MG William S. Chen

General Chen

MG William S. Chen was born in Shanghai, China, on 11 November 1939. He entered active duty in the Regular Army in June 1961 upon graduation from the University of Michigan with a BSE in Engineering Mathematics in 1960 and an MSE in Aeronautical and Astronautical Engineering in 1961. He also graduated from Auburn University with an MBA degree in 1970. General Chen is a graduate of the Air Command and Staff College, Defense Systems Management College, and the Industrial College of the Armed Forces.

General Chen is key assignments included Assistant Deputy for Systems Management and Director, Program Management Oversight, Office of the Assistant Secretary for Research, Development and Acquisition, and Deputy Director for Weapons Systems, Office of the Deputy Chief of Staff for Research, Development and Acquisition, United States Army, Washington, D.C. General Chen also served as Project Manager for the Division Air Defense Gun, Picatinny Arsenal, New Jersey; Project Manager, CHAPARRAL Missile System, United States Army Missile Command (MICOM), Redstone Arsenal, Alabama; Chief, Munitions Division, Office of the Deputy Chief of Staff for Research, Development and Acquisition, United States Army, Washington, D.C., and as an Operations Research Analyst on missile and air defense programs in the Program Analysis and Evaluation Directorate, Office of the Chief of Staff, United States Army, Washington, D.C.

Initially detailed in Artillery, General Chen served as a Platoon Leader and Executive Officer of a NIKE HERCULES battery, and as an Operations Officer, 35th Artillery Brigade, Fort Meade, Maryland. He also had assignments with the NIKE HERCULES Project Office and the SAM-D (Surface-to-Air Missile Development) Project Office, and taught project management at the Defense Systems Management College. General Chen commanded the 1st Battalion, School Brigade, United States Army Ordnance and Chemical Center and School, Aberdeen Proving Ground, Maryland. Overseas assignments included Korea, Vietnam, Thailand, and Laos. General Chen served as the MICOM Commander from 6 October 1989 to 27 July 1992.

Awards and decorations received by General Chen include the Legion of Merit, Bronze Star Medal, Meritorious Service Medal (with 5 Oak Leaf Clusters), Air Medal, Joint Services Commendation Medal (with Oak Leaf Cluster), and Army Commendation Medal (with Oak Leaf Cluster).


MR. MARTEL: This is an end-of-tour interview held on 9 July 1992 with MG William S. Chen, Commander of MICOM, by Mr. Michael E. Baker, Mr. James D. Bowne, and Mr. Claus R. Martel of the MICOM Historical Division.

MR. BAKER: OK. Could you please give us some background about yourself? Did you plan on making the Army a career when you first started?

MG CHEN: Well, when I first started I did not plan on making the Army a career. I went through ROTC at the University of Michigan. I was there in 1956 and graduated with a bachelors degree in 1960. I had taken ROTC. Of course at that time it was sort of post Korean War, and I knew that--or at least I wanted to serve in the military, not necessarily make it a career--so that is why I took ROTC. My father was in the Army Air Corps in World War II, so I had some exposure to military life. I had an older brother that was in ROTC the year ahead of me. So, I felt that that was a good thing to do. I did initially get commissioned as a regular Army officer and, at that time, the initial obligation was 3 years. So when I did enter, I did know that it would at least be for 3 years as opposed to a normal reserve commission which would be 2 years.

MR. BOWNE: OK. Sir, before you became commander here we know you previously served at Redstone Arsenal in other capacities. Do you think that that background or familiarity with Redstone helped you in this job as commander?

MG CHEN: Absolutely! I first got assigned here in 1963. I was a first lieutenant in the NIKE HERCULES Project Office. I think based upon that experience, you know, I got to know what project management was like. I worked for a super PM at that time, Colonel Bernie Luczak, and, in fact, he became PM of a number of other programs. But anyways, I think that that was very formative in the sense that based upon that I had aspired to become a PM. Of course in 1972, as a major, I came back here in the SAM-D Project Office, now PATRIOT. My other assignments outside of Redstone Arsenal have mostly been in missiles and air defense. So I think that the previous experience has certainly helped. I came back here in 1982 as the Project Manager for CHAPARRAL. So having gone through that experience of being within an office at the lower levels, getting an appreciation for the work that is involved, I think that that is certainly helped.


MG Chen greets Vice President George	H.W. Bush chenbush.jpg (31472 bytes)
MG Chen greets Vice President George H.W. Bush

MR. MARTEL: Sir, at the beginning of your tour as MICOM Commander, were you charged with accomplishing any specific objectives?

MG CHEN: Nobody had really given me any specific objectives. I sort of formulated my own. Of course, I got here in 1989, and one of the major issues was the implementation of Matrix Management. In 1987, the Army formed the PEOs and then established the acquisition chain of command for PEOs. And, it was in that 89 timeframe where I know MICOM organized its project offices using the Matrix Management model. Immediately before coming here I was in the Office of the Assistant Secretary of the Army for Research, Development, and Acquisition. We had visibility on

MG CHEN: Nobody had really given me any specific objectives. I sort of formulated my own. Of course, I got here in 1989, and one of the major issues was the implementation of Matrix Management. In 1987, the Army formed the PEOs and then established the acquisition chain of command for PEOs. And, it was in that 89 timeframe where I know MICOM organized its project offices using the Matrix Management model. Immediately before coming here I was in the Office of the Assistant Secretary of the Army for Research, Development, and Acquisition. We had visibility on all the programs and programmatics. But knowing that I was coming here to an AMC Major Subordinate Command involved in the support of those PMs and PEOs, one of the objectives that I had was that I should take on this position, not get involved in the programmatics, but get involved in the functional support. So that was high on my list in terms of objectives. The other major objective was the implementation of TQM. Because TQM, of course, had gotten to be a way of doing business, at least a new way of doing business. I knew that I would want to do that as part of my tour here.

MR. BOWNE: OK. Sir, we know that you have throughout your tenure supported initiatives such as the Army Communities of Excellence, and as you just mentioned, Total Quality Management. Would you please describe your personal philosophy of leadership, command, and management?

MG CHEN: Well, I think the commander is both a leader and a manager. I think that he first needs to think through that process in terms of his vision for the organization that he leads. He needs to establish goals and objectives; he needs to think through how he's going to pursue those. that is where you get into his philosophy. Well, my philosophy is one of decentralization--and I believe that I have practiced that -- decentralization to the operating organizations... in our case the major centers and directorates. But at the same time, there has to be some sort of focus and centralized direction. Another aspect of my philosophy is that all involved need to know what their jobs are for whatever task that they have. There's no substitute for detailed planning because once there is that detailed planning, then the execution becomes a lot easier. I think that in many of the things that we do, we have to go through that detailed planning process and ask a lot of questions on how things will be done. Lots of times people fail because they haven't gone through that process. In fact, they aren't even aware of some of the problems that they're facing because they haven't addressed the details. And so, I believe in detailed planning so that the execution then becomes much easier. I believe in allowing people to manage their areas of responsibility. At the same time, you know, I like to interface directly with my senior managers. Because by carrying on a dialogue, whether it's through various means like staff meetings, face to face communications, you can better understand how they understand all the issues and problems, and the plan to get things done. So I think it's important to have that interface... communications, direct conversations, written memos back and forth... that all facilitates the way in which we all understand how something is to be done. Obviously, if in that process you find out that there are gaps or areas that need further work, then we get on and do it. So, in summary, my philosophy is decentralize in letting the managers do the work. But at the same time have a good dialogue and communications system so that I'm aware of the status. Through this communications process, then, I can assess to what extent the additional work needs to be done.

MR. MARTEL: Sir, what was the greatest challenge you faced in this position as Commander of the Missile Command?

MG CHEN: Well, I think the greatest challenge, of course, was Operation Desert Shield and Desert Storm because that was the largest deployment and subsequent combat use of Army missiles. So, as we got into Operation Desert Shield and then the additional buildups that were needed as the force there increased, we had to do planning; we had to get the systems deployed there; we had to establish the organizational structure for the MICOM linkage; we had to get people from MICOM on the ground; and then we had the daily logistics and readiness issues to ensure that our systems were ready. So that was the biggest challenge.

MR. BAKER: Well, along the same line, this may be somewhat redundant, but what accomplishment or accomplishments during your tenure here are you proudest of?

MG CHEN: Well, I think, obviously the support... the successful support... that we were able to provide during Operation Desert Shield and Desert Storm would be the single largest accomplishment. Of course that required a lot of teamwork on the part of all the MICOM organizations both here at Redstone and deployed on the ground in Europe and in Southwest Asia. It was teamwork with the PEOs and the PM offices that didn't belong to us. So that was the single most significant accomplishment. I think, in addition to that, I believe that in the implementation of TQM during my tenure here that I set the philosophy and the objectives. We have made significant progress toward the adoption of TQM as a way of doing business. And, in particular, that progress is seen in our Acquisition Center and our IMMC (Integrated Materiel Management Center). But, it's also a function of the leadership in the various centers and directorates because it doesn't really happen just because I say that we should make it happen. It happens because of the leadership of the individual centers and directors--of their vision, their approach, and then their philosophy--to implement it within their organizations. Another significant accomplishment was our ACOE goal that we won for the most improved CONUS installation for this year. We've had other major accomplishments throughout the command. Value Engineering and winning that DOD Field Command Award has been something that the command has always--has done well on in previous years. I'm glad to say that we're winning it this year plus we won it last year. But, I think in summary, the most significant accomplishment has been our successful support during Operation Desert Shield and Desert Storm.

MR. BOWNE: Sir, we seem to have had an awful lot of significant accomplishments this year. Was there one area in which you did not make the progress that you had hoped to make, and if so what... to what do you attribute this?

MG CHEN: Well, the one area that as I think about all the aspects of the command--the one area for which progress is not that visible, is accomplishments in the tech base area. This is probably an oversimplification of how the tech base operates. But, as I think about the last 3 years, as an example, we have not seen much come out of that tech base. Of course, as I think about it, you have to think about all the previous programs that we've had, and, with that perspective, whether you're talking about HELLFIRE, MLRS, ATACMS, or PATRIOT, you have to understand that those programs didn't come overnight and that they took many years to come to fruition. So, I'm not sure whether I'm being overly critical on RDEC and the tech base folks, but at least--and let's take FOG-N for example. You know, FOG-N was terminated... or the NLOS program was terminated. We tried to resurrect the FOG-M program, and it's been a combination of available funds as well as the development of the acquisition strategy. But, to get a program out of the tech base, to get it into full-scale development and into procurement, is something that is not an easy thing. So, I'd say that it's the tech base area that, at least from my perspective, the progress has not been that visible. That is the area that I would say I was most disappointed at.

MR. BAKER: What do you see as the greatest challenge facing General Rigby, and do you have any recommendation or recommendations as to how that challenge might best be addressed?

MG CHEN: I think the biggest challenge for him is how to manage in the face of resources that are dwindling, in particular, the operations and maintenance appropriation. That will also relate to the establishment of MACCOM. In the establishment of MACCOM, we're working closely with AMCCOM, but they are also being hit with program and budget reductions. So, what we see as the original BRAC 91 implementation and the manpower that is associated with the transfer of the ammunition and the chemical mission down here, that, even as we speak, the original number of people coming down is in excess of 1,400, and we're hearing that because of budget reductions that that number is reducing. But, meanwhile, that mission hasn't changed. So, the biggest challenge is how to cope with that type of budget reduction where the mission essentially stays the same, but the manpower and the dollars have been reduced. My best recommendation for General Rigby is to keep on top of AMCCOM.

MR. MARTEL: Sir, to what degree did your position involve direct contact with the civilian community and what was the nature of those contacts?


MG CHEN: The involvement has been with some of the officials such as the mayor, the members of the city council, and the Chamber of Commerce. I’ve also had involvement with some state officials, particularly with regard to the Southern Bypass. Of course, we need the support of the city and the state in that program. That will benefit the Army as well as the civilian population... and with regard to that, that package currently is at Headquarters, AMC. Hopefully, the official approval of that will come from the Department of Army. But that is involved a dialogue with the city and the state and the community.

MG Chen with Huntsville Mayor Steve Hettinger chenhett.jpg (29824 bytes)
MG Chen with Huntsville Mayor Steve Hettinger

MR. MARTEL: Sir, are there any areas that we haven't covered that you would like to comment on?

MG CHEN: Well, let me just say that the command and the environment that we're all working in is changing. We see it in the military, we see that more and more officers. . . senior officers.. .are living off post and their wives are working. Based upon that, there is a change coming about that is not like the Army that used to be. Because in order for the installation as a whole to operate, we need to have a military community and an Army family community that helps in the support of the community activities. We have more and more PMs, for example, that are becoming less associated with the installation. So, that is a trend that is a reflection of the Army across the board. And, it may have a detrimental effect in terms of the Army community that exists on the installation. I also see where we have program and budget reductions forthcoming, affecting manpower and dollars. We have a unique situation here at the Missile Command where we provide support to PMs and PEOs. The PMs and the PEOs have the dollars to pay for the services that we can provide, and it's usually done so on a reimbursable basis. But, at the same time, the Department of Army has a mandate from the Department of Defense to reduce the overall civilian and military size. So, even though the PMs and the PEOs have the money to look to us to provide the support, we may not be able to provide it because we as a command have to meet a target in terms of end strength. What that is gonna result in, is that the PMs and the PEOs will go elsewhere for their support, mainly contractor support. So, I think, in the next 5 to 10 years the whole business of project management may change.

MR. MARTEL: Do you think that is good or bad, sir? In other words, what's your personal feeling on that?

MG CHEN: Well, I think--well, I think it's not going to be good. Obviously, I grew up in a system where within a project manager's office--that even in today's concept of a small core staff but with matrix support from the functionals--that that organization is a Government organization executing a mission. If the size of the project offices and its support shrinks, but there's reliance on an independent contractor or any other type of support contractor, it's gonna change that way of doing business. I think the Government will lose out in terms of expertise. I think that there would be an over reliance upon contractor support. Even though these are separate contractors, different from the prime contractor, you never know what the relationships really are. Because downstream these same support contractors may enter into subcontractor relationships with the prime. So, I think the Government needs to retain its expertise. I think the Government needs to be a smart buyer. I've just seen too much of where contractors advertise that they have capabilities; that they have expertise; and, yet, they don't deliver. We can see that they don't deliver based upon their performance on contracts. So, I think there needs to be a balance, but the Government ultimately needs to have expertise.

MR. MARTEL: Alright, sir, thank you so much for the interview, we appreciate it.

MG CHEN: OK. Thank you. I enjoyed it.

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