of responsibility from ARDC to AMC. The ARDC program director, or project officer I guess we were called in those days, was the predominant or the superior, up until some point that was defined in the regulation which had to do with delivering the first articles or something to the user, at which point the primary responsibility transitioned to AMC, the theory being that it was development engineering up to a certain point and from then on it was routine procurement and production. So that was the organizational situation, and it did in fact result in different working relationships in an organizational sense within a program office and a program structure. In the case of Minuteman and in BMD, I've already described briefly the Jim Foster role.


PHILLIPS: So things just worked completely differently. And incidentally, that experience then led in fairly rapid time to the further reorganization of the Air Force, to restructure things, to establish the Air Force Systems Command, which took the procurement production function out of AMC and put it over into ARDC and then renamed to be Systems Command.

COLLINS: So in essence, in the Minuteman program you had responsibility for what previously would have been called the R&D part as well as then the production aspect.

PHILLIPS: Yes. Another major difference in management approach had to do with the particular approach in the airplane programs, and the B-52 was clearly this way, of a prime contractor. Part of that prime contract job was system engineering, system integration, which really meant that that prime contractor was being given the technical job of--I don't like to always use the word integration, but it was engineering all the subsystems, propulsion, engines, guidance, bombing, you name it, into the total working system. In the Minuteman program, with its structure of associate contractors, the job of system engineering and technical program integration was retained by the Air Force and STL as a clear responsibility and a clear function. I recall one of the ways in which STL carried out their responsibility.

I was going to mention TD [technical direction] meetings, but before I get to it, I believe that the preliminary work that was done by a group of Air Force officers and STL people, which preceded me in Minuteman, in the planning and the system engineering of the Minuteman, was extraordinarily thorough and extraordinarily good and was one of the real fundamentals in such a successful program. I've said many times that the first missiles that we delivered to SAC were essentially as they had been made out in the preliminary designs that had preceded the competition for and award of contracts to industry. So that work of program planning and top-level system engineering had been done by Air Force, STL, and had been done as I say in an extraordinarily thorough and competent fashion.

Therefore, by the time contracts were let with Thiokol, Aerojet, Hercules, Boeing etc., the size, shape, dimensions of the stages, the requirements for specific impulse, for positive propellant and for all the many, many other things, were all laid down in the initial specs. And in so many programs, previously and since, and even now in missile and space work, major contracts are entered into before the service has really figured out what it is they want to buy. So they thrash around for the first one or two or three years struggling to define requirements, and for the contractor to work with the government people, trying to figure out what it is these people really want, so that they can get specific enough about requirements that they can then get down to detailed design of things to meet those requirements. That's where a lot of the money has gone in recent times, and a lot of wheel-spinning has gone on between industry and government. That's maybe a digression. But the point I was making is that the associate contractor structure, with the Air Force and STL retaining responsibility for program direction and total system engineering, did introduce changes in approach, the first of which was a competent state of preliminary design before competition. So that was the first and key element I think in how STL did their job, just in engineering technical direction.

    Then I was going to mention the technical direction meetings. The contracts between the Air Force and each of the associate contractors had in them an enabling clause which required the industrial contractors to respond to technical direction given by STL, so there was a contractual requirement for them to do that. And STL then, one of their ways of working was, as I say, these TD meetings. I've forgotten the frequency that Bennett and then later Burnett used to hold those, but they held them with each of the major contractors and with groups of major contractors quite frequently, so it was an almost continuous process of interacting with the industrial contractors. And there were requirements for certain phases of designs to be submitted to the Air Force and STL for review and approval before they were implemented.

COLLINS: I'm at the end of a side of a tape here.


COLLINS: You were starting to talk about technical direction.

PHILLIPS: Well, we were talking about technical direction and about the role of the TD meetings that STL conducted. The results of those TD meetings were always drawn up in minutes which then had to be officially blessed in a contractual sense, so that the associate contractor responding to those directions could be adequately embraced within their contractual arrangements.

COLLINS: So this had a direct relationship then to your change control board activities.

PHILLIPS: Well, later it did. But in the earlier period of formative R&D, that was pre-change board kinds of changes, and the technical directions that came out of these STL activities then were formalized into, in the main minutes of TD meetings, which my organization then had to formally direct as CCNs [Contract Change Notices] to the contracts, so that they could, you know, properly be embraced in the contractual structure. Some of them resulted in spec changes. Some of them resulted in man-hour considerations that were important to the contractors.

COLLINS: Now, again, using the B-52 as an example, or any of these earlier weapons systems that you can think of and were familiar with, was there some kind of technical direction clause in the prime contractor's contract and the subcontractor's contract indicating that they needed to take technical direction from the prime contractor?

PHILLIPS: The answer is no, but the way you ask the question, "clauses in a prime contractor's contract with the subcontractor"--that was a contract-subcontract arrangement that was up to the prime contractor to write. In other words, the Air Force didn't have to.

COLLINS: I guess it's probably important to distinguish between two classes: the subcontractors of the prime contractor, and then those other contractors who were furnishing government-furnished equipment to the prime contractors.

PHILLIPS: Okay. Then the answer to that question is, no, there was not a technical direction clause in any sense like the one in the ballistic missile contracts. In the case of say the B-52, where Boeing was the prime contractor, the engines were on separate contract from Wright Field with Pratt and Whitney, and if a change in the engine originating in Pratt and Whitney or a change in the airplane originating in Boeing required a change in the other, that had to process through the Air Force, and be then considered, decided, and directed on the other contractor. That's a considerable difference then in industrial contractor relations.

COLLINS: Okay. In part, one difference seems to be, and I think you implied this, is that the apparatus that was set up on the Air Force side and STL was in part to build up an organization that the prime contractor had as a matter of course in implementing a prime contract. That since you didn't have that capability, you had to build it up.


COLLINS: That seems like a good observation.

PHILLIPS: That's true. See, one point I want to make although it's a bit afield from the immediate discussion, but in a larger philosophical sense, the evolution of organization hierarchy and bureaucracy really worked also in the ballistic missile program. We were talking about the development of the process and procedures for system engineering, configuration control, program planning and control. By the time I left the missile program at the end of '63 to go to NASA and really took with me these same fundamental approaches to develop and work into the NASA programs, in that same period of the latter part of the sixties, the Air Force took those same processes and procedures and worked to institutionalize them to be required across the board in all Air Force programs. It became, at one point, the Air Force's 400 Series Regulations, which were an elaborate set of regs and documents that would set up this whole same hierarchy across the Air Force programs. And my impression in later years is that the Air Force went too far in requiring in detail the adoption of these processes and procedures, and that, I think, in itself was part of the evolution over some period of years that caused the process to become overly bureaucratic. That's a digression, but I just wanted to make that point, my point being that I observed a tendency of evolution that tends to become over-requiring in the implementation of good things. I'm not saying it very well, but I'll quit with that.

COLLINS: I guess one might chalk this up to the nature of bureaucracies, but there's also I guess a sense of doing this kind of thing as a way of covering yourself. Did you detect that as part of the motivation? I mean one can always point to procedures as a way of saying, we've done our job.

PHILLIPS: Right. Sure. There's bound to be an element of that. But I got a little off the track.

COLLINS: I think maybe the thing to do here is to set aside this question of differences, and when you go back and take a look at the transcript, just kind of keep it in mind and perhaps you can add some thoughts or clarify our discussion here. But there's a sense in which, to the degree I've looked at this, that there was at least a formalization of procedures, some increased thinking about setting down in a rigorous way how you do the job, and a recognition that new approaches were required for handling some of these things. I'm just trying to get a sense of what the degree of the leap was from what existed before to what happened during the ballistic missile program, and then perhaps we can return to that maybe with some more specific examples at a later time because I think, as you pointed out, it's cogent to what happens in NASA when you go in there, because you're carrying something with you when you go over there, in terms of how you see a job getting done. What were some of the major technical problems that you had to grapple with in the Minuteman program?

PHILLIPS: There were several. One of the major technical problems was developing what at that time were large solid rocket engines. The technical approach that was taken was to design the stage so that it had four nozzles, and those four nozzles were swiveled to vector the thrust. I've kind of forgotten the dimensions, but I believe the first-stage engine was of the order of six feet in diameter, with these four nozzles at the base, and those four nozzles as I say with mechanisms so that they could be swiveled, and therefore with mechanisms to provide the force to move them. So here you have this large solid drain burning and you had to provide sufficient insulation in this whole base structure to protect the parts from heat and erosion. And I can still remember just endless meetings with Bob Anderson, who was the STL propulsion chief, in which he was describing the latest configuration of insulation and propellant and bonding and all the other things to get all of this assembly working, and over a period of several months, evolving design and test.

    My recollection is, it was of the order of a year or a year plus from when we were scheduled to have our first operational missiles in the field. That date had been set early on as October of '62, which incidentally is exactly four years from when the contracts were let. With somewhere in the region of a year to go till the operational date, it seemed fairly clear to me that we ultimately would perfect the design to have a reliable first-stage engine that would meet all these performance requirements, but that we were not likely to get it done to support that schedule. So I can recall directing and going through a series of studies, deliberations, of what fallback alternatives we had. In other words, we were trying to figure out how much we could deliver by the required date in the way of first-stage propulsion performance. And our spec requirement was fifty-five hundred nautical miles range, and I've forgotten now the numbers, but it was probably more like forty-five hundred that we concluded that we could really make reliably with something that really would work for the initial operational date.

    So I remember putting that whole story together and taking it into Washington, into the Ballistic Missile Committee which was our mechanism for dealing with substantive questions, and presenting this whole story and trade-offs, and part of the trade-off was to locate the initial operational unit in northern latitudes and at a higher elevation, which was a major factor in picking Great Falls or Malstrom Air Force Base as the first base. You can appreciate in that period that SAC was working, driving hard to get into more moderate climates for their troops. And you remember I guess it was Wing Four we put at Wideman in Missouri. They had of course had a taste of--well, you know, they put Titans in Arizona and so on. So there were obvious reasons why SAC would want to get out of the northern latitudes.

    Well, the point I'm making is that in going over this whole story and set of trade-offs with the Ballistic Missile Committee, some decisions were actually made in that set of meetings. That we would locate at Malstrom and take advantage of the latitude and the elevation. We'd settle for the first wing configuration being short of performance, short in the total spec sense, but quite adequate with those trade-offs. So there was a major technical problem, and the trade-off deliberations, and an immediate decision and action to go do it. So there's one.

COLLINS: I'm not familiar with the Ballistic Missile Committee. This was some kind of advisory organization?

PHILLIPS: No. No, that's part of what I mentioned earlier as the so-called Gillette procedures. What was established was an organization called the Ballistic Missile Committee. It was chaired by the Air Force Secretary. The members of the committee were the Air Force chief of staff or the key assistant secretaries and the key deputy chiefs of staff, and that was officially called the Air Force Ballistic Missile Committee, and it was the authoritative, all-powerful. You know, they had the power and authority to decide and act. Typically the Ballistic Missile Committee would meet once a month, and typically the commander BMD and the key program director would travel to Washington, give a briefing, a report, each of us report. I can still remember Chris Tadoro, Wetzel, and me in sequence, Atlas, Titan, and Minuteman. There were certain things that were required to be covered, and the purpose of it was a "how goes it?" report, and a forum in which you could deal with problems. So when we faced that problem I mentioned of being able to go operational on schedule, but with some shortfall in performance as a trade-off, that was the story that I took to the Ballistic Missile Committee. Organizationally, what that did was to implement the practice of the program director being able to talk directly to the Air Force Secretary on any occasion that was required, which was a part of the ballistic missile so-called Gillette procedures process.

COLLINS: I think that's an important point.

PHILLIPS: Oh, very important.

COLLINS: So how did Bennie Schriever fit into this?

PHILLIPS: By then, by the time I was Minuteman program director, Schriever was commander ARDC and located at Andrews. And Schriever was either an official member or regarded as one of the Ballistic Missile Committee, so whenever we came in from out here in California, Schriever would go over and be present in those meetings.

COLLINS: I guess my point here is how did the director of the Ballistic Missile Division relate to this procedure? The program managers would go and talk to the Ballistic Missile Committee.

PHILLIPS: What we're talking about is very much embodied in the "controversy" over how the Packard Commission process is supposed to be implemented and work. Some of these same kinds of problems. In a strictly official sense, any of us program directors, any of the three of us, had direct access to the Air Force Secretary if we needed it. I don't recall ever using it, in the sense of picking up the phone and calling him, but I had always presumably had that ability. That created major problems in the air staff, because for a period of two or three years, my first two or three years in the Minuteman program, we really literally had nothing to do with the air staff. That really created major problems for them, because their connection with all of this was through their deputy chiefs of staff sitting in on these Ballistic Missile Committee meetings. So you can guess that the Air Force comptroller, from a money standpoint, and the Air Force structure people were very much out of the loop, and this created major problems for the air staff. The ARDC headquarters was totally out of the loop, and that was by Schriever's design. We never went into Andrews to talk to them. Out here at Ballistic Missile Division, as I've said, Schriever had left here by then and Ozzie Ritland was commander and Terry Terhune was his deputy. Our working relations out here were just automatically simple. I was meeting frequently with Terhune or Ritland, and remember, these Black Saturday sessions that we had. My recollection, which I think is right, is that we were having those every Saturday, at least in my first two or three years in Minuteman.

    So the kind of problem I'm talking about would evolve, in the sense of within BMD, not necessarily over any very long period of time, but typically by the time we got to one of these say monthly meetings of the Ballistic Missile Committee, which were regular, or a special one which we occasionally had, like on this problem I mentioned. Either Ritland or Terhune would go along with us when we flew in. We had a Convair airplane, and I remember we'd typically get on it in the late evening. It was an overnight flight then into Washington for the Ballistic Missile Committee meeting the following day. Long answer, but we worked very closely within BMD. But the staffs at ARDC and at the air staff were very much out of the loop, and that did create problems.

COLLINS: You indicated that Schriever had in part intended it to be that way. I guess one of the questions that's interesting to me is, how could he establish a kind of semi-independent sphere within the Air Force? That's the way it appears. Is that a correct assumption?


COLLINS: How was that possible?

PHILLIPS: It was possible because of the way in which the program was originally conceived and implemented and directed. Schriever's the expert, and he can tell you. You really ought to meet with him on this. I think it was von Neumann's committee which reported out to establish technical feasibility.


PHILLIPS: And the von Neumann committee, not only in reporting that it was technically feasible to build this monster, he said, "Also, another important conclusion, that if you're going to do it, you've got to set up special management procedures that do certain kinds of things." I've forgotten what they were. And here, I'm not too familiar with the exact mechanism, but a committee. See Talbott was Air Force Secretary in that period, if I recall.


PHILLIPS: And the Assistant Secretary for R&D, Trevor Gardner, was a key player in all this. They set up a committee, and I think it was chaired by somebody named Gillette. I don't even know who he is now that I've mentioned him. He took this von Neumann conclusion that if you're going to do this you've got to set up a special management procedure and gave it then some dimensions. And the dimensions were: you've got to empower the people who are going to direct the program for you so they can do it. They've got to have access to the top authorities so they can get decisions when they're required, whether it's money or whatever. And that was called the Gillette procedures.

    So that's how it came about, and then to some extent the White House was involved. Eisenhower was President in this period. I don't know the details of that. Schriever could recall it. But clearly the Secretary of Defense and the Secretary of the Air Force were involved, and the directions to establish WDD and to establish these special procedures were issued from the top. So that's how it all came about.

COLLINS: Was it a question of procedures and organizing it in such a way that the organization can do what it's intended to do? But it also sounds as if there was an absence of general communication about the progress and character of the program. Is that what you were implying as well?

PHILLIPS: There's an element of that. There's an element of that. But I think another important philosophical element is that major radical changes in approach to warfare or weaponry very often have to be seen and directed from the top, as opposed to evolution from the bottom. And that's what happened here. This is where national leaders see a change in weaponry that, at least within the Air Force, was clearly not thrown up from the bottom. There was quite a period of time in which SAC under [Curtis] LeMay's leadership was absolutely opposed to ballistic missiles, even into the period when I was Minuteman program director. Somewhere in that period, I guess LeMay saw enough of the light to let some changes occur. Up to some point, Schriever, as commander of Ballistic Missile Division, was responsible for the initial operational period of the IOC of the Atlas at least. Schriever could enlighten you on that. But things were changing by the time I came in, in '59, and by then we had an organization of SAC people living with us up here in Inglewood. It was called SAC-MIC. It was headed by--I've forgotten whether he was a colonel or by then a BG, who I'd served with in the 7th Air Division--Red Moore, was that his name?

COLLINS: I don't know.

PHILLIPS: But he headed the liaison group from SAC. We were talking about special procedures in the Air Force to get a major job done. I think the really important philosophical point is this business of radical change requiring vision at the top and direction from the top, as opposed to evolution from the bottom. You think of B-52s, B-70s, B-1s, B-2s as being evolution? I do anyway. You think of introducing ballistic missiles as being a whole new sphere. I guess within the Army the evolution was more nearly coming up from the bottom. You know, the artillery men were trying to push for that role.

COLLINS: That's an interesting point. I don't want to take this too far, but in the case of ARDC, was Schriever's concern possibly that they would be "obstructionist" to this new program, and that was one of the reasons for not keeping them informed?

PHILLIPS: Well, I think, you'd have to ask him really why he did this. I think that he really felt that they really couldn't add any value. In other words, I believe he felt that his ARDC staff would essentially not add value by being in series with the program review kinds of considerations. In a command sense, Schriever's vice commander was Jim Ferguson, and Jim Ferguson later wound up as DCS R&D, and then later he was commander, systems command. Ritland and the staff of BMD clearly were working with Ferguson and the key staff at Andrews in ARDC, in regard to say manpower and personnel matters and budgets and all of those kinds of things, which were working well. That's different, however, than the program people having to deal through the part of the ARDC staff that was concerned with programs. We just plain didn't do that.

COLLINS: Okay. I think that gives me a pretty good sense of where the Ballistic Missile Committee fits in and some of the rationale for it. Our discussion that led up to that was the examination of particular problems that were in the program.

PHILLIPS: Yes. There were a number, and let me mention one other. Of major importance was the first Minuteman launch from a silo at Cape Canaveral, 404. It was the fourth flight of Minuteman. The first three had been from surface pads: 401, 2, 3, where the missile was sitting on a mound on the surface and launched. They were eminently successful. Four-zero-four was the first one to be flown from a silo, and it came out of that silo like a Roman candle, in thousands of pieces, just literally like a Roman candle spewing out of that silo. So you can imagine the scope of the technical problem that we faced with that.

COLLINS: You mean in assessing the failure?

PHILLIPS: Yes. So we were fortunate that the guidance and control section, which was a section about three feet in diameter and three or so feet high, was a cylinder which was sitting up at the top of the third stage under the RV, that there was enough of it left that we could do some assessing of it. What we were able to determine was that the vibration of the launch environment had caused some solder tabs--if you visualize a whole ring with wires coming out to be mounted on tabs to be soldered so you can get your cables and so on--that the vibration had caused these solder tabs to cause some short circuits and electrical malfunctions in a way that literally fired all the discretes in the system at once, the discretes being the signals that triggered staging and ignition of engines and even range safety devices to blow it up, you know. So everything went off at once.

COLLINS: I guess in a positive sense you could look at it as, everything worked at once.

PHILLIPS: Yes. So I can remember one of the culmination meetings of that up here in Inglewood, where we had John Moore, who headed Autonetics and North American, his program manager Ernie Youngman. I think we might even have had T. Wilson down from Boeing, and of course the STL and Air Force hierarchy. And in that conference room we had this corpus delicti, you know, the guidance cam mounted on a conference table or something as exhibit one. I think of it in retrospect as being more of a fun meeting than I'm sure it was at the time. But in that meeting the details were reviewed by STL, I guess, and the action plan was discussed and decided on, to get things fixed.

COLLINS: It led to some change in the manufacturing process?

PHILLIPS: Yes. Sure. And some retesting.

COLLINS: Now I think the Minuteman was one of the first of themissiles that had inertial guidance. Were there special problems or issues about that?

PHILLIPS: Yes. Yes, there were. The instruments for the inertial guidance had to be designed with special consideration, because the job of the Minuteman was to sit on strategic alert for years on end to be ready to fire within thirty seconds of a signal to fire. So the guidance system had to be up and running all the time.

     The typical approach to inertial reference instruments of course is spinning gyros, and in the case of Minuteman, a different approach had been taken. This was an invention of Autonetics, North American. Instead of a gyroscope it was a vibrating string accelerometer, what amounted to a wire vibrating, instead of a spinning gyro. So the accelerometers, to sense motion in the different planes, were these vibrating string instruments, which proved to be somewhat difficult to develop so that it would meet the precision requirements. But it was successful and did work quite well. But the guidance people, people like Burnett and Duffy and others and John Moore, that were intimately involved in this development can tell you all kinds of horror stories that somehow got solved without me being involved.

COLLINS: I guess that raises the question of the level of problem that came to your attention, that you had to deal with. Clearly there were a number of technical issues and problems all the time. How did things come up to you? What sort of things required your attention?

PHILLIPS: Well, I guess in a formal sense, any problem that was going to impact on the formally established major milestones, or the formally established major budget constraints, had to come to me in some fashion. So you know, that's sort of the obvious answer as to why did this first-stage problem use up so much of my time. So that's I think the formal answer, that anything that would impact a major milestone or a budget or a major technical performance parameter like range or accuracy would have to come to me.

I might add that in a working sense, again largely forced by these Black Saturday sessions--I still think they were weekly--that we had pretty in-depth reviews in each of the major technical areas of the program. For the Minuteman portion of that Black Saturday review, the briefers would typically be me and say Bob Bennett in the early period, and Bob would typically pick whatever was the major thing that was going on in that particular period, whether it was an engine or guidance or something, and have that program manager, like Bob Anderson or Bob Burnett, give a report on that. So in a working sense, we were keeping up with a lot of in-depth stuff which in a formal sense wouldn't necessarily have had to be occupying my time.

COLLINS: Okay. Maybe this is a good place to break off.

PHILLIPS: All right.

Phillips 3 || Phillips 5

Rev. 09/06/96

© 1996 National Air and Space Musuem