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1999 Distinguished Graduate Award

    GEN Lew Allen, Jr. '46

In the years since General Lew Allen, Jr. graduated from the Military Academy, he has rendered extraordinary service to the United States Air Force and to the Nation. Through his contributions to the improvement of military technology, his service at the highest levels in the department of defense, and his advancement of America’s space program, he has earned a distinguished place in the history of this century. His life has exemplified outstanding devotion to the principles expressed in West Point’s motto: Duty, Honor, Country.
Already wearing the pilot’s wings he had earned as a cadet, Lew Allen graduated on 4 June 1946 and was commissioned a Second Lieutenant, U.S. Army Air Corps. Almost immediately, he found his thinking and professional skills focused on the cold-war confrontation between the United States and the Soviet Union. Following his B-25 transition training, he was assigned to the Strategic Air Command. Then, after completing the Weaponeer (nuclear weapons specialist) School, he was posted to Carswell Air Force Base, where he served as a pilot, a Weaponeer and an instructor of Weaponeers. This was his introduction to atomic weapons and the role of deterrent forces at the operating level.
The next decade and a half brought a shift from operational to scientific work, and it also resulted in a record of brilliant achievement. From 1950 to 1954 he was a student at the University of Illinois, where he earned both a master’s degree and a Doctorate in Physics. He was then assigned as a nuclear weapons scientist at Los Alamos National Laboratory in New Mexico where he remained until 1957. In this position, he successfully designed and carried out tests to determine the lethality of weapons used to defend against nuclear attacks.
Next, he served as Science Advisor to the Air Force Special Weapons Laboratory at Kirtland Air Force Base where his experiments included the “Argus” series of upper-atmosphere nuclear tests in the South Atlantic. Aimed at determining if trapped electrons in the Earth’s magnetic field due to nuclear explosions would have serious military effects, the tests detected no such effects, particularly none to communications. Finally, in 1961 he was posted to the Office of the Deputy Director of Defense, Research and Engineering where he first became involved with work on classified satellites and where one of his notable projects was to help determine the radiation effects on photographic film in orbit for the CORONA Program.
A half decade of high-level staff work followed these assignments, first as Director of Advanced Plans in the Special Projects Office of the Secretary of the Air Force in Los Angeles from 1965 until 1968, and then until 1971 as Director of the Space Systems Staff, Office of the Secretary of the Air Force, in Washington. In both positions, he assisted the Secretary of the Air Force in managing the nation’s highly sensitive classified space projects, and his contributions to their success was crucial to establishing American dominance in space technology.
He returned to operational work in 1971 when he was reassigned to Los Angeles as Director of the Office of Special Projects, Office of the Secretary of the Air Force. Here he was responsible for the procurement, launching, and on-orbit operation of the Nation’s space fleet, which played a key role in America’s effort to collect information about the Soviet Union and other potential enemies of our country.
In 1973, by now a Lieutenant General, he became the Director of the National Security Agency, and during the next four years, oversaw its world-wide intelligence collection and processing operations. Beyond the success of his agency’s intelligence gathering, one of his finest achievements was his elimination of potentially unethical or illegal practices on the part of the NSA. So effective was he that a Congressional investigation of all American intelligence agencies gave the NSA a completely clean bill of health, declaring it a model of ethical behavior.
In 1977, General Allen received a fourth star and was placed in charge of the Air Force Systems Command, which was responsible for the research, development, and acquisition of the Air Force’s aircraft, space systems and boosters, ballistic missiles, electronic systems, armament and munitions systems, and the operation of a large number of research laboratories. It was a huge responsibility, but an even greater one soon followed, for in 1978, after serving briefly as Vice Chief of Staff, he was selected by the President and confirmed by Congress as Chief of Staff, United States Air Force.
As a member of the Joint Chiefs, he contributed to deliberations on a wide variety of significant issues, such as the details of the SALT II agreement and the proper balance between long-range missiles and bombers. Within the Air Force itself, his overhauling of an antiquated personnel rating system had a great positive impact on morale and job performance. He also insured that the B-1 bomber, sidelined during a period of force reductions, came back into the inventory. He kept the Global Positioning System (GPS) satellite program on track when skeptics were trying to kill it. Under his leadership “Stealth” technology achieved maturity, and he initiated both the F-117 fighter and the B-2 bomber programs. These, along with the improvements in electronic intelligence gathering that he had overseen when in charge of the NSA, were to prove decisive in the Gulf War.
Upon his retirement from the Air Force on 30 June 1982, the National Aeronautics and Space Administration asked General Allen to take over as Director of the Jet Propulsion Laboratory at the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena and also serve as the Institute’s Vice President. This immensely responsible position placed him in the forefront of the Nation’s unmanned space exploration program. During his eight years at its helm, the Jet Propulsion Laboratory participated in a breath-taking array of scientific projects: the Voyager encounters with Uranus and Neptune; the repair of the Hubble Telescope; the Magellan launch and the first synthetic aperture radar maps of Venus that resulted from it; and the beginning of the Galileo’s voyage to Jupiter.
From 1989 to the present, General Allen has served as a member of the President’s Foreign Intelligence Advisory Board (PFIAB) and the Intelligence Oversight Board, and once again, he has proved his solid worth to the Nation. In this immensely responsible position he has consistently provided seasoned, expert, and unbiased advice. For example, during the Bush Administration he helped evaluate intelligence support to the military in Desert Storm; and during the current Administration he did the same for operations in Somalia.
Throughout a career of uncommon devotion to his country and its Air Force, General Allen was dedicated to the principals and ideals reflected in the motto of West Point. Accordingly, the Association of Graduates of the United States Military Academy takes great pride in presenting him the 1999 Distinguished Graduate Award.

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