formal channels were needed to connect Combatant Commands, the science and technology (S&T) community, and the Product Centers. These ideas resulted in the establishment in 1960 of an organization called the Advanced System Program Office, developing mission requirement analysis and operational assessment tools and using them to focus technology development.2


The first Development Planning (DP) offices were begun in the 1960s, and their processes and policies were defined over the following years. In 1978, the Commander of Air Force Systems Command, General Alton D. Slay, created Vanguard, a more comprehensive and complex DP methodology. With Vanguard, General Slay split the management of technology into two pieces. The first, what he called “Planning for Development,” was acquisition-based: It codified user requirements and determined the systems, costs, schedules, and plans necessary to meet those requirements.

The second piece was called “Development Planning,” and it was technology-based, coordinating all research and development in the Air Force, focusing on Exploratory Development (6.2) and Advanced Development (6.3). Vanguard used what must have been for the time very advanced computer tools to increase visibility into technology efforts across all fronts, throughout industry and across the armed services. A channel was established within the Air Force Systems Command (AFSC), from the Deputy Chief of Staff for Development Plans down to each individual program office and laboratory, through which Vanguard data were accumulated, sorted, analyzed, and redistributed. Participation was not optional.

Essential to Vanguard’s success was a tool called “Hooks and Strings,” which formed the connective tissue between the Combatant Commands, the S&T world, and the acquisition centers. In connecting the three worlds, “Hooks and Strings” provided the answers to the critical questions that are as relevant today as they were 30 years ago. See Box D-1.

Project Vanguard included three core planning areas: (1) mission plans, (2) major force elements, and (3) functional plans. Mission-level plans addressed specific tasks that must be completed, whereas major force elements included larger and more general categories of systems that would garner interest across the board, and functional plans addressed those activities that spanned several mission areas. All of these plans included a wealth of information, such as applicable citations from the USAFs out-year development plan, relevant regulations, pertinent organizational dependencies, and proposed milestones and requirements.


John M. Griffin and James J. Mattice. 2010. “Development Planning and Capability Planning, 1947 to 1999 and Beyond.” Unpublished manuscript, pp. 5-6.

The National Academies | 500 Fifth St. N.W. | Washington, D.C. 20001
Copyright © National Academy of Sciences. All rights reserved.
Terms of Use and Privacy Statement