Establishing the WDDS Authority

With Schriever’s organizational foundations set, the immediate task was to push ICBM development rapidly forward and create a detailed plan within a year. Headquarters control and oversight would come through the budget process, so Schriever knew that until he had his plans worked out, he had to keep the budget profile low. He reallocated budgets from several air force organizations and was careful not to ask for too much at the start. Over the long haul, Schriever knew that the massive budget that he needed would re­quire congressional appropriations and that he would have to vigorously de­fend his plan and its costs. To put off this day of reckoning, in October 1954 he requested a relatively small budget, realizing that there would have to be a major readjustment in the spring. ‘‘This support can be obtained by carefully planned and formalized action at the highest levels in the administration,’’ he recognized. In this breathing space, he developed his technical plans, costs, justifications, and political strategy.52

Selection of Atlas contractors was the next task of Schriever’s team. With the design still in flux, this would have to be done based on company capabili­ties instead of design competitions. Bypassing standard procurement regula­tions, Schriever ordered R-W to let subcontracts to potential suppliers to in­volve them in and educate them on the program. This allowed R-W to assess contractors as well as speed development and procurement. Schriever could not ignore all of the air force’s procurement procedures. He had his team cre­ate performance specifications and perform “prebidding activities’’ to pre­pare for a competitive bidder’s conference. Because of the in-depth knowledge R-W had gained through its subcontracts, Schriever had R-W contribute to the Source Selection Boards, providing inputs as requested by the air force. This was a serious (and possibly illegal) departure from standard procure­ment policy, which required that only government officials control contractor selection.53

Schriever directed R-W and his air force team to reassess the Atlas de­sign and to determine Convair’s role. Convair, which had been developing Atlas since January 1946, understandably believed that it deserved the prime contract to build, integrate, and test the vehicle. It vigorously campaigned against Schriever and the upstart R-W. Convair’s leaders sparred with Schrie – ver’s organization for the next few months before they resigned themselves to R-W’s presence. To appease the air force’s scientific advisers, and to gain electronics capability, Convair executives hired highly educated scientists and engineers. For his part, Schriever placed restrictions on R-W to maintain some semblance of support from the aircraft industry. In a memo dated Feb­ruary 24,1955, the air force prohibited R-W from engaging in hardware pro­duction on any ICBM program in which it acted as the air force’s adviser and systems engineer.54

R-W had three tasks: to establish and operate the facilities for the Ingle­wood complex, to assess contractor capabilities, and to investigate the Atlas design. R-W made its first important contribution in the design task. The re­quired mass and performance of the missile depended upon the size of the warhead and the reentry vehicle, for small changes in their mass led to large changes in the required launch vehicle mass. Working with the Atomic Energy Commission and other scientists, R-W scientists and engineers found that a new blunt cone design decreased the nose cone’s weight by half, from about 7,000 to 3,500 pounds. This in turn decreased required launch vehicle weight from 460,000 to 240,000 pounds and reduced the number of engines from five to three. This dramatic improvement discredited Convair’s claim to expertise and convinced Schriever, his team, and his superior officers that the selection of R-W had been correct.55

The most significant technical issue facing Schriever’s group in the fall and winter of 1954 was the uncertainty of the design. Group members simply could not predict which parts of the design would work and which might not. R-W had been investigating a two-stage vehicle, and the initial results looked promising. In March 1955, Schriever convinced Lt. General Thomas Power,

Pre-Gillette organization of ballistic missile development.

the ARDC commander, that a two-stage vehicle should be developed as a backup to Atlas. By May 1955, the WDD was working on Atlas, the two-stage Titan, and a tactical ballistic missile (ultimately known as Thor) as well.56

In the meantime, Schriever considered how best to fund the program. One possibility was to allocate the funds to a number of different budgets, then pull them back together in Schriever’s group. This approach would hide the true budget amounts from effective oversight. However, the budgets required were too large to hide in this manner. With programmatic invisibility un­likely, Schriever’s deputy, William Sheppard, argued that the best approach was to have a “separately justified and separately managed lump sum.’’57

Schriever had already discussed this approach with Gardner, and the two of them plotted a political strategy. Many of Schriever’s budget actions required coordination with and justification to various organizations. Frustrated with the delays inherent in this coordination, Gardner and Schriever decided that they had to increase Schriever’s authority and funding and decrease the num­ber of organizations that could oversee and delay ICBM development. Both Schriever and Gardner recognized that they needed political support, so they vigorously sought it in Congress and within the Eisenhower administration. Gardner and Schriever briefed President Dwight D. Eisenhower in July 1955, eventually convincing him and Vice President Richard M. Nixon — with John von Neumann’s timely support — to make ICBMs the nation’s top defense priority.58

With the president’s endorsement in hand by September, Schriever pre­sented to Gardner the entire air force approval process, which required 38 air force and DOD approvals or concurrences for the development of ICBM testing facilities. Appalled, Gardner had him show it to Secretary of the Air Force Donald Quarles, who asked them to recommend changes to reduce the paperwork and delays. Gardner and Schriever formed a study group, load­ing it, as Schriever put it later, ‘‘pretty much with people who knew and who would come up with the right answers.’’ Hyde Gillette, the deputy for budget and program management in the Office of the Secretary of Defense, chaired the group, which was to recommend management changes to speed ballistic missile development.59

Despite objections from AMC, which did not want to lose any more au­thority, the Gillette Committee agreed with Schriever that the multiple ap­provals and reporting lines caused months of delay. In consequence, the ‘‘Gillette Procedures,’’ approved by Secretary of Defense Charles Wilson on

Ballistic missile organization — Gillette Procedures. Solid lines with arrows show the direct chain of authority. The air force’s commands have no authority over ballistic missile development, and the Air Staff has input only through the Department of Defense Ballistic Missile Committee.

November 8,1955, funneled all ballistic missile decisions through a single Bal­listic Missile Committee in the Office of the Secretary of Defense. Although evading ARDC and AMC for approvals and decisions, Schriever’s organiza­tion needed to provide them information. Schriever stated: ‘‘We had to give them information because they provide a lot of support, you see, so it wasn’t the fact that we were trying to bypass them. We just didn’t want to have a lot of peons at the various staff levels so they could get their fingers on it.’’60 The Ballistic Missile Committee reviewed an annual ICBM development plan, and the Office of the Secretary of Defense would present, approve, and fund the ICBM program separately from the air force’s regular procedures. In the development plan would be information on programming (linking plans to budgets), facilities, testing, personnel, aircraft allocation, financial plans, and current status. By 1958, AMC managers had trimmed industrial facility lead time from 251 to 43 days, showing the effectiveness of the new process.61

The Gillette Procedures relegated AMC, ARDC, and the operational com­mands to aiding the ICBM program, without the authority to change or delay it. From a parochial air force viewpoint, the only good thing about the pro­gram was that the completed missiles would eventually become part of the Strategic Air Command. Many in the air force did not take ballistic mis­siles seriously enough to fight for control over them. Col. Ray Soper, one of Schriever’s trusted subordinates, noted that ‘‘the Ops [operational com­mands] attitude, at the Pentagon, was to let the ‘longhairs’ develop the sys­tem — they really didn’t take a very serious view of the ballistic missile, for it was thought to be more a psychological weapon than anything else.’’62

With the adoption of the Gillette Procedures, Schriever garnered authority directly from the president, with a single approval of a single document each year required for ICBM development. Schriever’s organization drew upon the best personnel and air force services, without having them interfere with his authority or decision processes. These new procedures represented the first full application of project management in the air force, where the project manager had both technical and budget authority for the project. Prior to this time, each project drew funds from several budgets and thus required separate justifications for each. The Gillette Procedures made the air force’s financial and accounting system consistent with the authority of the project manager, although Gardner was unable to separate the ICBM budgets from the rest of the air force.63 With these procedures in hand, Convair and the contractors under control, and the air force’s regular bureaucracy shunted out of the way, Schriever drove the ICBM program at full speed, with little heed to cost, using the strategy of concurrency.