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of MITRE's board and former chairman and president of MIT. I said I wanted to talk to him about Dr. McLucas since there was a possibility of his coming to Washington. As I watched the color drain from his face, I realized that I was considering an excellent candidate, which I really knew anyway. But he properly questioned whether, with all of Dr. McLucas's experience, it would be appropriate for him to come down to be the assistant secretary. So I said, "Well, what would you think of him as the under secretary?" He said, "I would think that would be a very appropriate job for him, but understand, I hope he doesn't accept. But you'll have to speak to him about it." So on one of my trips via Hanscom Air Force Base, I asked for an office, and Dr. McLucas and I met. I made my proposition that he become the under secretary of the Air Force and head up the classified programs. He accepted almost on the spot but said he wanted to talk to his family prior to making an absolute commitment.
Grant Hansen and John McLucas provided great strength in research and development. The secretariat also needed capability in administration, finance, and personnel. Although Philip Whittaker and I had not overlapped at NASA, I knew he was highly regarded both there and at IBM where he had worked previously. In addition, he had been most helpful obtaining information for my Minta Martin lecture at MIT. So I cast my net and fortunately landed him.
Spencer J. Schedler did have some political experience. He was an advance man, as it turns out, for Spiro Agnew. That's how the name came to me, but it had nothing to do with why I picked him. I selected him because he liked the Air Force and was still flying in the Air National Guard. Some people were amazed when I made clear that "I want somebody who knows something about finances, how to keep books and how to run audits." He was a graduate of the Harvard Business School and came highly recommended. He was the youngest of the group.
Finally, there was Curtis W. Tarr who was the assistant secretary of the Air Force for Manpower and Reserve Affairs. Tarr had been president of Lawrence University located in Appleton, Wisconsin, and had also worked as a junior member of the Hoover Commission on the reorganization of the Department of Defense. His doctoral thesis at Stanford was written on the subject. I was really looking for somebody who had both organizational as well as a personnel background. Now
he wasn't really a personnel man as such, but he had certainly grappled with organizations large and small and on personnel problems during a troublesome period for universities.
I found in my first six months that we were taking a shellacking in the political environment of the Department of Defense. We didn't have to go up to the Hill to run into politics. There are vested interests in the OSD (Office of the Secretary of Defense) staff, and in the military services as well. We weren't always coming out very well in this tug of war.
So there was something missing in our secretariat. Jack L. Stempler had been a Marine in World War II, a civilian lawyer in OSD, and most recently the head of OSD's legislative affairs office. Mel Laird suggested that he become our general counsel. He had probably served his usefulness as legislative liaison at the OSD level-that's a job that no human being can possibly take on for many years because he's using up his chits, all the time. We had a good general counsel named John M. Steadman, whom I liked and who was the only holdover that we had incidentally. But Jack Stempler obviously had a background that would be extremely helpful because of his political savvy on the Hill and, really more important, his understanding of the Department of Defense. He was the missing link, if you will, that I had been looking for in rounding out the secretariat. He was what Dr. Brown would have called the "generalist." I had learned from NASA that if you get the right kind of a lawyer to work with you, not on legal mattersthough obviously he has got to get involved in legal matters-but on matters that are quasi-legal, judgmental matters that involve people and situations, that you're well off. So his transfer really rounded out the secretariat, and later I found his advice absolutely invaluable.
We were forced to make one change in the secretariat prior to the end of President Nixon's first term in office. General Hershey was about to retire as director of the Selective Service System, and the White House had its eye on Curtis Tarr for his replacement. Curtis asked me how to decline. When a member of an administration, the argument that the present job is more important won't fly, nor will personal preference. I suggested he explain his distaste for selective service. Several days later he proceeded to the White House with great foreboding. After an interminable wait, the President burst out of the Oval Office, grabbed Curtis's hand and amid the handshaking
thanked him profusely for accepting the job. Curtis ended up serving as the selective service director until 1972.
His replacement for reserve affairs, Richard J. Borda, was the perfect individual for the job, and we were lucky to get him. He had been vice president of personnel for the Wells Fargo Bank on the west coast. He came with strong recommendations from the business school at Stanford. He was a very well-rounded person with a lot of savoir faire.
Each assistant secretary had a counterpart on Mr. Laird's staff as well as on the Air Staff. There were deputy chiefs of the Air Staff for research and development, installation and logistics, and manpower. The only awkwardness was financial management. General Duward L. (Pete) Crow was the comptroller for the Air Force who worked directly with Bob Moot, the Department of Defense comptroller. The assistant secretary for Financial Management oversaw management systems, but had no direct control of the purse strings. On budget matters Pete Crow was Spence Schedler's boss. General Ryan and I encouraged counterparts to work closely together, and to resolve issues directly whenever possible, before they needed to come to our attention.
When I became secretary, General J.P. McConnell's four-year tour as chief of staff was about over. He accepted my appointment graciously. However, he made it clear that he was the military boss. There was one time when I wanted to become familiar with the general officers in the Air Force, particularly the three- and four-star generals, and so I asked for a book with their biographies. Word came back: “If Dr. Seamans wants to know about my senior officers, he can come and see me."
Because of McConnell's impending retirement, one of the key decisions that had to be made within a few months of my arrival was the naming of the next chief of staff. Mr. Laird was putting the bite on me for this decision, and he made it clear he wanted a younger person. An obvious candidate was George Brown, a great leader in World War II with many difficult B-17 sorties deep into Germany, McNamara's executive officer, and currently the Air Force commander in Southeast Asia. However, I felt he was still young enough to take command of system acquisition when he left Vietnam and then become Air Force chief, and even ultimately to serve as chairman of the Joint Chiefs. Fortunately for the country, this is what happened.
Harold Brown and J.P. McConnell advised me prior to February 15th that General John Ryan was their choice for the next chief of
staff and that his selection would be welcomed by the senior staff. I had a lengthy conversation with General Ryan, former commander of the Strategic Air Command (SAC). I liked him, but felt I should meet with General Bruce Holloway, the present commander of SAC, before making a final determination. I went to his headquarters in Omaha, Nebraska, telling him in advance why I was coming. At the meeting I told him he was, along with one or two others, a contender for the job, so I wanted him to bear this in mind in our conversation. Then I asked him a bunch of questions about his views on Air Force matters. I got a very nice letter back saying that he appreciated being considered and the way I discussed matters with him and, of course, was sorry he wasn't selected but wanted me to know that it meant a lot to him to realize that he was considered.
General Ryan was my final choice, and I've never worked with anybody I respected more. He was direct, open, and pragmatic. No matter what the assignment, his reaction would be: "Let's not agonize, let's get on with it, let's do it." Today, looking back on my days in the Air Force, I'm proud of the team I helped put together, not only those I've discussed but the many others that space does not permit mentioning.
NASA and DOD
There were major differences between NASA and DOD. Of course DOD was still government, and a lot of its business was conducted the same way as NASA. But NASA is an independent agency and, hence, in an administrative role at NASA, I tended to work closely with many departments, directly with the Bureau of the Budget and attended meetings with the President a fair number of times. In the Department of Defense, most of my activities were within the department itself, working with the different offices of the secretary of defense and horizontally with the other services. At the Air Force, not much time was spent with departments and agencies outside DOD.
NASA had a fairly substantial international program, so I had done some traveling. But in the Department of Defense, the disposition of our forces in this country and overseas and the relationships with many foreign countries on a large scale were extremely important. In particular, Southeast Asia was front and center at that time. I enjoyed
the extensive traveling, as I got to see people such as Chiang Kai-shek in Taiwan, President Chung Hee Park in Korea, and other foreign leaders. I was also privileged to stay at a U.S. residence when visiting foreign capitals and had a chance to meet many of our ambassadors.
There was a rhythm to life in the Pentagon. Upon arriving at 7:30 a.m. I was given another cup of black coffee before receiving a briefing on critical news events. I had already “read” the Washington Post, the Baltimore Sun, and the New York Times in the car prior to entering the building, but the defense issues were not always completely or adequately portrayed. My executive officer would be present and bring me up to date on the day's events.
I would then receive a military briefing that was similar to the one received by the chief of staff one-half hour earlier. Maps of Vietnam would show USAF activity in Vietnam and along supply routes in Laos. It was common knowledge and accepted that we were attacking the supply lines used by the North Vietnamese in Laos, but bombing of Cambodia was verboten. Hence a secret procedure was developed using the high-altitude B-52s flying toward Cambodia. The bombs. were released using radio signals from the ground. The pilots could suspect but couldn't be certain whether the bombs landed in South Vietnam or Cambodia. The charts used in my briefing never showed the bombs landing in Cambodia. In my naiveté, I didn't realize until after I left the Pentagon the existence of this bombing.2
On Mondays, the secretary of defense held a large meeting in his conference room. Laird sat at one end of the conference table and Packard at the other with the service secretaries and the joint chiefs in between. The key staff and assistant secretary of defense observed the meeting from chairs around the perimeter of the room. On Wednesdays, I had an hour each week scheduled with Mel Laird. Dave Packard and John McLucas would also attend. These meetings were more informal, much like the sessions I had at NASA with Hugh Dryden and Jim Webb.
2 Senator Symington (D-MO) telephoned me several months after I left the Pentagon to ask me if I would voluntarily testify on this subject. General Ryan confirmed at the committee hearing that I had been excluded from information about the bombing by higher authority. Senator Symington asked me if I found this upsetting. I told him it made me "damn mad," especially since I'd signed a report to Congress saying that the bombing in Cambodia was limited and inadvertent.