The United States Air Force and the Culture of Innovation, 1945-1965

The United States Air Force and the Culture of Innovation, 1945-1965

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Professor Stephen B. Johnson demonstrates in fine detail how the application of systems management by the United States Air Force to its ballistic missiles and computer programs not only produced critical new weapons, but also benefited American industry. Systems management harmonized the disparate goals of four interest groups. For the military it brought rapid technological progress; for scientists, new products; for engineers, dependability; and for managers, predictable cost. The process evolved, beginning shortly after the end of World War II, when Gen. Henry H. "Hap" Arnold directed that the Army Air Forces (later the U.S. Air Force) continue its wartime collaboration with the scientific community. This started as a voluntary association, with the establishment of the Scientific Advisory Board and Project RAND. In the early 1950s, the Air Force reorganized its research and development (R&D) function with the creation of Air Research and Development Command (ARDC) and the Air Staff's office of deputy chief of staff for development (DCS/D), which were both aimed at controlling the scientists. The systems management approach evolved out of a jurisdictional conflict between ARDC and its rival, Air Materiel Command (AMC). The latter controlled R&D finances and was determined not to relinquish its prerogatives. Of course, ARDC argued that this was a case of having responsibility without the requisite authority. At first represented by Gen. Bernard A. Schriever's ballistic missiles program, ARDC bypassed traditional organizational structures. Schriever's Western Development Division (WDD), located at Inglewood, California, made its case, based upon the Soviet Union's nuclear threat, to engage in the race to develop longrange ballistic missiles. Ultimately, Schriever's new project management and weapons systems procedures-concurrency-produced a family of missile and space vehicles. However, in bypassing administrative red tape, this development also eliminated some necessary checks and balances that led to a series of flight test failures and cost overruns. Closely related to the missiles program was the air defense effort, centered at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) in Boston. Dr. Jay Forrester's Project Whirlwind evolved into large-scale, real-time computers. Again, as with the missiles program, once the Cold War waned, the government's emphasis shifted to cost control. When Schriever assumed command of ARDC, he transplanted his successful Inglewood model to all major weapons systems acquisition. Ironically, in the early 1960s, Secretary of Defense Robert S. McNamara appropriated Schriever's procedures, using them to wield ever greater centralized control. Dr. Johnson shows that Air Force procedures were not only highly successful in terms of meeting the challenges of the Cold War, but also that their adoption by American industry propelled the nation to international prominence in aerospace and computing. Finally, he argues that while aerospace had experienced somewhat more difficulty adapting to consumer products than did the computer industry, the full implications of systems management were yet to be seen by the end of the Cold more

Product details

  • Paperback | 302 pages
  • 178 x 254 x 16mm | 531g
  • Createspace Independent Publishing Platform
  • United States
  • English
  • black & white illustrations
  • 1508712794
  • 9781508712794