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Charter for Air Force Systems Command Prosecution of the Strategic Defense Initiative (SDI): 01 July 1985

compiled by Ron Kurtus

The Strategic Defense Initiative (SDI)—also called "Star Wars" in the popular press—was an important part of our recent history, primarily because it was influential in ending the Cold War battle with the Soviet Union.

The Air Force Systems Command (AFSC) was given a charter to develop the technologies for SDI in 1985. The following material is the text of that charter. It is useful for historical purposes, as well as a reference for companies hoping to do future business with the military, as far as formats and issues go.

NOTE: As far as I know, none of this material is classified or sensitive. This material may also be available through Government sources.


GLOSSARY (Note: Reference for understanding acronyms)






5.1 Program Direction

5.2 Program Documentation


6.1 Integrating Product Division

6.2 Lead Product Divisions and Technology Centers

6.3 Associate Product Divisions and Technology Centers Laboratories

6.4 A Lead Execution organization

6.5 A Participating Execution Organization



8.1 Air Force Interfaces

8.2 Non-Air Force Interfaces



The ultimate goal of the SDI is to eliminate the threat posed by nuclear ballistic missiles and thus enhance the security and defense of the United States and its allies. Initially, the SDI is a comprehensive research and technology program to develop and demonstrate the technologies necessary for effective ballistic missile defense. This research process is and will be consistent with all treaties and international agreements to which the United States is a party, and includes extensive consultation with allied foreign nations.


This charter establishes and defines the responsibilities of the AFSC organizations that will manage and implement the SDI planning, research, and technology efforts assigned by HQ USAF to AFSC.


AFSC/CV 182135Z Sep 84 established a new HQ AFSC staff agency, Special Assistant for SDI, to be the headquarters focal point for SDI tasks assigned to AFSC. The Special Assistant coordinates HQ AFSC staff elements in discharging AFSC’s responsibilities. The Special Assistant is also the HQ USAF Special Assistant (to DCS/RD&A) for SDI. He therefore represents both HQ USAF and HQ AFSC in SDI matters.

AFSC/CC letter "Interdivisional Relationships for Air Force Execution of the Strategic Defense Initiative Program (SDIP)," dated 5 June 1984, designated Space Division as the Integrating Product Division for SDI tasks assigned to AFSC, in accordance with AFSC Regulation 20-3, Multidivisional Relationships; it also designated Space Division and ESD as Lead Product Divisions.

AFSCR 20-3 directs creation of this charter.


The AFSC organizational structure for the SDI is summarized in Figure 1. This structure is consistent with AFSCR 20-3, which defines the roles of Integrating, Lead and Associate Product Divisions (IPD, LPD, and APD); it introduces the concepts of. Lead and Associate Technology Centers and Laboratories (LTC, ATC) and Lead and Participating Execution Organizations (LEO, PEO), whose responsibilities are described in section 6 of this charter.


5.1 Program Direction

The SDI Organization (SDIO) provides program direction through a Work Package Directive (WPD), which is a technical contract between the SDIO and an executing service/agency. The basic WPD defines the goals and objectives of the work to be accomplished, defines measures of evaluation of technical achievement (including milestones), and establishes the funding available/required to accomplish the stated goals and objectives. It contains information on the scope of the effort, the relationship to other SDI programs and the general acquisition strategy.

AFSC participates in the drafting of WPDs for efforts that the command will execute as either lead or agent for another service/agency. Field organizations and the headquarters staff, in concert with the SDIO staff, prepare a draft WPD. During the drafting process, the LPD (or LTC, If appropriate; see Section 6) recommends LEO and PEO assignments for the WPD. The proposed LEO coordinates the draft with all PEOs and forwards it through the LTC (if appropriate), LPD and IPD to the Special Assistant for SDI. Field coordination implies agreement on the technical content, schedule and funding in the WPD, allocation of tasks and funding among the LEO and PEOs, and also the availability and commitment of Air Force resources to execute the effort described. The Special Assistant for SDI resolves any internal issues that have come up during the coordination process and then signs the WPD for the Air Force. For efforts involving AFSC participation but for which the AF is not the lead agency, the Special Assistant coordinates on the WPD and forwards It to the lead executing agency for incorporation into a final WPD. For efforts to be led by AFSC, the Special Assistant negotiates recommended changes to the WPD with the cognizant SDIO Assistant Director; both then sign the final WPD and submit it to the Director, SDIO (DSDIO) for signature.

When the DSDIO signs the WPD, It becomes SDI program direction and is returned to the Air Force Special Assistant for execution. The signed WPD takes the place of the Program Management Directive (PMD) normally sent from HQ USAF to MAJCOMs (ref:: HQ USAFIRO 022014Z Nov 84, subject: Waiver to AFR 800-2 (11 Jul 83) for Air Force SDI Work). The Special Assistant and the HQ AFSC Comptroller then transmit the WPO to the field via AFSC Form 56, which designates the LEO, and PEO(s) If any, and allocates funding and responsibilities among the LEO and PEO(s) if appropriate. Funds come through standard Air Force channels via Program/Budget Authorization.

AFSC organizations may execute SDI efforts as agents for other DOD or DOE agencies. In these cases, the organization receives funding from, and negotiates the tasking with, the lead executing agency. The AFSC organization must ensure that the work to be done is consistent with present and pending AF SDI responsibilities from both a resource and work content point of view. If conflicts arise, the organization should raise concerns immediately through the AFSC SDI structure; in all cases, the organization should provide regular status reports on its non-AF SDI efforts to the LPD with related SDI PE responsibility.

Authority to negotiate contracts comes via a single Class Determination and Finding (D&F) for Air Force SDI efforts. This document covers all efforts regardless of dollar value and therefore eliminates the requirement for separate Technical Program Plans (TPPs). The D&F incorporates, by reference or attachment, the WPDs assigned to the Air Force for execution.

5.2 Program Documentation

In the interest of avoiding duplicative or redundant documentation, AFSC will use SDIO-generated documents to the maximum extent possible; Program Plans and WPDs will be the principal documents used. For example, details of the plans, arrangements, agreements, etc., necessary to implement SDI efforts will be developed by the cognizant AFSC organization (per this charter) and appended to a WPD or Program Plan as appropriate.


HQ AFSC receives funding authority and program direction from HQ USAF and assigns responsibility for implementing that direction in accordance with this charter and applicable regulations. The Special Assistant for SDI ensures that responsibility is properly assigned and authority delegated within AFSC. He negotiates MOAs with other MAJCOMS, services and agencies as required.

The Special Assistant, as the coordinator of HQ AFSC staff elements on SDI matters, works programmatic Issues principally with the DCSS for Science and Technology (DL), Plans and Programs (XR) and Systems (SD); functional issues primarily involve the Comptroller (AC) and the DCS for Contracting (PK). Key programmatic areas of mutual Interest are the integration of SDI outcomes into long range Air Force plans (with XR), the relationship between SDI and the Air Force technology base (with DL) and the transition from SDI Advanced Development (6.3) efforts to Air Force Engineering Development (6.4) efforts (with SD). Memoranda of Agreement between the Special Assistant and these DCSs document the specific responsibilities of each organization.

The following sections describe the responsibilities and authority assigned to the field by this charter. Space Division, as IPD, has responsibility for coordinating overall AFSC field support to the SDI (section 6.1). The LPDs (Space Division and Electronic Systems Division), supported by their respective LTCs (AF Space Technology Center and Rome Air Development Center), have overall responsibility for executing assigned SDI technical efforts; AFOSR also has LPD responsibilities (section 6.2). The remaining sections describe the roles and responsibilities of the APO, ATC, LEO and PEO.

6.1 Integrating Product Division

The IPD function is a staff rather than a line function, as Fig 1 shows. IPD responsibilities are managerial in nature. As the IPD, Space Division:

  1. Receives management tasking from HQ AFSC.
  2. Has the authority to task all AFSC organizations participating in the SDI in order to implement tasking received from HQ AFSC.
  3. Compiles, consolidates and/or reviews information required by HQ AFSC concerning overall AFSC participation In the SDI (e.g., SDI POM inputs, budget adjustment recommendations, resource requirements). Establishes formats and schedules as required.
  4. Performs the program control function for the overall AFSC SDI effort, including consolidated financial reporting and obligation tracking, recommendations for funding reallocation within and between PEs, etc.
  5. Reviews Monthly WPD Reports (MWPDRs) generated by the LEOs for HQ AFSC, identifies to HQ AFSC problems affecting overall execution of AFSC's SDI effort and recommends solutions.
  6. Recommends to HQ AFSC means for resolving SDI issues internal to AFSC.
  7. Coordinates the development and updating of Air Force inputs and appendices to SDI planning and direction documents (program plans, WPDs, etc); these data will address technical, programmatic and/or organizational details for SDI tasks assigned to the Air Force.
  8. Formulates and coordinates required MOAs.
  9. Establishes working relationships with other SDI participants as necessary to fulfill assigned responsibilities.
  10. Recommends to HQ AFSC assignment of responsibility for SDI PES or technical areas not previously assigned.
  11. Coordinates the technology planning activities described in para. 6.2.2 below to ensure communications between the LTCs.

6.2 Lead Product Divisions and Technology Centers

6.2.1 The Lead Product Divisions, SD and ESD, have overall responsibility for AFSC SDI efforts in the following PEs or portions thereof:

SD: Surveillance, Acquisition, Tracking, Kill Assessment (SATKA, 63220C)

Directed Energy Weapons (DEW, 63221C)

Kinetic Energy Weapons (KEW, 63222C)

Threat, Systems Analysis portion of Systems Analysis/Battle Management (SA/BM, 63223C)

Survivability, Lethality and Key Technologies (SLKT, 63224C)

ESD: Battle Management/C3 Architecture and Technologies portion of SA/BM (63223C)

Subsequent to the AFSC/CC 5 Jun 84 letter (para. 3.0), the Special Assistant for SDI assigned LPD status to AFOSR, with responsibility for Innovative Science and Technology (PE to be determined).

For each of these areas, the LPD has the following specific responsibilities and designates Program Managers to carry them out. The LPD:

  1. Recommends to HQ AFSC, through the IPD, the LEO (and PEOs, if any) for a given WPO.
  2. Provides management oversight of and coordinates the efforts of the LEO/PEOS carrying out efforts for which it is responsible; develops overall plans and budgets.
  3. Recommends to HQ AFSC changes to individual WPD technical content, schedules and funding as well as changes necessary to achieve a balanced overall program within an area of responsibility; recommendations are based on LEOs’ initial WPD executability assessments, regular program/financial reviews, etc.
  4. Reviews/assesses MWPORs sent to HQ AFSC by the LEOs; identifies to HQ AFSC, through the IPD, issues and concerns from an overall perspective.
  5. Establishes working relationships with other AF and non-AF SDI participants as necessary to maintain cognizance of related efforts and fulfill other responsibilities.
  6. Supports the IPD as required.
  7. Supports the LTC technology planning activities described in para 6.2.2 below.
  8. Maintains cognizance of all efforts within an assigned PE where an AFSC organization is acting as agent for another DOD or government lead agency; this includes both necessary resources and technical progress.

An LPD may serve as LEO or PEO for specific WPOs.

6.2.2 The Lead Technology Centers, AFSTC and RADC, are responsible to their respective LPDs for carrying out the duties of para 6.2.1 above for assigned areas and thereby complementing the functions of the LPD. In addition, the LTC:

  1. Conducts technology planning for both system/concept-specific technologies and those technologies applicable to efforts within more than one PE. Works with the LPD program offices to allocate responsibility for system/concept-specific technologies to either the program offices (technology verification efforts) or centers/laboratories (technology development efforts). Provides the Interface between the broadly applicable technologies and all potential users, as a means of Integrating user support and focusing the efforts on user requirements.
  2. Provides a focus for advocacy within the Air Force and SDIO of technology base efforts.
  3. Maintains cognizance of the relation between SDI technology efforts and the Air Force technology base and facilitates information flow between the two. Identifies to HQ AFSC (the OCS/Science and Technology as well as the Special Assistant), through the LPD and IPD, the applicability of SDI technology efforts to other Air Force roles and missions and of Air Force tech base efforts to the SDI.

An LTC may serve as LEO or PEO for specific WPOs.

6.3 Associate Product Divisions and Technology Centers Laboratories

6.3.1 The Associate Product Divisions (AD, ASO, BMO and FTD; also SO and ESO in certain situations):

  1. Assist the LPDs in determining LEO and PEO recommendations.
  2. Serve as LEO or PEO for specific WPOs.
  3. Support subordinate units serving as LEO or PEO.

6.3.2 The Associate Technology Centers and Laboratories (AFWL, AFGL, AFRPL, AFWAL, AFATL and AEDC; also AFSTC and RADC in certain situations) are responsible for developing and demonstrating specific technologies. Working through their respective product divisions as required, the ATCs:

  1. Serve as LEO or PEO for specific WPDs.
  2. Assist the LTCs in the development and update of implementation plans and other documentation.
  3. Support the IPD, LPDs and LTCs as otherwise required.

6.4 A Lead Execution organization

  1. Receives funding and direction from HQ AFSC.
  2. Determines the executability of direction received and forwards the assessment, along with recommended changes, to HQ AFSC through the responsible LPD and the IPD.
  3. Provides funding and direction to PEOs, if any, based on funding and task allocations agreed to during WPD coordination.
  4. Develops plans to execute assigned WPDs.
  5. Executes assigned WPDS within allocated resources.
  6. Provides to HQ AFSC MWPDRs covering technical and programmatic status, with information copies to all intermediate levels (i.e., LTC, LPD, IPD). The IPD establishes schedules and formats for MWPORs.
  7. Generates documentation and reports associated with assigned WPOs (e.g., PCM PDPs, quarterly status briefings).
  8. Establishes working relationships with other SDI participants as necessary to fulfill assigned responsibilities.
  9. Assists the LPD in carrying out it's responsibilities.

Direct communication between an LEO and its PEOs is authorized.

6.5 A Participating Execution Organization

  1. Receives funding and direction from the LEO.
  2. Manages assigned efforts within allocated resources.
  3. Assists the LEO in carrying out its responsibilities.
  4. Establishes working relationships with other SDI participants as necessary to fulfill assigned responsibilities.

Direct communication between a PEO and Its LEO is authorized. The PEO must also keep any parent organization informed of its activities IAW standard AFSC procedures.


Prosecution of the SDI requires effective and efficient cooperation among a number of AFSC and other AF organizations. It is the responsibility of the Interfacing organizations to establish and coordinate these inter-faces by creating MOAs as necessary to supplement the organizational relationships described in the relevant WPOs. Copies of these documents will be provided to the responsible LFO for review and approval. Information copies of each MOA will be provided to the IPD and the Special Assistant for SDI.

It is expected that the Interfaces between the following organizations participating in the SDI will require MOAs:

HQ AFSC and AF Space Command

HQ AFSC and AF Strategic Air Command

The following interfaces may involve MOAs, if both parties feel one is necessary:

Lead and Associate Product Divisions

Lead and Associate Technology Centers/Laboratories

All additional agreements between organizations to assign responsibilities may be MOAS, but performance "contracts" are preferred. Performance contracts will outline the details of specific work sub-packages to include details such as technical objectives, schedule, funding, etc. and may be locally appended to approved WPOs. MOAs will be reviewed at least annually and updated as required.


8.1 Air Force Interfaces

It is the responsibility of HQ AFSC (Special Assistant for SDI) to establish and maintain non-AFSC interfaces through MOAs. The primary interfaces within the Air Force required for the implementation of the SDI are those between HQ AFSC and Space Command and Strategic Air Command.

8.2 Non-Air Force Interfaces

HQ USAF will remain responsible for establishing formal Interfaces required between the Air Force and non-USAF organizations (such as SDIO, Army, Navy, DARPA, DNA, DOE, NASA). Detailed MOAs covering situations where the Air Farce is executing agent for a non-Air Force organization (or vice versa) will be written as required. The MOAs will be executed at appropriate levels.

Informal interfaces for the purpose of exchanging data and information may be established and maintained, as required, by any LEO or LPD. If documentation results, a copy will be submitted through the IPD to the Special Assistant for SDI.


Unless superseded or terminated, this charter will be reviewed annually and will remain In effect until program completion.

Vice Commander
Air Force Systems Command

Lessons Learned

In conclusion, this document is a good example of effective program management. Lessons learned from it include:

Anything else?

A well-defined plan help to achieve your goals

Resources and references

Ron Kurtus' Credentials


Possible Soviet Responses to the US Strategic Defense Initiative - Unclassified 1983 document from the CIA Historical Review Program

The Strategic Defense Initiative - political risks - From Air University Review 1985

SDI History Resources


(Notice: The School for Champions may earn commissions from book purchases)

Secret Weapons of the Cold War: From the H-Bomb to SDI by William Yenne; Berkley (2005) $7.99

US Strategic And Defensive Missile Systems 1950-2004 by Mark A. Berhow, Chris Taylor; Osprey Books (2005) $16.95

Top-rated books on Missle Defense

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