HHR-32 NASA Office of Defense Affairs: The First Five Years

 

II. THE EXISTING NASA-DOD RELATIONSHIP

 

[6] The general climate of NASA-DOD relations which existed in late 1962 presented a challenge to the new Office of Defense Affairs.

Before the advent of the Space Act, a very harmonious and productive relationship had existed between the National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics (NACA) and the Military Services over a period of some forty-three years. The relationship was a simple and direct one, generally devoid of any contest in roles and missions. The NACA functioned in a supporting role, essentially conducting aeronautical RD&T when and as requested by the Military, utilizing research and test vehicles furnished by the Services.

During the hearings preliminary to the passage of the Space Act, witnesses from the Office of the Secretary of Defense (OSD) and the Services generally had not opposed the creation of a civilian space agency, regarding it as essentially an expansion of the supporting role of NACA. But when it had become evident that NASA would conduct R&D and space operations programs in its own right, opposition within the Defense Establishment had begun to crystalize.

During the final years of the NACA, the Military Services had initiated R&D programs in the new field of space. When NASA was created, the Services had been required to transfer some of this activity to the new Agency, including certain supporting facilities and teams of R&D personnel. Quite naturally, this had left some feeling within DOD that the Services had been deprived of something which was theirs by right of initiation and, in some cases, ultimate user status. This, in turn, had caused some reluctance to enter into a fully cooperative partnership of mutual support in aerospace activities, as obviously intended by the Space Act.

Twice during the first fourteen months of NASA's existence, the Administrator had proposed changes which, if adopted, would have expanded NASA's share of the total national space program at the expense of DOD. It had once been recommended that by Executive action NASA be assigned responsibility for the development of the technology of manned space flight and for the development of applications of space vehicles in the fields of communications, meteorology, geodesics, and navigation on the premise that these were applications of significance to the civilian economy. Assignment to NASA of the sole responsibility in these categories would have represented l restrictive interpretation of the provisions of the Space Act, which assigned responsibility for certain space R&D activities to the DOD. Later, the Administrator had proposed to the President that the Space Administrator to remove DOD activities in space from the context of the Act and to make NASA responsible for all of' the nation's space program, including the development of all new space vehicle systems whether for use by NASA or the Military Services. The Administrator had discussed this matter personally- with the President and had promised to discuss it with the Secretary of Defense.

[7] Resentment of these attempts by NASA to expand its area of cognizance into the military field must have lingered in the minds of those in the Defense Establishment who were aware of these moves.

In their approaches to R&D programs, there existed a fundamental difference between NASA and the DOD. NASA considered that under the provisions of the Space Act it was charged with advancement of the frontiers of science and technology without the necessity of the prior identification of applications for the new scientific knowledge and advanced technology expected from each program. It was the policy of the DOD, on the other hand, to authorize R&D programs only when a specific requirement for advanced technology in the development of an approved new weapon system could be established.

Still another factor had influenced the NASA-DOD relationship in the earlier years of the Aeronautics and Space Administration. The aeronautics side of the house had been somewhat obscured by the glamour and challenge of space. In fact, a considerable segment of the competence in aeronautical R&D which previously had existed in NACA had been siphoned off by the appeal and requirements of the new space projects, so that for the first several years of NASA, aeronautical R&D had not been receiving the same priority it previously had enjoyed, and the Services had tended to turn inward for their R&D support in aeronautics.

In manned space flight activities, the Air Force had been thwarted in its efforts during 1962 to have its own "Blue Gemini" program. Its Dyna-Soar program, designed to test the feasibility of maneuverability during reentry of a manned spacecraft, was receiving only tenuous support from OSD. (The program was ultimately canceled on December 10, 1963.) The Air Force desired a larger role in manned space flight and, whereas the Secretary of Defense had previously seen no military requirement for a man in space, he had been persuaded late in 1962 to back an Air Force attempt to take over the Gemini program, a move vigorously opposed by NASA.

Although the DOD-NASA Aeronautics and Astronautics Coordinating Board (AACB) had been in existence since September 1960, it had not appeared that there was a genuine desire on the part of the OSD to utilize the Board in maintaining a fully cooperative relationship. The DOD Co-chairman had not attended any of the six meetings of the Board held in 1962.

Contrary to the agreed rules of procedure of the AACB, members had fallen into the habit of sending subordinates to the meetings as substitutes. In general, the Board had become ineffectual in discharging its functions as the successor to the Civilian Military Liaison Committee (CMLC) established by the Space Act and was well on the way to becoming moribund.

NASA had been given to understand, through contacts with the Office of the Director of Defense Research and Engineering (DDR&E), that the Secretary of Defense disapproved of direct discussions between representatives of NASA and of the Military Services regarding the technical needs and R&D [8] support requirements of the Military. He desired that any such discussions take place only with DDR&E. We later found that it was necessary to program around this restriction to some extent in order to make the NASA R&D program as responsive as possible to the needs of the Military Services.

Another factor which must be mentioned is the relationship which existed at the level of the Administrator of NASA and the Secretary of Defense, as seen from our vantage point.

Where there are two government agencies that have responsibilities and areas of activity which to some extent overlap, that in a sense compete for budget dollars, and that are headed by two such dynamic, strong-willed, articulate men as Mr. Webb and Mr. McNamara, one should not be surprised to find conflicting policies and opinions between them. Top management of the Defense Department approached the matter of division of responsibilities and effort between the two Agencies within the framework of a policy that the Secretary of Defense should control everything contributing to national defense. Mr. Webb, with his strong, diversified background of high level experience in government (State, Treasury, and the Bureau of the Budget), took a more broadgauge approach to the roles of government agencies, being guided always by the consideration of what was in the greatest national interest.

It soon became evident to me that although President Kennedy favored a vigorous, non-military, aerospace program and had placed the full weight and prestige of his office squarely behind the national goal of a manned lunar landing, which he had initiated, the Secretary of Defense was not entirely in sympathy with the NASA program. He consistently avoided any acknowledgment that the NASA R&D program was making a contribution to national security.

As a rule, major issues stemming from these and other high policy differences were not faced up to and resolved in the National Aeronautics and Space Council by the Heads of the two Agencies, as intended under the provisions of the Space Act, although there were instances in which lesser issues were resolved by their deputies through the medium of the Council.

The attitudes of Pentagon top management toward NASA filtered down through all echelons of the Defense Establishment. As a result, some key officials in OSD and the Services, who might otherwise have been eager to capitalize on the R&D work being funded and accomplished by NASA and on the scientific and technological competence available in that Agency, appeared to be inhibited from laying before us their needs for new technology and from exploring opportunities for cross-support for fear of bringing down on their heads the ire of the Secretary of Defense. Furthermore, the then Chief of Staff of the Air Force harbored a generally adversarial attitude toward NASA. Many senior offices in the Air Force, the designated Executive Agency of the Secretary of Defense for all of the military space programs except certain relatively minor segments assigned to the Army and Navy, considered their Service to be in competition with NASA for space projects [9] and funds. At the same time, it is only fair to say that a considerable number of NASA officials were suspicious of the motives of the Military Services and were constantly on guard against expected attempts to take over space projects being pursued by NASA.

Two emotionally charged and highly controversial issues, in which I found myself immersed immediately after assuming office, presaged some of the difficulties which lay ahead. One was the management of the Gemini program, as previously alluded to, and the other the operating and funding arrangements for NASA's Merritt Island Launch Area (MILA).

 

The GEMINI Management Issue

From early in 1962, the field activities of the Air Force had been attempting without success to gain approval and backing of a "Blue Gemini" program. NASA favored increased Air Force participation in manned space flight operations and had collaborated with the Air Force Systems Command (AFSC) in drafting a plan which would have given the Air Force early manned space flight development and operational experience, preparatory to a military man-in-space program, but Air Force Headquarters and OSD had remained lukewarm on the basis that there was no clearcut military requirement for a man in space.

Nevertheless, McNamara, in joining a meeting late in 1962 at which Webb was present, had orally proposed that the NASA and Air Force manned space flight programs be combined and the entire package placed under DOD management. When NASA expressed its opposition to this idea, McNamara, by letter to Webb dated January 12, 1963, formally proposed that Project Gemini be placed under joint NASA-DOD management.

One of my first assignments was to prepare the NASA case against the DOD proposal, which had been anticipated. By the time the proposed agreement, signed by McNamara, was received, NASA was ready with a counter-proposal which we felt would meet the interests and needs of the DOD without disrupting the on-going Gemini program and jeopardizing NASA objectives. Encompassed in the NASA proposal was the establishment of a Gemini Program Planning Board (GPPB) reporting jointly to the Administrator, NASA, and the Secretary of Defense. With the help of the good offices of the Bureau of the Budget (BuBud), the NASA plan was accepted by an agreement signed by McNamara and Webb on January 21, 1963.

 

The AMR-MILA Management Issue

In early 1962, the Air Force had launched a strong campaign to absorb into the Atlantic Missile Range (AMR) the Merritt Island Launch Area being acquired by NASA for Apollo assembly, check-out, and launch operations. The basic issue had been decided in NASA's favor when Congress specified in NASA's budget authorization that the Space Agency would have [10] custody over any land it acquired. Nevertheless, the Air Force was seeking to exercise a substantial degree of control over MILA. Protracted negotiations had begun on June 1, 1962. From August 1, 1962, a joint ad hoc group had been negotiating a comprehensive agreement setting forth the general concept of operations and fixing responsibility for specific functions carried out by the Air Force Missile Test Center (AFMTC) and NASA's Launch Operations Center (LOC), later the Kennedy Space Center (KSC), the administering entities respectively of the AMR (later the Eastern Test Range) and MILA.. The NASA side was headed by Mr. Walter Lingle, and the DOD side by Brig. Gen. Paul T. Cooper, USAF.

When I reported, I was asked to sit in at the meetings as an observer, and I assisted Mr. Lingle in the final phases of the deliberations, which at times had been contentious. The final agreement signed by Mr. McNamara and Mr. Webb on January 17, 1963, proved in practice to be generally very satisfactory. However, the question of cost sharing and reimbursement was not settled by the agreement but was left to a subsequent funding study. The final resolution of this issue was reached only through a long series of NASA-DOD studies, meetings, proposals, and counter-proposals, under the aegis of my Office on the NASA side and ultimate arbitration by BuBud, as proposed by Defense Affairs, to resolve an impasse..

Upon consummation of the AMR-MILA agreement, Dr. Kurt H. Debus, Director, LOC, and Maj. Gen. Leighton I. Davis, USAF, Commander, AFMTC, went to work locally to place the provisions of the agreement into effect, negotiating supporting agreements where appropriate. On March 6, 1963, Gen. B. A. Schriever, USAF, Commander, AFSC, and Mr. D. Brainerd Holmes, NASA, Deputy Associate Administrator for Manned Space Flight, jointly sent identical letters to Debus and Davis, clarifying some of the provisions of the basic agreement to assist them in its full implementation by the specified deadline of June 30, 1963.

During a luncheon meeting which Webb, Dryden, and Seamans had with McNamara on April 27, 1963, the Secretary, without citing specific instances, expressed concern that NASA was not moving effectively and efficiently to carry out the AMR-MILA agreement. This came as a surprise to us since no unresolved issues had been passed up the chain of command by Debus or Davis as required by the agreement, and a check with Davis revealed that progress was very satisfactory, that he knew of no area posing a problem, and that his people were "very happy."

Nevertheless, at a luncheon which Seamans and I had with Mr. John H. Rubel, Deputy DDR&E, two days later, it was agreed that an informal joint board would be appointed to review and report in detail on the status of implementation of the Agreement.

On 1 May, I visited the Cape. Dr. Debus and General Davis each informed me individually that implementation of the Agreement was proceeding with no difficulty whatsoever, and each reported that he had received nothing but complete cooperation from the other in this matter.

[11] The precept for the joint board was issued by Rubel and Seamans on May 6, 1963, appointing Col. Clifford J. Kronauer, USAF, as the DOD representative, and Capt. John K. Holcomb, USN, to represent NASA. These two men spent several days at the Cape and submitted an agreed report on May 17, 1963. The principal conclusions were:

 

"The attitude of the Commander, AFMTC, and Director, LOC, and the other principals involved is one of strong determination to fully implement the Agreement and optimism concerning the outcome of their on-going negotiations. They expect to have executed all necessary implementing agreements by 30 June, 1963.
 
"No problems were identified which appear to be a barrier to full, effective, and timely implementation of the Agreement."

 

The principals at the Cape had seen and concurred in these findings.

This was not the end of the story, however. When Seamans sent over a signed joint memorandum transmitting the findings of the informal joint board to the Secretary and the Administrator, Dr. Harold Brown, DDR&E (Rubel had left the DOD), declined to sign and forward the memorandum, stating as a reason his view that "...a mid-June progress report as inconclusive as the Board report is poorly timed in view of the 30 June deadline established in the Agreement." He preferred to wait for a final and complete report from Davis and Debus. We found this action difficult to rationalize in light of the facts (1) that the initiation for the review had come from the DOD and (2) that the Agreement did not call for a final report on implementation, and none would be expected unless there were unresolved issues remaining at the deadline. As it turned out, there were none, and all necessary supporting agreements were consummated locally by about mid-June.

On June 5, 1963, Mr. Webb sent a letter to Mr. McNamara in which he recalled McNamara's concern over implementation of the AMR-MILA Agreement, as expressed so strongly in their meeting of April 27, and NASA's surprise at the Secretary's statements. Mr. Webb's letter went on to summarize the findings of the joint board and to state his understanding that Davis and Debus had "...completed their implementation of our agreement and that both had been most pleased over the cooperative manner in which these questions were settled." This communication appeared to lay the issue to rest.

 

[12] Existing Agreements

While these and other issues had been dividing NASA and the DOD at the policy-making level, the picture was not entirely dark. The two Agencies were cooperating in and coordinating their respective aerospace programs in a number of areas. Of the numerous agreements which had been entered into and were in effect, the following were the most noteworthy.

 

[13] Memorandum of Understanding - Manned Orbiting Vehicle Program

The Administrator of NASA and the Director of the Advanced Research Projects Agency (ARPA) had signed a Memorandum of Understanding on November 20, 1958, stating that "...NASA is responsible for management and technical direction of a program for a manned orbiting vehicle to be conducted in cooperation with the Department of Defense." The accomplishment of the program was recognized as a matter of national urgency. The program referred to was the Project Mercury man-in-space program. DOD had contributed $8,000,000 of FY 1959 funds in support of the program, but thereafter it was to be funded by NASA.

 

[14] Detailing of Military Personnel for Service with NASA

To assist NASA in carrying out its assigned functions, the Space Act authorized the Administrator to enter into agreements for detailing active duty military personnel to serve with NASA. Such an agreement between NASA and the DOD had been approved by President Eisenhower on April 13, 1959. Some 189 military detailees were serving with NASA at the time the Office of Defense Affairs was created, many in key positions. At that time, all but two of -the astronauts (the first two groups) were military detailees.

 

[15] TIROS Meteorological Satellite Project

NASA and the DOD had agreed that technical and management direction of Project TIROS would be transferred from ARPA to NASA, effective April 13, 1959. A joint advisory committee had been established to advise NASA on technical matters, including DOD requirements, and to arrange for exchange of information and closer cooperation. Facilities, equipment, and personnel of DOD assigned to Project TIROS would remain available to NASA to carry the project to completion. DOD would fund TIROS up to a total of $11,649,000.

 

[16] Responsibility and Organization for Certain Space Activities

On November 2, 1959, President Eisenhower had approved agreed recommendations of the Secretary of Defense and the Administrator of NASA "designed to clarify responsibilities, improve coordination, and enhance the national space effort." This milestone document included the following provisions:

 

[17] Principles Governing Reimbursement of Costs

On November 12, 1959, the DOD and NASA had entered into a very basic agreement covering reimbursement for cross-services. This agreement was responsive to provisions of the Space Act in which (1) NASA was authorized "to use, with their consent, the service, equipment, personnel, and facilities of Federal and other agencies with or without reimbursement, and on a similar basis to cooperate with other public and private agencies and instrumentalities in the use of services, equipment, and facilities"; (2) Federal agencies were required to cooperate fully with NASA in making their services, equipment, personnel, and facilities available; and (3) Federal agencies were authorized "to transfer to or receive from NASA, without reimbursement, aeronautical and space vehicles, and supplies and equipment other than administrative supplies or equipment."

In general, this agreement provided that only direct, identifiable (out-of-pocket) costs of cross-services would be reimbursable. Administrative costs, except special travel, incident to the procurement of material or services by one agency for another would be non-reimbursable. Work performed "in-house" in facilities using an industrial-type cost accounting system would be charged; otherwise, reimbursement would be limited to direct costs. Services incident to contract administration by DOD for NASA, or vice versa, would be reimbursable. Materials, supplies, or equipment in excess of the requirements of an agency could be transferred without reimbursement. In projects of mutual benefit or interest, work or services, materials, supplies, or equipment furnished by one agency to another would be on a non-reimbursable basis to the extent of the furnishing agency's interest in the particular project.

This fundamental agreement was to be called into play many times in subsequent hard negotiations over reimbursement between NASA and the DOD.

 

[18] Dovetailing of Launch Schedules

Until 1961, NASA had no launching facilities of its own except at Wallops Island. In late 1959, conflicts in the scheduling of launch facilities at AMR to support NASA and Air Force flight missions had become a problem. In a Memorandum of Understanding dated February 23, 1960, NASA and the Air Force {Air Research and Development Command) had taken steps to resolve this problem by establishing a two-man joint committee, composed of Mr. Milton W. Roser. for NASA and Col. John W. O'Neill for the Air Force,to reconcile launch schedules so as to avoid conflicts and by agreeing that the resulting combined schedule would be binding on both parties. Later, the committee's cognizance was extended to include the Western Test Range (WTR). The arrangement, with many interim changes in the designated representatives, worked so well that it is still in operation, and to my knowledge no serious launch-scheduling issue between NASA and the DOD has since arisen.

 

[19] Joint Policy on Satellite-Based Communication Activities

On August 27, 1960, agreement had been reached on a joint policy under which NASA would move forward in the active satellite-based communication field. Previously, it had been agreed that NASA would concentrate on the passive systems while the Advanced Research Projects Agency (ARPA) continued its work in the active communications satellite field. It was part of the previous agreement that NASA would, at an appropriate time, undertake the R&D necessary to the development of components and prototypes of an active communication satellite system for non-military purposes, making full use of DOD experience gained in the development of military systems. NASA's new role was in recognition of new technical developments and the growing interest of private industrial organizations in the development of both passive and active systems for civil use. NASA and the DOD were to work out a more detailed assessment of the division of responsibility for active systems in the months following.

 

[20] Maintenance of a National Launch Vehicle Program

NASA and the DOD had, on February 23, 1961, recorded their mutual understanding concerning the maintenance of a National Launch Vehicle Program, comprising in its totality the development and procurement of launch vehicles for space purposes, some the responsibility of DOD and some of NASA, but all taken together comprising an integrated space booster program consistent with national space objectives and requirements. Boosters developed for weapon purposes were not automatically to be considered a part of the National Launch Vehicles Program, although certain missile boosters, particularly THOR and ATLAS, were widely used in combination with upper stages as part of the National Launch Vehicle Program.

This document concluded with an agreement "that neither the DOD nor the NASA will initiate the development of a launch vehicle or booster for space without the written acknowledgment of the other agency that such a new development would be deemed consistent with the proper objectives of the National Launch Vehicle Program." Such written "agreements...were to be accomplished upon the recommendation of the Co-chairmen of the AACB."

(NOTE: The duplicity of the use of the terms "acknowledgement" and "agreement," the question of what constituted a new development as differentiated from an up-rating, and the matter of military security caused some subsequent difficulties in the application of this basic agreement, but by-and-large its provisions were faithfully and effectively implemented through the excellent efforts of and harmonious relationship between Dr. Alexander H. Flax and Mr. Rosen, Chairman and Vice-Chairman, respectively, of the Launch Vehicle Panel [LVP] of the AACB.)

 

[21] Support by the Army Corps of Engineers and Navy Bureau of Yards and Docks

Effective April 4, 1960, NASA and the Army Corps of Engineers had entered into an agreement under which NASA could utilize the services of the Corps for the design and construction of the massive facilities required at the Marshall Space Flight Center (MSFC), Huntsville, Alabama, the Mississippi Test Facility (MTF) in southwestern Mississippi, and the John F. Kennedy Space Center, NASA (KSC), Cape Kennedy, Florida, for the assembly, testing, and launching of the Apollo space vehicles. Design criteria or construction plans and specifications were to be furnished by NASA. The Corps of Engineers was to be responsible for contracting for construction and the supervision and inspection of construction. Reimbursement for these services was to be in accordance with the basic NASA-DOD reimbursement agreement of November 12, 1959, referred to above.

There was a similar agreement with the Navy, effective April 19, 1962, for support by the Bureau of Yards and Docks, but the work performed by BuYandD for NASA was on a much smaller scale.

The working relationships between NASA and both the Corps of Engineers and the BuYandD had been excellent, and continued to be throughout the period of this narrative history.

 

[22] NASA Use of the Army's White Sands Missile Range (WSMR)

Agreements had been negotiated with the Army, signed on December 19, 1962, covering NASA's use of the WSMR. One was a general range use agreement which served to cover abort system evaluation tests involving the Little Joe II launch vehicle. A separate agreement covered construction and operation of the NASA Spacecraft Propulsion Development Facility. Common range services and support were on a non-reimbursable basis. Out-of-pocket costs, overtime range operations scheduled at NASA's convenience, and other overtime operations (e.g., propellant handling and laboratory activities) were reimbursable. As was standard practice, range safety was the responsibility of the Commanding General, WSMR. Several supporting agreements followed these two basic agreements.

 

[23] Development of the Standard ATLAS Space Booster

Before the establishment of the Office of Defense Affairs, negotiations had been in progress under the aegis of the Launch Vehicle Panel, AACB, for the simplification and general improvement of the ATLAS booster and for joint adoption of the improved design as a standard configuration, designated SLY-3, to meet the needs of both NASA and the DOD. This action was deemed to be the "development of a launch vehicle" under the provisions of the agreement of February 23, 1961, stipulating that the development of a launch vehicle would not be undertaken by either Agency without the written acknowledgment of the other that such development was consistent with the objectives of the National Launch Vehicle Program. Accordingly, a NASA-DOD Memorandum of Agreement was signed on December 10, 1962, in which the two Agencies agreed that development of the Standard ATLAS met the requirements of the 1961 agreement. It was further agreed that NASA would fund one half of the anticipated development cost, NASA's share not to exceed $10 million.

Similarly, on May 6, 1965, NASA and the DOD agreed that further improvement and up-rating of the SLY-3 by NASA, leading to a new configuration, designated SLY-3X, was consistent with the proper objectives of the National Launch Vehicle Program.

 

[24] Other Existing Agreements

In the period 1958-1962, several other cooperative agreements between NASA and the DOD had been consummated, including:

 

[25] Summary

It was in this general environment - marked by agreements for cross-support, cooperation, and coordination in a number of areas but fundamental differences in R&D policies, by some competition between NASA and the Military Services for space projects, by a certain amount of mutual distrust between NASA and the Military Services, primarily the Air Force, and by mutual respect but something less than full rapport and communication between the Heads of the two Agencies sharing responsibility for the total national aerospace program - that the new Office of Defense Affairs began its efforts in pursuit of its assigned mission of strengthening working relationships and promoting cooperation, coordination, and mutual support between NASA and the DOD. Such a relationship was the desire and intent of the Congress, as evidenced by many expressions in the Space Act, and always was earnestly sought by Mr. Webb as being in the best national interest.


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