Class Of 1964 USAF Academy

The Four P's

by Paul G. Kaminski USAFA Class of ’64 Reunion Dinner October 1, 2004 Antlers Hotel

What a grand occasion - seeing what I believe to be about half of our graduating class here today 40 years after graduation! I am so proud to have been a member of this class, and I know how especially proud and grateful we all are to those classmates just recognized by Harry Pearce for their extraordinary sacrifice and service to this Nation while serving as Prisoners of War in Vietnam.

Today I would like to share some thoughts with you looking back – but also looking forward. I, like many of you, have now had several different careers ranging from engineering in the field, to management, to investment banking and technology strategy. It seems some of us can’t keep a job!

I want to share with you what I learned to be the critical ingredients of success in each career. These ingredients, which I call the 4 P’s, had their roots here at USAFA. They were reinforced by my interactions with all of you at USAFA, beginning for me during the entry process before even becoming a basic cadet, and continuing today. While important in the past, I believe these 4 P’s are equally important to the future success of our Academy, our Air Force, and our Nation.

Well, just what are these 4 P’s, and why are they so important?


The first P stands for People. Walt Disney once said, “You can dream, create, design and build the most wonderful place in the world. But it requires people to make it work.”

The people factor is what first attracted me to the Air Force Academy. My high school principal called me in one day and suggested that I would be well suited for this new AF Academy. I was already headed down a path with scholarships at good civilian engineering schools. But I had respect for this person, so I agreed to take the tests that most of us took. I went to Wright Patterson AFB in Dayton, Ohio for a few days, and I was pleasantly surprised by the experience. I was extremely impressed with the caliber of people I met who were also taking these tests. I left with the feeling that I wanted to be associated with people of this caliber. So it was high caliber people like you that led me to USAFA.

The people I met at USAFA -- classmates, squadron-mates, faculty, even a few of the upperclassmen -- reinforced my earlier opinions. I am here today because I still treasure the people and the relationships developed during my 4 years at USAFA.

The good news for me was that I continued to work with outstanding people as I began my Air Force career. This was true in my early assignments – graduate school at MIT, then a hands-on field assignment testing advanced guidance systems at Holloman AFB, New Mexico. This was followed by an opportunity for a doctorate in Aero & Astro at Stanford. At that time, the Air Force was willing to make a very significant investment in the development of people, to include people with advanced technical and engineering skills.

I believe this investment provided a huge payback to the nation. Many of these people stayed on active duty for some time as a result of two factors: 1) service commitments resulting from advanced education, and 2) challenging and interesting assignments that allowed people to make a visible difference.

For me, the real impact of exceptional people became crystal clear during subsequent assignments, first in the nation’s National Reconnaissance Office (NRO) and then later in the Stealth program. In both activities there were small teams of people who had exceptional capabilities and dedication to their highly classified and critical missions.

In the NRO, we were defining new satellite reconnaissance concepts, and working with US industry to develop, build, and launch them. I was privileged to work with a significant number of exceptionally talented people. They included active duty officers, and technical leaders in industry. Unfortunately, the level of skills and experience of those working to advance our current space capabilities has eroded significantly since that time, and the problems we are seeing in our defense and intelligence space programs reflect the need to rebuild that people base. We need to rebuild that base both in the Air Force and in industry.

In the Stealth Program, we were plowing new ground, designing aircraft that would be the “worst antennas” ever made (so they would return almost no reflected energy to enemy radars and missiles), and every now and then checking to be sure they could fly safely and deliver weapons on target. In these programs, a small number of exceptional people made a real difference. And the importance of having the right people for the right job was clearly established for me.

The Stealth program was built on a foundation of incredible people - small in number, but unmatched in vision, leadership and dedication. Many had an incredible combination of multi-disciplinary skills, while others had more narrow but deep skills. The importance of the program was a driving force to bring our best and brightest to the program. I had the privilege of working personally with the most incredible people at all levels—from Presidents to my secretary, Connie Jo Kelly. Let me share a personal story about each.

We had a small office in the Pentagon. Although we had about 10% of the Air Force budget, we had 10 people in the office and 9 desks. But there was at least one of us gone on travel at any given time, so we had a “hot-desk” policy!

My Secretary, Connie Jo, was one of the most competent people I have ever worked with. She supported the entire office. When she prepared a document for me, it always came out to say what I meant, even if it was different than what I wrote (I think you know what I mean). You may think it a coincidence that Connie Jo’s nickname (CJ) was the same as the then classified name for the B-2, Senior CJ. But it was not. We lost CJ to cancer several years ago, but not before she put up an incredible fight.

One day, we were asked to meet with President Reagan to inform him personally about the Stealth Program. Because of the tight security for the Stealth program, the meeting was to include just 3 people: President Reagan, Col John Douglass on the NSC Staff, and me. So it fell to John and me to prepare the “read ahead” for the President, and to CJ to type it. We prepared it, including a little background, some opening remarks, and a joke.

When the President came in, John and I looked at each other—we were both worried about keeping a straight face if the President actually used our introduction and corny joke. Fortunately, he never looked at the read-ahead. He immediately engaged us personally and warmly, and took great interest in the program. He was clearly a “people person” who took great interest in us personally, and great interest in what this technology might do to reduce the risk to those who fly and fight – more about this later.

There were a very few people in the entire country who had the skills needed to advance the state-of-the-art needed to develop and field our advanced Stealth systems. And I observed a huge competition in industry and government to bid for the services of this limited base of skilled people. One of the actions I took was to establish an advanced degree educational program in stealth technology at the Air Force Institute of Technology (AFIT). This was a significant help, but AFIT is now shut down. So again, I don’t believe the nation is doing all that is needed to develop that base of people skills that paid off so well in the past.

I should also comment about a key motivating factor for me as I worked on the National Reconnaissance and the Stealth programs over about a ten year period. That motivating factor came from my sense of the huge sacrifices and suffering that our classmates endured as POW’s. I, like President Reagan, saw our work on reconnaissance and stealth providing enabling technology capabilities to greatly reduce the risk to our combat air crews, and provide the means to greatly reduce the number and the suffering of future POW’s. Knowing classmates that had endured this suffering provided strong motivation for me and my team to do our best to field systems like the F-117, the B-2, and others, doing our very best to support those who fly and fight for our nation, today and in the future. While we all knew that advanced technology would not eliminate the risk of being shot down and killed or captured, we did expect that we could greatly reduce that risk. We also knew that this technology would enable missions to directly attack the central nervous system of our adversaries, just as we did during Desert Storm. Our intent was to reduce the risk per mission by making our aircraft effectively invisible to the enemy’s defenses, and then reduce the number of missions required to accomplish the objective by fielding aircraft, reconnaissance and weapon systems that were much more effective beginning with the first mission on the first day.

Making our technology work in practice reminds me of the next P.


The next P stands for partnerships. Given great people, the next step is getting them to work together toward a common objective. I learned a great deal about partnerships at USAFA. We all remember the phrase “cooperate and graduate,” which described partnerships among classmates working together with a common graduation objective. There were strong partnerships within squadrons, within classes (especially among the class of ’64) and on the “fields of friendly strife.” Partnerships were fundamental to our way of life at USAFA.

Partnerships were absolutely critical to the success of the Stealth program. There were partnerships at all levels -- between developers and operators, government and industry, modelers and testers, executive and legislative branches, and amazingly, there was bi-partisan cooperation and partnership between the majority and minority in the Congress – something very rarely today. There was an incredible sense of commitment to a common objective—fielding a revolutionary capability—and it created an enormous incentive for real partnerships.

Let me share with you a personal experience of how a strong partnership avoided a nasty problem. The partnership in operation here was between me and the staff director of the Defense Subcommittee on Appropriations in the Congress. Having worked together closely for a few years, a solid partnership between us had developed based upon mutual trust. One day he called me to say that his Chairman was no longer willing to take personal responsibility for approving the large amount of money for our Stealth Program. He wanted a full hearing to inform all members of his committee. This would have been a disaster regarding security. If one committee did this, I felt the others would soon follow suit, greatly increasing the exposure of the program and the risk of early comprise. So I pressed the staff director to talk his Chairman out of the hearing. He tried but failed.

So I went up my short chain of command to the Secretary of Defense. He agreed to address the Congressional leadership. But the Republican leadership could not convince the Democratic Speaker to put pressure on the Committee Chairman. So things were looking bad.

I met again with the staff director, and we developed the following approach. We scheduled the hearing on the afternoon of a golf tournament that was drawing many members of Congress, and at a time when many other members had not returned to DC. We gave the hearing an obscure title, and I presented a briefing that was even more obfuscating than my usual briefings! Only one or two members showed up. While we answered all questions, they left with a very limited exposure, and we gathered up the transcript for storage in our office. The Chairman had a record of a hearing offered to all members, and he felt relieved. So the partnership worked.

Those partnerships are much harder to create today. I see in Congress today very little of the bi-partisan cooperation that we were able to obtain on key national security issues. I also see some lack of cooperation and trust between some of our senior military and civilian leadership that is not conducive to the partnership and collective risk-taking that was so critical to our progress on Stealth.

Progress in fielding revolutionary new capabilities requires a deep sense of trust and commitment among our operators, acquisition personnel, and industry. That commitment requires a partnership, but it also requires another P.

Principles (and Processes)

The next P stands for Principles—the orderly approaches and underlying integrity of the processes that we apply to do our work. And once again, I come back to the Academy experience for a foundation of principles and underlying integrity.

Without principles, partnerships erode. Without integrity, the people erode as well. Without people and partnerships, there will be no progress.

When we first arrived at USAFA, I think we were all struck by the Honor Code and the significant impact it had on our daily lives. It was simple to state – “We will not lie, cheat or steal, nor tolerate among us those who do.” But it was profound in its impact.

I can remember how good it felt to be handed a tough exam to be taken open book in one’s room with a 2 hour time limit, and to return the next day to find that no one in the class was able to complete the exam in 2 hours. I can also remember how bad it felt when a classmate turned himself in for an honor violation because he couldn’t live with himself and left the Academy.

I also remember a day in May 1964 when a few of us on the Wing Staff were called to a meeting with the Sup a few weeks before graduation. The Sup had the first statistical data indicating that there might be evidence of cheating based on the change in scores on first versus second day exams. I can still remember the walk back to my room, and how badly deflated I felt. After 4 years of seeing the Honor Code in action, I couldn’t believe this could be possible at USAFA.

I could see the extraordinary value provided by the Honor Code, and the principles and integrity underlying everything at USAFA; so I was determined to carry them with me in my future careers.

In the Stealth Program, we had many principles and processes that were key to success—some explicit, others implicit. One of our great strengths was our financial process. We had great flexibility, but also strong integrity and discipline. I had unusual authority to reprogram funds between R&D and procurement, and between programs. But I was required to verbally inform our 4 committees in Congress and did so with absolute integrity in a timely and meticulous manner.

When there were problems in the program, and there were many, the DOD leadership and Congressional leadership could count on hearing about those problems from me first. This approach helped maintain the flexibility and mutual trust that was critical to keeping our most important efforts on track and allowing us to reduce and even terminate programs of lesser importance or faltering performance.

I worked to apply a foundation of discipline and integrity when we began to test our stealth systems in engagements with various air defense systems. I insisted that we develop a simulation-based engagement model and use that model before each engagement to predict when detection, track, etc. would occur. We would then do the live test and compare predictions with test results. Our first attempts to do this were a disaster. There was little or no correlation between predictions and results. So we brought in the best minds in the country and began to discover that our models were missing many important factors. As we began to include those factors in the models, the correlation began to improve. Eventually, our predictions became so good that we could use them to develop the routing algorithms that we used operationally to plan missions. These mission planning tools were absolutely critical, because they were needed to avoid flying too close to defenses that could successfully engage. Demonstrating the effectiveness of these models and the integrity of our process was also critical to providing confidence to our flight crews, whose lives depended upon them. One of my greatest satisfactions in the Stealth program was my exposure to the intelligence data from Desert Storm. It was very fulfilling to observe the excellent correlation between our model predictions and the actual performance of our stealth systems in the Iraqi defense net.


The 4th and final P is for persistence. Calvin Coolidge said, “Nothing in the world can take the place of persistence. Talent will not; nothing is more common than unsuccessful men with talent. Genius will not; unrewarded genius is almost a proverb. Education will not; the world is full of educated derelicts. Persistence and determination alone are omnipotent. The slogan ‘press on’ has solved and always will solve the problems of the human race.”

USAFA was a wonderful place to learn about persistence. Basic cadet summer, and the entire 4th class year helped each of us discover how much more we could do than we had imagined we could do. We learned the value of persistence in academics as well as on the obstacle course.

There are so many examples of how persistence paid off in the Stealth program. One is the modeling and simulation work mentioned earlier to predict outcomes of engagements with defenses. This took a few years, as we discovered how little we actually knew about the physics of air defense engagements, and discovered limitations in our models that needed to be overcome as well as the need for entirely new instrumentation that didn’t exist.

Another example had to do with the alpha and beta probes for the F 117. These probes measured air speed, angle of attack and sideslip -- measurements that are absolutely critical to control an unstable, fly-by-wire aircraft such as the F-117. These probes needed to meet 4 requirements: 1) They needed to provide accurate and timely measurements; 2) They needed to have a very low radar signature; 3) They needed coatings that would survive erosion by rain; and 4) They needed a system to prevent icing.

We had designs that could meet any 3 of these 4 needs. But it took great persistence as well as the other 3 P’s to eventually obtain all 4.

In summary, I have found that 4 P’s - People, Partnerships, Principles, and Persistence are key to success in almost any endeavor. I found a rich foundation for each of those P’s during my experiences at the Air Force Academy. And I believe that these 4 P’s are what have made the Class of ’64 so successful in such a wide variety of pursuits and careers.

While important in the past, I believe these 4 P’s are equally important to the future success of our Academy, our Air Force, and our Nation. So think about them as you work to influence the future of our Academy and our Nation.

It is great to see so many of you here today, and it is a special pleasure and privilege for me to be a member of this extraordinary class of 64.
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