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




[42] General

Section 203 (b) (12) of the Space Act of 1958 authorized the Space Administration "...with the approval of the President, to enter into cooperative agreements under which members of the Army, Navy, Air Force, and Marine Corps may be detailed by the appropriate Secretary for services in the performance of functions under this Act to the same extent as that to which they might be lawfully assigned in the Department of Defense." Pursuant to this provision, and as previously alluded to, President Eisenhower on April 13, 1959, had approved an "Agreement Between the Departments of Defense, Army, Navy and Air Force and the National Aeronautics and Space Administration Concerning the Detailing of Military Personnel for Service with NASA."

Presumably, the Congress authorized such assignments in recognition of the fact that some of the skills and experience related to space activities which would be required by the new Agency in building up its organization were to be found only in the Military Services, and in furtherance of the close working relationships between the civilian and military segments of the national aerospace program desired by the Congress.

The principal provisions of the NASA-DOD agreement were:



(NOTE: Military detailees did not count against NASA personnel ceilings imposed by higher authority.)

An amendment to this agreement initiated by Defense Affairs and approved as of September 14, 1963, provided that at intervals of approximately one year each military detailee of the rank of Major/Lieutenant Commander or above and fulfilling a technical assignment would be ordered by his parent Service to one week of temporary duty with that Department, preferably at his Service Headquarters, but alternatively at an appropriate field command, in order that he might become up-dated on the latest military requirements and weapon system developments within his Service and might convey to his Service the latest technical information available within NASA and related to such requirements and developments.

Subsequently, supplementary procedural agreements were entered into with the Air Force and Navy concerning military detailees. These supporting agreements set forth certain criteria governing the justification of requests for detailees and the selection of nominees, including, in particular, assurances that a detailee would occupy a position in NASA which would benefit him career-wise.

A counterpart agreement was entered into with the Air Force, effective September 25, 1964, regarding the assignment of NASA personnel to duty with the Air Force. In principle and purpose, but not in a number sense, this agreement was reciprocal to the agreement covering Air Force detailees to NASA A total of thirteen NASA employees were assigned during the period of this narrative for duty with the Air Force. NASA management stipulated that acceptance of such an assignment had to be voluntary in each case.

While not a detailee arrangement, it is of related interest that in February 1963 there was established in the Office of the Assistant Secretary of Defense (Installation and Logistics) an extension of the NASA Office of' Industry Affairs. The functions of this office were: to coordinate DOD-NASA mutual interest matters in the areas of procurement and contract management, including quality assurance; to maintain close liaison with the Defense Supply Contract Administration; and to furnish continuing support of' the Military Services in all phases of contract management. The first head of this new office was Mr. Clyde Bothmer.

[44] Defense Affairs was very active in negotiating the agreement which supplemented the basic agreement of 1959 and in monitoring all aspects of the military detailee program. We assisted the Director of Personnel in administering the program, advised NASA supervisors in the preparation of the required military efficiency and fitness reports, and generally assisted NASA officials in finding and obtaining the right military personnel to meet NASA's needs. I personally reviewed all efficiency/fitness reports of detailees assigned to Headquarters. Furthermore, I was designated by the Navy as the official reviewing authority for all Navy fitness reports submitted by NASA officials. Military detailees frequently sought out advice in matters pertaining to career planning.

The Deputy Administrator delegated to me the authority to approve or disapprove requests from NASA Headquarters offices and the Centers for the assignment or extension of military detailees. In discharging this function, I personally reviewed all such requests and, I believe, reached agreement with the requesting office in each case as to the justification or lack of justification for the request under existing policies and interagency agreements. On numerous occasions I consulted with the Personnel Deputy of the parent Military Service before awarding written requests for new assignees or extensions of tour.



Astronauts who were active duty officers of the Military Services constituted a special category of military detailees. The training necessary to prepare an astronaut for space flight requires about two years and represents a substantial investment of government resources, a reasonable return from which must be expected, and so detailees assigned as astronauts obviously could not be subject to the normal provision of a single three-year tour with NASA. At the same time, individual astronauts could not be expected to continue in a flight status indefinitely.

In late 1964, the first group of astronauts, all military, were approaching the end of their second three-year tour and it therefore seemed timely to raise the question of how long these officers should be expected to remain with the NASA manned space flight program. Furthermore, the Navy and Air Force were beginning to ask questions regarding our needs and intentions. There were twenty-four military astronauts on board at that time. The MOL program had been announced nearly a year earlier, and it was recognized that the Air Force would have a need in the future for the kind of technical competence and operational experience acquired by their officers while on detail to NASA as astronauts.

The matter was fully discussed among Mr. Webb, Dr. Dryden, Dr. Seamans, Dr. Mueller, and the other cognizant officials in Headquarters. I personally favored a policy based on number of flights and expressed the view that no astronaut should be asked to make more than three space flights. Dr. Mueller argued for a commitment based on length of tour, favoring a target figure of nine years. All concerned recognized that the basic agreement [45] covering the detailing of military personnel to NASA was intended to provide an arrangement mutually beneficial to NASA and the Military Services.

Defense Affairs coordinated with DOD in drafting a NASA policy statement. The policy promulgated by NASA for guidance under date of October 12, 1964, had been fully concurred in by the Military Services concerned. It provided as follows:


"a. Military astronauts should be detailed to NASA for the regular tour of three years as specified in the basic DOD-NASA agreement of April 13, 1959, but with the understanding that normally an extension of three years would be approved by the parent Service if requested by NASA.
"b. The normal expectation should be that a military astronaut will return to his parent Service upon completion of his assignment to NASA.
"c. Any application from a military astronaut for a civilian position with NASA, based on an expressed desire by the astronaut to resign his commission or retire in order to accept such a position, will be considered on its individual merits after consultation with the parent Service involved.
"d. This policy does not apply to the first group of astronauts."


This policy is still in effect as basic guidance. In the process of coordination with the DOD, it was tacitly understood that the Services would give favorable consideration to any requests for a second three-year extension. As of this writing, Cdr. Scott Carpenter, U.S. Navy, was the only astronaut who returned to active duty with his parent Service. Seven other military astronauts have voluntarily left the flight program, some to take administrative positions with NASA and others to go with other government agencies or with industry. A number of astronauts are on their third three-year tour. Only two, Alan B. Shepard and L. Gordon Cooper, are on their fourth tour, but both were in the first group of astronauts and therefore exempted from the basic policy. Only one astronaut, James A. Lovell, has made four space flights, and that was at his own request. However, three of those who have made three flights are still in a flight status and conceivably could make a fourth flight.


[46] Awards to Astronauts

The matter of meritorious promotions for astronauts after successful space flights came to a head when President Johnson- in the course of a speech at the Manned Spacecraft Center (MSC), Houston, Texas, in July 1965 and without prior mention to the Secretary of Defense nor the Administrator announced that he was promoting Astronauts James A. McDivitt, USAF, and Edward H. White, II, USAF, for their successful flight In Gemini IV. Shortly thereafter, the President arranged accelerated promotions for Astronauts Virgil I. Grissom, USAF, and John W. Young, USN, who had flown in Gemini III and who were then on promotion lists awaiting actual promotions under normal procedures.

Meritorious promotions for military astronauts had been causing some dissatisfaction both among the astronaut community and in the Pentagon since they were resulting in inequities in some cases.

I discussed this matter with the Deputies for Personnel in Navy and Air Force Headquarters, and we agreed that it would be preferable that meritorious promotions be awarded in accordance with an established policy rather than on a spur-of-the-moment basis. Both Services preferred that promotions of astronauts take place in accordance with normal procedures in their respective Services, but wanted any initiative in establishing a policy for future guidance to come from the White House.

After consulting Webb, Dryden, and Seamans, I called Mr. Moyers, Assistant to the President, on August 4, 1965, and suggested that in anticipation of the forthcoming Gemini V flight he might wish to discuss the matter with the President. He thanked me for raising the question and said he would ask Mr. Joseph Califano, Special Assistant to the President, to meet with Mr. Norman Paul, Assistant Secretary of Defense for Manpower, and me to discuss the matter.

This meeting took place the next day at the White House. Mr. Califano opened the meeting by saying that the President had asked him to meet with Mr. Paul and myself to arrive at a recommendation as to a consistent policy on meritorious promotions for guidance in the future. There was a discussion of the various implications involved. I stated Mr. Webb's position - he would support any policy recommended by the Secretary of Defense regarding commendatory promotions for military astronauts, but did not favor automatic meritorious promotions for Civil Service astronauts. Mr. Califano said the President wished also to establish a consistent policy regarding awards (medals). It was agreed that Mr. Paul would submit recommendations on both matters.

Mr. Paul prepared a draft recommended policy in coordination with the Services and with me representing NASA. He sent it to me for final clearance with NASA. I cleared it with Dr. Mueller (who in turn cleared it [47] with Dr. Gilruth, Dr. Low, and Mr. Slayton at MSC) and with Dr. Seamans, Dr. Dryden, and Mr. Webb. In a memorandum dated August 17, 1965, Mr. Califano announced approval by the President of a policy on the promotion and decoration of astronauts, as recommended by the Secretary of Defense and the Administrator. The policy provided that:



In accord with a request from NASA, any reference to promotions for Civil Service astronauts was omitted from the announced policy. However, this matter had to be faced up to when Mr. Neil Armstrong flew as the command pilot on Gemini VIII. Mr. Webb discussed the matter with Mr. Califano. It was decided within NASA that since Armstrong was already in Civil Service Grade GS-16, a grade generally related to one-star rank in the Military Services, and since he had previously received promotions in Civil Service grade as an X-15 test pilot, a further grade promotion would not be in accord with the general intent of the President's policy. In lieu of a promotion, it was considered appropriate to award Armstrong a "Quality Increase" (Civil Service term) in pay. This increase would be comparable to that received by Major Scott, Armstrong's crew partner, incident to a promotion in rank. This action was actually taken in Armstrong's case, and subsequent cases involving Civil Service astronauts were dealt with under the precedent thereby established. Both Armstrong and Scott would receive the NASA Exceptional Service Medal. The White House was advised of` these decisions so that the President could announce the awards to both astronauts simultaneously.


[48] Reports to Parent Services by Detailees

In an effort to enhance the mutual benefit of the military detailee program to NASA and the DOD, Defense Affairs initiated a requirement for periodic reports by detailees to their parent Services designed to increase and make more meaningful the flow of scientific and technical information from NASA to the Military Services and to make the NASA R&D program more responsive to the needs of the Military.

A Management Instruction, issued on September 5, 1963, after consultation with cognizant R&D officials of the Army, Navy, Air Force, and Marine Corps, required that all detailees of the rank of Major/Lieutenant Commander and above and occupying technical positions in NASA submit semiannual reports directly to the Chief of their respective Services (copies to their NASA superiors and to DDR&E) which would convey the ideas and opinions of the individual as to:


"a. Potential applications of scientific knowledge and technologies available within NASA toward the improvement of existing weapon systems, the meeting of military requirements, and the solving of military problems, as appropriate.
"b. Possible reorientation or changes of emphasis of NASA research and development efforts to make these more responsive to the needs of the Military Services in the aeronautics and space fields."


All reports submitted were reviewed by me. I found that they varied quite widely in the coverage and quality of content. Some were very comprehensive, searching, and originally thoughtful; others were perfunctory and minimal in meeting the requirement.

After this requirement had been in effect nearly two years, Defense Affairs conducted an informal opinion survey in NASA and the DOD to determine the usefulness of the reports. The consensus was that the reports were indeed of value in accomplishing the intended purposes. All of the Services asked that the reports be continued, but the Navy, Air Force, and Marine Corps preferred that the reports be submitted only when significant information became available which, in the judgment of the individual detailee, warranted such a report. The Army desired that the reports be continued on a semi-annual basis. On October 1, 1965, the Management Instruction was revised accordingly.


[49] Package Requests for Air Force Detailees

Two package requests for the assignment of a large number of Air Force officers to duty with NASA in each case are worthy of special mention.


Package of Fifty-five Air Force Officers

Brig. Gen. Samuel C. Phillips, USAF, was detailed to NASA on January 15, 1964, as Deputy Director of the Apollo Program (appointed Director in October 1964). Soon after assuming his new duties with NASA, Phillips recognized the need for the services of a number of highly qualified persons to fill key and middle positions in project management and systems integration in the Gemini and Apollo programs. NASA had not been able to hire persons from non-government sources who possessed the required competence and experience, but Phillips had personal knowledge of individuals in the Air Force who had received training in these skills through involvement in large and complex Air Force weapon systems programs. Phillips believed that the assignment of a number of such officers to responsible managerial positions in the NASA manned space flight programs would not only greatly enhance NASA' ability to accomplish the national objectives of the Apollo program but would at the same time provide a unique and valuable opportunity further to develop the skills and competence of these career officers for subsequent assignments of major responsibility in Air Force research, development, and procurement programs.

General Phillips entered into exploratory discussions with Gen. Curtis E. LeMay, Chief of Staff of the Air Force; Gen. William F. McKee, Vice Chief of Staff; Gen. Bernard F. Schriever, Commander, Air Force Systems Command; Lt. Gen. James Ferguson, Deputy Chief of Staff for Research and Development; and Lt. Gen. William S. Stone, Deputy Chief of Staff for Personnel- to determine the attitude of the Air Force toward the project and the availability of the individuals identified by Phillips. The preliminary response was favorable.

On April 1, 1964, Dr. Dryden addressed a letter to Mr. Eugene M. Zuckert, Secretary of the Air Force, laying the matter before him and enclosing a summary which described in detail fifty-five positions desired to be filled by Air Force officers and the order of priority as to need. In many instances, the specific individual desired was identified.

Mr. Zuckert's reply on May 6, 1964, was an objective one, placing national interests above immediate Air Force needs. He recognized the mutual benefits to be derived from implementing NASA's proposal and suggested a joint review of the total program of Air Force detailees to NASA with the objectives of developing criteria for filling positions, screening existing and requested assignments against the established.' criteria, and determining which. positions should be filled on a continuing basis. Zuckert also proposed that the group examine the desirability of assigning NASA personnel to Air Force space programs.

[50] While the discussions leading up to this exchange had been handled almost exclusively within OMSF, Dr. Seamans at this point directed that I follow the matter closely. My office handled the final formal agreements.

Dr. Dryden's concurrence with Mr. Zuckert's suggestion, as convoyed in a letter dated May 12, 1964, constituted authorization to conduct a joint review. A "Joint Air Force/NASA Military Requirements Review Group" was formed, headed by Col. Lee V. Gossick representing the Air Force and General Phillips for NASA. Mr. Richard J. Green, Defense Affairs, and Mr. Robert J. Lacklen, Office of Administration, were designated as the additional NASA members of the Group.

The Group first met on May 13, 1964, and submitted its final report in September 1964. The results of the review were:



The validated positions were, in due course, filled with outstanding officers ranging in rank from Major to Brigadier General, the majority being at the Colonel level.

[51] Throughout these negotiations, NASA had the strong support of General McKee, who had an objective appreciation of the need for NASA and the Air Force to work closely together and to be mutually supporting in the national aerospace program. Later, on September 1, 1964, immediately following his retirement from the Air Force, General McKee was to join NASA as Assistant Administrator for Management Development. In May 1965, he left NASA to be sworn in as Administrator of the Federal Aviation Agency on July 1, 1965.

In February 1967, the "55 position package" was again reviewed and the number of validated positions reduced to thirty. At that time, the Navy indicated a willingness to fill four of the positions being vacated by the Air Force.


[52] Air Force Officers for MSC - "Project 128"

Early in 1965, representatives of the Air Force made unofficial oral inquiries as to the possibility of NASA accepting a number of junior Air Force Officers for duty in the flight operations area of the Apollo program. NASA was informed that a number of young officers with a background in missile flight control operations were becoming available incident to the phasing out of the Atlas and Titan I ICBM installations. Concurrently, MSC was having difficulty in staffing the Apollo Mission Control Center at Houston from within the Civil Service complement, and furthermore it was considered that Mission Control could not effectively be operated by support contract personnel. It appeared, therefore, that it would be mutually advantageous to NASA and the Air Force to detail a special group of Air Force officers to fill 128 billets in Mission Control with the understanding that, in the absence of exceptional unforeseen circumstances, the Air Force would continue to meet such a commitment until the end of the Apollo Program. The arrangement would provide NASA with a much needed group of personnel seasoned in operations-related work and would afford the Air Force an opportunity to familiarize a group of young officers with manned space flight mission planning and operational control.

After a period of preliminary discussions between representatives of MSC, NASA Headquarters, the Strategic Air Command, and Air Force Headquarters, Dr. Robert R. Gilruth, Director, MSC, formally presented the proposition to NASA management in a letter dated March 26, 1965. He included a proposed phased manned schedule extending from May through December 1965.

With the approval of the project in principle by the Chief of Staff of the Air Force and the Administrator, Defense Affairs went to work to assist OMSF and Air Force Headquarters in the preparation of detailed descriptions of the billets involved, the rank and qualifications required in each detailee, and an agreed reporting schedule. In collaboration with OMSF (Gen. Frank A. Bogart), we began discussions with the Deputy for Personnel, USAF, on the details of a NASA-Air Force agreement covering the whole package.

The matter of reimbursement involved extensive negotiations in which I was the NASA representative. The initial NASA position was that the Air Force should pay salaries and allowances since the initiative for the project came from the Air Force and the assignment represented on-the-job-training desired by the Air Force. Understandably, the Air Force took the view that NASA should make full reimbursement under the terms of the basic agreement on detailees. Eventually we reached a fifty-fifty compromise on the premise that the arrangement was mutually beneficial. General McKee, who by then had become a Special Assistant to the Administrator, was a helpful catalyst in bringing NASA and the Air Force together.

[53] The agreed breakdown of ranks was:











The MEMORANDUM OF AGREEMENT, cleared informally with the Bureau of the Budget, was signed into effect on July 22, 1965. It was to remain in effect until superseded or terminated by mutual agreement. Actually, the total number detailed for this assignment was 126. They reported in groups between September 1965, and May 1966. The tour of duty was to be two years. The officers were distributed among the Landing and Recovery Division, Flight Support Division, Mission Planning and Analysis Division and the Flight Control Division of MSC Mission Control.

In the fall of 1966, the Air Force began to make inquiries as to NASA's needs and desires concerning the continuation of the "128 package" after termination of the original two-year assignments provided for in the Agreement. NASA desired to continue the program. The Air Force wished to reduce substantially the number of officers assigned, mentioning new totals of seventy and even fifty. In December of 1966, Mr. Webb directed that a general review of the need for military detailees be made with the objective of phasing down the number assigned to NASA.

After completion of a comprehensive study by s joint survey team, and after much discussion with the Air Force and within NASA, a new agreement was ultimately negotiated, effective October 3, 1967, to supersede the agreement of July 1965. Gen. John P. McConnell, Chief of Staff of the Air Force, had personally intervened during the course of the survey to rule that the Air Force would continue to fill those billets which could be shown to provide worthwhile experience to the detailees assigned.

The principal changes relative to the original agreement were:



[54] In order to "break joints" in relieving the officers originally assigned, it was agreed that some would be relieved at the end of a two-year term, some would be extended one year, and some extended two years.

After this exercise, it seemed obvious to me that the best course of action for NASA was to replace these officers progressively with civil servants. To do so would protect against a possible precipitous withdrawal of these officers to meet urgent military needs in Southeast Asia, and in addition would result in fiscal economies and better continuity. However, because of the squeeze of personnel ceilings and the difficulty of recruiting suitable young civilians, effective action was not taken to obtain and train civilian replacements.


[55] Policy and Procedural Issuances

As the NASA organization continued to grow and mature, we in Defense Affairs became increasingly concerned about the demands which NASA was making on the Services to assign a substantial number of their most outstanding officers to NASA and the extent to which NASA was relying on military detailees to fill key positions. By the summer of 1 966 the number of detailees had grown from a total of 189 when the Office of Defense Affairs was established to a figure of 333. Although the Services were reimbursed for the pay and allowances of these officers, the Services were feeling the pinch of meeting requests for detailees under their demands for manpower and imposed personnel ceilings. More importantly, however, many detailees, upon completing extended tours with NASA, were resigning their commissions or retiring from military service to take civilian positions with NASA or in the aerospace industry. The officers in DOD responsible for assignment of personnel were saying, with good cause, that when they detail an outstanding officer to NASA, that is the last they see of him.

While we in Defense Affairs felt that it would always be in the national interest to have a certain number of active duty military personnel in the NASA organization to stimulate and facilitate the cross flow of technical, scientific, and managerial information between NASA and the DOD, we could see the undesirability of permitting the number to remain as high as it was. In the first place, the provision for military detailees in the Space Act was intended to assist the new Agency in assembling an organization adequate to conduct a massive program in an area in which there was a scarcity of related skills and experience. By 1966 NASA had matured to a point where it had to a considerable extent generated these skills and this experience within its own Civil Service personnel. To provide the proper incentives and career development among its civilian employees, and to avoid morale problems it was timely and proper for NASA management to lock within for people to fill vacancies in key positions rather than to continue to bring in people from other agencies to fill the more desirable billets. Furthermore, we were concerned that there might come a time when there would be a sudden and general withdrawal of military detailees by the DOD because of a change in policy or conceivably a national crisis resulting in an inordinate demand for trained military personnel while permitting the space program to continue.

Finally, military detailees did not count against the numerical personnel ceiling imposed by BuBud. Our Committees of Congress were generally aware of this situation and had voiced no objection but some NASA officials were fearful that if the number of detailees became too large the ground rules might be changed so as to restrict NASA in the utilization of this valuable source of manpower.

Having all of these considerations in mind, Defense Affairs drafted Policy Directive, which was duly issued on August 23, 1966, intended to [56] ease the demands being made on the Military, reduce NASA's reliance on military detailees, and increase the number of detailees who would return to their parent Services to apply the skills, competence, and experience gained while serving with NASA. This Policy Directive provided in part as follows:


"...each position to be filled by a military detailee shall be:
"(1) One in which reasonable efforts have been made to obtain a civilian:
"(2) One in engineering, technical management, or one of the physical or life sciences; requests for exceptions to this general provision will be considered only when justified to meet unusual needs; and
"(3) One wherein specialized qualifications and/or experience acquired in the Military Services would be of particular benefit to NASA in the discharge of its statutory functions, and at the same time one that will provide the detailee with training and/or experience which will enhance his military career and benefit his parent Service on his return.
"(4) Personnel requirements shall be planned on the basis that military detailees will return to their parent Services upon completion of a normal tour. Only in a very exceptional case where it can be clearly established that, because of uncompleted work on a specific project, the loss of a detailee would be seriously detrimental to the overall mission of NASA shall an extension be requested. The NASA-DOD agreement (NMI 1052.11A) specifies that extensions of periods of detail up to one year may be made, and it is expected that requests for further extensions will not be required."


Despite the issuance of this policy directive in August 1966, and Mr. Webb's expressed desire that the total number of military detailees be reduced, the Program Offices and Centers continued to press for the assignment of detailees, and the trend continued moderately upward until a peak of 341 was reached in March 1967. By December 31, 1967, the total on board was down to 318, and a slow downward trend continued thereafter.

During September 1966, Defense Affairs, in coordination with the cognizant DOD officials, prepared three documents setting forth administrative procedures concerning military detailees. These were duly issued as

[57] NASA Management Instructions bearing the following subjects:



The first Instruction, under the subtitle of RESPONSIBILITIES, provided as follows:

"a. Office of the Administrator. The Deputy Administrator is responsible for:
"(1) Determining and recommending to the Administrator policy concerning the utilization of military personnel by NASA within the stipulations of statutory authority and pertinent agreements with elements of the Department of Defense.
"(2) Approving requests for military assignments.
"(3) Approving requests for extensions of military assignments.


"The functions under subparagraphs (2) and (3) above will normally be redelegated to the Assistant Administrator for Defense Affairs.
"c. Office of Defense Affairs. The Assistant Administrator for Defense Affairs, acting for the Deputy Administrator, as appropriate, is responsible for:
"(1) Determining and recommending to the Administrator policy concerning the utilization of military personnel by NASA within the stipulations of statutory authority and pertinent agreements with the elements of the Department of Defense.
"(2) Maintaining surveillance of the military personnel program in NASA to insure its adequate and proper functioning in accordance with current policy and changing [58] needs of agency programs, and making necessary recommendations to the Deputy Administrator."


The second Instruction, in addition to establishing administrative procedures, contained the following general paragraph:
"It is emphasized that the proper execution and timely submission of military evaluation reports are of utmost importance to the career of each of the military personnel assigned to NASA. Therefore, such reports are matters requiring the personal attention of Officials-in-Charge of Headquarters Program and Staff Offices and Field Installation Directors. Great care should be taken in the preparation and timely submission of these reports. The assistance of experienced officers of the Services, active or retired, should be sought, in explaining to rating supervisors, the subleties of the marking systems of the military departments."


It has always been difficult for civilians to sense the nuances of military evaluation reports and to interpret and apply the headings of the various marking boxes in such a way as to rate an officer at the proper level in relation to contemporaries with whom he is in competition for promotion. For this reason, many career officers are reluctant to accept duty assignments outside their own Services. But even in the Military Services there are always a few officers who reach senior grades without ever having really understood the mechanics of the evaluation report system. In reviewing evaluation reports prepared in NASA, I found many cases in which the marking supervisor unknowingly would have done a detailee a serious injustice in the initial marking of his report form. Whenever a case came to my attention in which I suspected a miscarriage of intent, I would arrange to meet with the marking senior if practicable or, alternatively, I would discuss the case with him by telephone. I would first attempt to get an accurate understanding of the supervisor's evaluation of the officer's capabilities and performance of assigned duties. I would then explain to the best of my ability the implications and probable effects of the supervisor's report on the future career of the officer concerned. This usually resulted in a redrafting of the report by the supervisor. I would scrupulously avoid remarking the report myself, generally confining my efforts to interpreting the marks and comments originated by the responsible supervisor.

The third Instruction set forth the criteria and procedures for recommending the award of military decorations to detailees by their parent Services in recognition of extraordinary accomplishments while with NASA.


[59] Overview of the Military Detailee Program

Military detailees made a major contribution to the success of the Apollo Program. Individual outstanding performances were too numerous to recount, but if one man were to be singled out as standing above all others in his contribution to NASA and to the nation, it would most certainly be General Phillips, who directed the Apollo Program with such competence, dedication, and leadership; who carried such a staggering load of responsibility; and who was probably the person most directly responsible for the successful accomplishment of the national goal of landing a man on the moon and returning him safely to Earth within the decade of the sixties.

There were many other detailees who brought to the NASA program skills and experience not obtainable elsewhere and who discharged the responsibilities of key positions with distinction. Of course, the accomplishments of the astronauts are known to every American and generally throughout the world. Even the most junior officers, the ROTC and NROTC graduates who were permitted to serve out their obligated service tours with NASA and who for the most part were assigned to the Centers, were a decidedly valuable adjunct to the aerospace program. At the same time, these young officers, comprising roughly one third of the detailee total, derived much benefit from their work in the laboratories of NASA, since it enabled them to maintain and build on their competence in their individual disciplines acquired during their undergraduate and postgraduate education.

In terms of the qualifications, capabilities, and experience brought to NASA, the military detailee program was eminently successful. Not only were these officers of inestimable value in the conduct of NASA projects, but because of their knowledge of the technical requirements of the Military, they were able to relate the products of NASA research and development programs to the technological needs of their respective Services and to assist in orienting the NASA R&D effort into those areas holding the greatest promise of solutions to weapon system developmental problems. In performing these latter functions, they were benefiting their parent Services.

The program was disappointing in one respect in that many of the detailees did not return to their parent Services upon completion of their tours with NASA, electing instead to retire or resign to take positions as civilians with NASA or industry. However, by mid-1964, eighteen officers returned to active duty in their parent Services in aerospace-related assignments to apply new skills and experience gained through serving in responsible positions in NASA programs. As examples, General Ostrander, USAF, went from NASA to the Ballistic Systems Division, AFSC, and later headed the Air Force Office of Advanced Research; Capt. Harper E. Van Ness, USN, upon returning to his Service, was assigned as head of the Navy Office in the Space and Missile Systems Organization, AFSC. (After my departure, General Phillips returned to the Air Force to head the Space and Missile Systems Organization, and Astronaut Scott Carpenter returned to the Navy for duty [60] with the SEALAB project, many aspects of which were similar to space operations.) A number of military detailees, however, upon completing tours of duty with NASA, elected to resign or retire to take positions with NASA or in the aerospace industry and, as previously stated, this led to considerable reluctance on the part of the Military Services to send outstanding career officers to NASA.