Richard Bowman Myers
Chairman from Oct. 1, 2001 – Sept. 30, 2005
Richard Bowman Myers was born on 1 March 1942 in Kansas City, Missouri. He grew up in a middle class suburban neighborhood, the son of a regional manufacturing representative and former primary school teacher. While attending Shawnee Mission North High School he played the saxophone and piano in a small band and competed in football, basketball, and track. After graduating from high school in 1960, Myers entered Kansas State University-Manhattan. Enamored with airplanes—jet fighters in particular—since his first ride on a commercial airliner he enrolled in the Air Force Reserve Officer Training Course and acquired his private pilot’s license while participating in the program. In January 1965 he graduated with a bachelor of science in mechanical engineering and was subsequently commissioned a second lieutenant on 3 February 1965.
That June Second Lieutenant Myers began flight training at Vance Air Force Base, Oklahoma, learning to fly the Cessna T-37 Tweet and Northrop T-38 Talon aircraft. After earning his wings a year later, he transferred to Davis-Monthan Air Force Base, Arizona, and completed back-seat pilot training in the MacDonald F-4 Phantom fighter-bomber. First Lieutenant Myers then joined the 417th Tactical Fighter Squadron, stationed at Ramstein Air Base, Germany; the squadron would redeploy to Mountain Home Air Force Base, Idaho, in August 1968.
Captain Myers transferred to Homestead Air Force Base, Florida, in April 1969, where he trained as an F4-E Phantom command pilot. That December he reported to the 13th Tactical Fighter Squadron at Udorn Royal Thai Air Base, Thailand. The squadron’s primary mission was to interdict the infiltration of men and materiel from North to South Vietnam. In addition to flying night bombing missions, Myers served as an F-4 forward air controller (Fast Fac) and earned the Distinguished Flying Cross.
Having completed his first combat tour in Southeast Asia in November 1970, Captain Myers served briefly with the 80th Tactical Fighter Squadron at Yokota Air Base, Japan, before joining the 67th Tactical Fighter Squadron at Kadena Air Base, Okinawa, in March 1971. During this assignment, he served as a weapons and tactics officer, as well as a flight commander. He also forward deployed to Korat, Thailand, for a second combat tour in 1972, where he flew F-4C Wild Weasel missions to detect and suppress North Vietnamese air defenses during Operations LINEBACKER I and II.
After returning from Asia in August 1973, Captain Myers joined the 414th Fighter Weapons Squadron. During the next three years, he served as an instructor pilot and later as the air-to-ground flight commander at the Air Force Fighter Weapons School, Nellis Air Force Base, Nevada. The school’s mission was to educate and train already proficient pilots to be the best instructor pilots in the US Air Force. Following this assignment, in July 1976 Major Myers attended the Air Command and Staff College at Maxwell Air Force Base, Alabama. In addition to being a Distinguished Graduate of the staff college, he concurrently earned his masters in business administration from Auburn University.
In June 1977 Major Myers reported to the Directorate of Operations, Deputy Chief of Staff for Plans and Operations, Headquarters US Air Force, Washington, DC. He served as an operational test and evaluation officer for the next three years, working to enhance the realism of the electronic warfare ranges at Nellis Air Force Base, and as the Air Force representative to Joint test and evaluation. Interactions on Capitol Hill provided him with practical insights into the national security decision-making process. After this assignment, in June 1980 Lieutenant Colonel Myers attended the US Army War College at Carlisle Barracks, Pennsylvania.
In June 1981 Lieutenant Colonel Myers returned to the operational forces at Seymour Johnson Air Force Base, North Carolina, this time flying the F-4E. He served briefly as Chief of Weapons and Tactics for the 4th Tactical Fighter Wing until October and then as the Operations Officer and Commanding Officer of the 355th Tactical Fighter Squadron until November 1983. He subsequently returned to the 4th Tactical Fighter Wing, where he temporarily served as the Assistant Deputy Commander for Operations.
Promoted to colonel, Myers reported to Headquarters Tactical Air Command at Langley Air Force Base, Virginia, in January 1984. His first assignment, held until October of that year, was as Deputy Director of Personnel Plans and Programs, Deputy Chief of Staff for Personnel. He then served as a Team Chief of the Inspector General Team. Both billets provided him with insights into the structure and function of the Air Force personnel system and the administrative and operational details of the US Air Forces’ largest major command.
Colonel Myers returned to Nellis Air Force Base in September 1985, this time as Commandant of the Fighter Weapons School. During his twelve-year absence the school had transitioned to the more sophisticated F-15 Eagle and F-16 Fighting Falcon and had added complex exercises simulating the presence of allied air forces and involving airborne early warning and control system aircraft. One year later he assumed command of the 325th Tactical Training Wing at Tyndall Air Force Base, Florida, training pilots to fly the advanced F-15 Eagle fighter.
In June 1987 Colonel Myers returned to Langley Air Force Base. His first of five assignments there was as Commander of the 1st Tactical Fighter Wing, which was responsible for the air superiority mission and primarily focused on the Persian Gulf region. After completing this tour in February 1989, he transferred to Headquarters Tactical Air Command. He subsequently served as the Assistant Deputy Chief of Staff for Plans until June 1989, Inspector General until January 1990, Deputy Chief of Staff for Plans until June 1990, and Deputy Chief of Staff for Requirements until December 1991. These successive staff assignments enabled him to become intimately familiar with operational requirements and modernization programs, such as the joint surveillance and target attack radar system that would launch the Air Force into the 21st Century. On 1 April 1990 Myers received his first star.
Brigadier General Myers returned to the Pentagon in December 1991, where he worked as Director of Fighter, Command and Control, and Weapons Programs, Office of the Assistant Secretary of the Air Force for Acquisition. He helped to shepherd current and future weapons systems through the Pentagon’s complex acquisition process and defended them on Capitol Hill; this occurred during a period of major Defense reductions following the Cold War. Simultaneously, he became an advocate for new systems to support the nation’s increased involvement in mid-intensity conflicts around the globe and to address the potential proliferation of nuclear threats among developing countries. On 1 September 1992 he advanced to major general, and the following summer he was nominated for a third star.
In November 1993 Lieutenant General Myers returned to Yokota Air Base to command US Forces Japan and the Fifth Air Force. This was his first joint command, and Myers led forces from all four services assigned to defend US interests in northeast Asia. His assignment combined military duties with diplomatic responsibilities. He worked to allay Japanese concern over the implication of the American military presence upon their national sovereignty and planned for a consolidation of US bases on Okinawa that would not decrease America’s military posture in the Pacific.
Returning to Washington in June 1996, Lieutenant General Myers served as Assistant to the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. He was the official liaison between the CJCS, General John Shalikashvili, USA, and the Department of State, headed by Secretaries Warren Christopher and then Madeline Albright. Myers participated in major policy issues, including the reintegration of France into the North American Treaty Organization’s command structure, expansion of the North American Treaty Organization into Eastern Europe, and formulation of a new Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty with Russia.
In July 1997 General Myers received his fourth star and assumed command of Pacific Air Forces (PACAF) at Hickam Air Force Base, Hawaii. He was now responsible for an area that stretched from California to India, with authority over four numbered air forces situated in Japan, South Korea, Guam, and Alaska. During his tenure, the command integrated the joint direct attack munitions (JDAM) into its arsenal. Although the new precision guided bombs required aircraft modifications and new tactics, the bombs extended the life of aging airplanes by greatly enhancing accuracy and therefore combat effectiveness. General Myers had expected to retire after his PACAF assignment, but one year later he was selected for unified command.
General Myers moved to Peterson Air Force Base, Colorado, in August 1998 to command US Space Command, which directed all integrated attack warning and space operations, and Air Force Space Command, one of SPACECOM’s subordinate commands. Among a broad spectrum of responsibilities were overseeing space control and space support activities and employing space assets to enhance the operational effectiveness of the nation’s other combatant commands. Strategic activities ranged from launching spacecraft and monitoring satellites to maintaining an intercontinental ballistic missile capability as a component of the nuclear deterrent. He also helped improve the reliability of the aging Titan IV Launch Rocket System, which had threatened to disrupt the satellite launches until a new launch vehicle appeared.
Concurrently, General Myers led the North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD), a combined US and Canadian command charged with defending North America against an air or missile attack. He also managed contingency support of the Space Transportation System, otherwise known as the Space Shuttle program.
In September 1999 President William J. Clinton nominated General Myers to become the fifth Vice Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. The Senate Armed Services Committee confirmed his appointment, and on 1 March 2000 he joined the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, General Henry H. Shelton, USA, and Secretary of Defense William S. Cohen in the Pentagon. As second ranking member of the uniformed services, Myers was a full member of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and chaired the group’s meetings during Shelton’s absence.
The Chairman and his Vice shared a commitment to prepare America’s military for the 21st Century. General Myers believed that this involved developing new organizations, doctrine, training, and technology that would enable the military to function efficiently in multidimensional battlespace. The new Secretary of Defense, Donald H. Rumsfeld, was already acquainted with the Vice Chairman from previously chairing the US Ballistic Missile Commission and the US Commission to Assess National Security Space Management and Organization.
Secretary Rumsfeld was intent upon reforming the Pentagon bureaucracy and transforming the military into an agile, network- centric force capable of acting immediately from a forward position to defeat adversaries swiftly and decisively. This constellation of strategic goals, structural changes, and management traits sometimes frustrated the Joint Chiefs of Staff, requiring that General Myers mediate between the service requirements and the Secretary’s vision.
One of General Myers' principal duties was to chair the Joint Requirements Oversight Council (JROC). The Council considered issues such as strategic needs, acquisition processes, and resource availability in order to advise the Chairman on the size, structure, and composition of the armed forces. General Myers believed that the JROC had to focus on strategic requirements, supported by far-reaching joint capability assessments. He reduced the number of missions evaluated in the Joint Warfighting Capability Assessment, orienting the remaining items toward “full spectrum dominance,“ as described in General Shelton’s “Joint Vision 2020.“ General Myers also established an Enhanced Joint Requirements Board to acquire outside input on selected programs and a Joint Requirements Panel to direct acquisition and development issues. He made the process more inclusive than it had been and relied upon a larger number of subsidiary boards to refine topics for the Council’s consideration.
General Myers was also a member of the National Security Council Deputies Committee. The deputies usually discussed policy issues among themselves and then recommended potential courses of action to the Principals Committee. A major concern was the steady rise in global terrorism. In October 2000 Osama bin Laden’s al-Qaeda organization attacked the USS Cole (DDG 67) in Yemen. Less than a year later, al-Qaeda launched multiple terrorist attacks in the United States, striking the World Trade Center in New York City and the Pentagon. General Myers, while serving as acting Chairman on September 11, 2001, participated in the immediate response to the 9/11 attacks and assisted General Shelton in developing a strategy to defeat, disrupt, and delay terrorism around the world—the Global War on Terrorism—as well as eradicate al-Qaeda and Taliban forces in Afghanistan.
Nominated by President Bush to become the 15th Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, General Myers completed the confirmation process in the midst of the post 9/11 turmoil and was sworn into office on 1 October 2001, becoming the first Vice Chairman to succeed his predecessor. He laid out three personal priorities: to continue the Global War on Terrorism, to pursue transformation of the military, and to support military personnel and their families. As the principal military advisor to the President, National Security Council, and Secretary of Defense, he relied on the Joint Chiefs of Staff’s advice on national security matters and promoted a collegial atmosphere conducive to reaching consensus.
Coalition forces launched Operation ENDURING FREEDOM against al-Qaeda and Taliban targets in Afghanistan on 7 October 2001, toppling the radical Islamist regime three months later. General Myers subsequently supported the employment of NATO forces to help secure and stabilize the war-torn nation. General Myers argued forcefully that the Geneva Conventions applied to the nation of Afghanistan and that it required humanitarian treatment of all prisoners captured in that country. Influenced by his Vietnam service, he believed that the Geneva Convention was the gold standard for US forces. That standard must be maintained, he urged, to ensure that potential US prisoners were treated decently and to provide an example for others to emulate.
In March 2002 General Myers directed the Joint Staff to plan a strategic offensive to neutralize al-Qaeda leaders. Working with the Central Intelligence Agency, the Joint Staff identified two of the organization’s principal leaders and seven key planners or subordinate commanders. During the next thirteen months, collaborating interagencies captured five of the subordinates. Meanwhile, progress in Afghanistan continued. Following the ratification of their new constitution in January 2004, Afghan citizens voted in presidential elections in September and parliamentary elections a year later.
General Myers also had a major role in planning the invasion of Iraq. By 2001 post-Gulf War sanctions no longer constrained Saddam Hussein, and intelligence indicated that he possessed weapons of mass destruction that could support terrorist attacks against the United States and its allies. General Myers facilitated communication among participants, including US Central Command, the Department of Defense, and the National Security Council, as well as the service branches and other government agencies. He advised throughout the planning process, giving particular attention to logistics coordination and civil-military operations following the intended regime change. To support regime change, he modified the evolving operations plan, detailing Central Command’s responsibility for promoting stability and reconstruction following the hostilities, and established a combined joint task force to focus on post-conflict issues.
Coalition forces launched Operation IRAQI FREEDOM on 20 March 2003. Utilizing the joint capabilities of all the services, they quickly drove Saddam Hussein from power. In place of the Baathist regime, the Bush administration established the Coalition Provisional Authority to coordinate reconstruction, while Central Command established Combined Joint Task Force-7 to coordinate stability and security operations. Hindered by issues of size, structure, and function, this bifurcated civil-military effort could not counter a growing insurgency backed by al-Qaeda. General Myers and other senior Defense Department officials considered the option of raising troop levels as a potential solution, but ultimately decided that a larger presence might incite greater unrest across the struggling country.
Matters worsened in 2004. As US casualties mounted and detainee abuse at Abu Ghraib prison became known, American citizens questioned the war and the Iraqi insurgents grew bolder. Yet, General Myers remained steadfast in his belief that abandoning Iraq would harm national security interests. He advised President Bush to relate publicly the administration’s determination to see ongoing efforts in Iraq through to conclusion and to use all instruments of national policy—not just the military—in Afghanistan and Iraq. At the same time, Coalition forces established the Multi-National Security Transition Command in Iraq, which armed and trained a hundred thousand personnel during its first year of operations. Concurrent political progress enabled Iraqi citizens to vote for National Assembly and Governorate Council officials during January 2005. The assembly ratified its new constitution in October.
General Myers also pursued the transformation of America’s military, orchestrating substantive changes to the nation’s unified command plan after the 9/11 terrorist attacks. On 1 October 2002 US Northern Command emerged as a new combatant command designed to consolidate and coordinate domestic defense. Among its missions were supporting local, state, and federal authorities and assisting the newly created Department of Homeland Security when responding to national emergencies. Comprised of several joint task forces previously assigned to US Joint Forces Command, Northern Command directed the North American Aerospace Defense Command. On the same day that Northern Command was established, US Strategic Command absorbed US Space Command, consolidating the nation’s nuclear deterrent and space missions Like his predecessors, General Myers continued to promote a joint culture among the nation’s military services. In the “National Military Strategic Plan for the War on Terrorism“ (2002/2005), he provided guidance to the service chiefs and regional commanders for a multi-pronged strategy targeting terrorist networks at eight key pressure points. In “Joint Operations Concepts“ (2003) and “Capstone Concept for Joint Operations“ (2005), he articulated a vision to develop integrated functional capabilities. In “National Military Strategy“ (2004) he reiterated the importance of protecting the United States against external attacks and aggression, preventing conflict and surprise attack, and prevailing against adversaries.
General Myers retired from the military on 30 September 2005, after more than forty years of active service. In recognition of his contribution, which included more than six hundred combat flight hours during the Vietnam War, he received the Presidential Medal of Freedom on 9 November 2005. During retirement, Myers accepted a part-time appointment as a Foundation Professor of Military History at Kansas State University and holds the Colin L. Powell Chair for National Security, Leadership, Character and Ethics at the National Defense University. He also served on the board of directors for the USO, as well as the Northrop Grumman, United Technologies, Aon, and John Deere corporations.