Concurrency

Rapid development of ICBMs required parallel development of all system ele­ments, regardless of their technological maturity. Schriever called this con­currency, a handy word that meant that managers telescoped several typically serial activities into parallel ones. In serial development, research led to ini­tial design, which led to prototype creation, testing, and manufacturing. Once the new weapon was manufactured, the operational units developed main­tenance and training methods to use it. Under concurrency, these elements overlapped. Schriever did not invent the process but rather coined the term as a way of explaining the process to outsiders.64

Schriever’s version of concurrency combined concepts learned over the previous decade. Parallel development had been practiced during World War II on the Manhattan and B-29 projects. Management structured around the product instead of by discipline had also been used on these projects. The combination of ARDC and AMC officers into a project-based office was a method applied since 1952, and Schriever’s use of R-W to perform systems analyses like the Atlas’s nose cone design had also been foreshadowed by the RAND Corporation’s development of systems analysis after World War II. Schriever claimed that concurrency was a new process. But was it?

One difference was that in the 1950s parallel development, once a wartime expedient, became a peacetime activity. With Congress exercising detailed oversight typical of peacetime, Schriever had to explain his processes in more detail than his wartime predecessors had. As Secretary of the Air Force James Douglas later told Congress, ‘‘I am entirely ready to express the view that.. . you have to subordinate the expenditure… to the urgency of looking to the end result.’’ Or as Gardner succinctly stated, ‘‘We have to buy time with money.’’ The term ‘‘concurrency’’ helped explain and justify their actions to higher authorities.65

A second major difference was in the nature of the technologies to be inte-

Concurrency. Adapted from Benjamin N. Bellis, L/Col USAF Office DCS/ Systems, ‘‘The Requirements for Configuration Management During Con­currency,” in AFSC Management Conference, Air Force Systems Command, Andrews Air Force Base, Washington, D. C., AFHRA Microfilm 26254, 5-24-3.

grated into ICBMs. In pre-World War II bombers, for example, engineers simply mounted machine guns at open side windows. However, with the B-29 bomber, and for postwar aircraft, operators maneuvered machine guns with servomechanisms within a pressurized bubble, itself part of the airframe. Similarly, missiles had to be built with all elements planned and coordinated with each other from the start. Postwar weapons were far more complex than their prewar counterparts and more complex than the nuclear weapons of the Manhattan Project. Concurrency in the Cold War required far more detailed planning than previous concurrent approaches.

One application of concurrency was in selection of contractors for Atlas, and then for Titan and Thor. R-W performed the technical evaluations and gave input to ad hoc teams of WDD and SAPO personnel. The AMC-ARDC committees selected which companies they would ask to bid, evaluated the bids, and selected a second contractor for some subsystems. Selecting a con­current contractor increased chances of technical success, stimulated better contractor performance by threatening a competitive contract if the first con­tractor performed poorly, and kept contractors working while the air force made decisions. To speed development, the SAPO issued letter contracts, de­ferring contract negotiations until later. In January 1955, the SAPO formal­ized the ad hoc committees, which became the AMC-ARDC Source Selection Board.66

To maximize flexibility and speed, Schriever initially organized the WDD with disciplinary divisions modeled on academia. Only in 1956 did the pro­liferation of projects lead him to create WSPOs for each project, consisting of AMC and ARDC representatives, as required by the weapon system con­cept. Until that time, most work occurred through ad hoc teams led by officers to whom Schriever had assigned the responsibility and authority for the task at hand. For example, when the WDD began to develop design criteria for facilities in March 1955, Schriever named Col. Charles Terhune, his technical deputy, ‘‘team captain’’ for the task. He also requested that R-W personnel as­sist. Terhune then led an ad hoc group to accomplish the task, and that group dissolved upon task completion.67

The fluid nature of the ad hoc groups and committees may well have maxi­mized speed, but they also played havoc with standard procedures of the rest of the air force, which after all had to support ICBM development. Schriever initiated a series of coordination meetings with AMC, Strategic Air Com­mand, air force headquarters, and other commands in December 1954. After the December meeting, the AMC Council decided it needed quarterly reports from the WDD to keep abreast of events. Over the next six months, AMC planning groups bickered with WDD personnel over reporting and support, as AMC needed information for personnel and logistics planning. AMC tried to plan tasks from Wright Field, whereas the WDD (and soon the SAPO) ac­complished planning rapidly on-site, with little documentation or formality. AMC accused the WDD of refusing to provide the necessary data, whereas the WDD accused AMC officers of a lack of interest.

Disturbed because Schriever’s crew had neither WSPOs nor Weapon Sys­tem Phasing Groups (normally used to coordinate logistics), AMC had some reason to complain. As stated by the assistant for development programming, Brig. Gen. Ben Funk, ‘‘The normal organizational mechanisms and proce­dures for collecting and disseminating weapon system planning during the weapon system development phase did not exist,’’ leading to gaps in the flow of information necessary for coordination. By the summer of 1955, SAPO per­sonnel at the WDD made concerted efforts to pass information to AMC head­quarters and to bring AMC planning information into the WDD.68

Schriever’s need for speed led to extensive use of letter contracts through 1954 and 1955. Procurement officials in the SAPO and technical officers in

the WDD realized that they needed to track expenditures relative to technical progress, but the rapid pace of the program and the lack of documentation quickly led to a financial and contractual morass. Complicated by the WDD’s lack of personnel and the new process of working with R-W to issue technical directives, contractual problems became a major headache for the SAPO and AMC and another source of friction between Schriever and AMC leaders.69

The SAPO had authority to negotiate and administer contracts but initially lacked the personnel to administer them over the long term. Instead, SAPO personnel reassigned administration to the field offices of other commands ‘‘through special written agreements.’’70 This complicated arrangement led to trouble. Part of the problem was the difficulty of integrating R-W into the management of the program. R-W had authority to issue contractually bind­ing ‘‘technical directives’’ to the contractors, but instead of using these, R-W personnel sometimes ‘‘used the technical directive as a last resort, preferring persuasion first through either periodic meetings with contractor person­nel or person-to-person visits between R-W and contractor personnel.’’ This meant that many design changes occurred with no legal or contractual docu­mentation. Because officers in the SAPO did not have enough personnel to monitor all meetings between R-W and the contractors and were not initially included in the ‘‘technical directive coordination cycle,’’ matters soon got out of hand.71

This problem emerged during contract negotiations, as SAPO procure­ment officers and the contractors unearthed numerous mismatches between the official record of technical directives and the actual contractor tasks and designs. As differences emerged, costs spiraled upward, leaving huge cost overruns that could not be covered by any existing or planned funding. A committee appointed to investigate the problem concluded in June 1956 that ‘‘almost everyone concerned had been more interested in getting his work done fast than in observing regulations.’’ It took the committee some­what more than six months to establish revised procedures acceptable to all parties.72

The initial application of concurrency in Schriever’s triad of the WDD, the SAPO, and R-W sped ICBM development but also spread confusion, dis­rupted communications with other organizations, and created a mountain of contractual, financial, and, as we shall see, technical problems. Flexible com­mittees flicked in and out of existence, while supporting organizations out­side of Schriever’s group struggled to acquire the information they needed to assist. The strategy of parallel development, separated from the air force’s normal routine, produced quick results, but the mounting confusion begged for a stronger management scheme than ad hoc committees.

Conclusion

World War II and the Cold War enabled the military to consolidate and ex­tend its relationships with both academia and industry. When in 1947 the Pro­curement Act gave the DOD the permanent authority to negotiate contracts, military officers enlisted the support of academia and industry. Air force offi­cers such as Hap Arnold, Donald Putt, and Bernard Schriever used scientists to create a technologically competent and powerful air force. Two models for relationships between the air force and the scientists evolved. First, RAND, the SAB, and the RDB continued the voluntary association of scientists with the military, as had occurred in World War II. However, the DCS/D and ARDC represented new air force efforts to gain control over the scientists through a standard air force hierarchy. Both models would continue into the future. Through these organizations and their personnel, air force officers hoped to develop the air force of the future.

When ICBMs became a possibility in late 1953, Schriever capitalized on his scientific connections, urging John von Neumann to head the Teapot Com­mittee, which recommended that ICBMs be developed with the utmost speed and urgency. While Schriever and Assistant Secretary of the Air Force Trevor Gardner maneuvered behind the scenes to promote ICBMs, the Teapot Com­mittee recommended the creation of a scientific organization on the Los Ala­mos model to recruit scientists to run the ICBM program. Unsure of the in­dustry’s capability to develop the Atlas ICBM, Schriever and Gardner hired R-W to serve as the technical direction contractor, an adviser to air force offi­cers, and a technical watchdog over the contractors.

Feeling bogged down in ‘‘Wright Field procedures,’’ external approvals, and funding difficulties, Schriever and Gardner appealed to President Eisen­hower to break the logjam. The president complied, and so Schriever, armed with a presidential directive, hand-picked a committee to develop procedures that gave him the authority to acquire the services he needed from the air force without having to answer to the air force. The Gillette Procedures carved out a space in which Schriever, his officers, and scientific allies could craft their own development methods, largely separated from the air force’s standard processes.

Under ‘‘concurrency,’’ Schriever’s complex of the WDD, the SAPO, and R-W created and adopted a number of methods to speed ICBM development. With funding a nonissue, these organizations and their contractors tossed aside standard regulations and developed alternate technical systems such as the Titan ICBM to ensure success. The air force’s regular methods, based on academic-style disciplinary groups, no longer sufficed. Schriever broke away from dependence on Wright Field’s technical groups and committees, but in the first years of ICBM development, he merely substituted his own officers and contractors, unencumbered by paperwork. The WDD, the SAPO, and R-W recreated an ICBM-oriented Wright Field on the West Coast, albeit with­out the years of history and bureaucracy.

The proof of their efforts would come when ICBM testing began in the late 1950s. As long as the Cold War remained hot and his scientific friends de­livered technical success, Schriever could sustain concurrency. Unfortunately, tests would show that these new wonder weapons had major problems. Under these circumstances, politicians and managers would rein in the rapidly mov­ing ICBM programs, replacing Schriever’s all-out concurrency with a new, centralized bureaucracy that incorporated some of the key lessons of ICBM development.

THREE

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