Retired March 1, 1989.
Lieutenant General James A. Abrahamson is director of the Strategic Defense Initiative Organization, Office of the Secretary of Defense, Washington, D.C. He is responsible to the president and the secretary of defense for managing, directing and selecting key research and development programs designed to eliminate the threat posed by strategic nuclear ballistic missiles and to increase the contribution of defensive systems to U.S. and allied security. In carrying out this mission, he provides overall policy direction and supervision for the conduct of research and development programs associated with the Strategic Defense Initiative Organization mission as well as oversight of the acquisition process for all Strategic Defense Initiative program requirements. In concert with the Joint Chiefs of Staff and undersecretary of defense for policy, he also is responsible for the review and development of strategy and policy implications of defensive capabilities.
General Abrahamson was born in Williston, N.D., in 1933. He earned a bachelor of science degree in aeronautical engineering from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in 1955 and a master of science degree in the same field through the Air Force Institute of Technology program at the University of Oklahoma in 1961. He completed Squadron Officer School in 1958, Air Command and Staff College in 1966, and the Industrial College of the Armed Forces in 1973.
He was commissioned as a second lieutenant through the Reserve Officer Training Corps program in November 1955 and completed pilot training at Laughlin Air Force Base, Texas, in May 1957. His initial operational assignments included flight instruction, flight test and aircraft maintenance positions with Air Training Command.
In August 1961 General Abrahamson was assigned as spacecraft project officer on the VELA Nuclear Detection Satellite Program at Los Angeles Air Force Station, Calif. From October 1964 to August 1965, while assigned to the 428th Tactical Fighter Squadron, Cannon Air Force Base, N.M., he served two temporary tours of duty in Southeast Asia, where he flew 49 combat missions.
The general graduated from Air Command and Staff College as a distinguished graduate in July 1966. He then attended the Aerospace Research Pilot School at Edwards Air Force Base, Calif., and, upon graduation, served as an astronaut with the Air Force's Manned Orbiting Laboratory Program from August 1967 until it was canceled in June 1969.
General Abrahamson then served on the staff of the National Aeronautics and Space Council in the Executive Office of the President of the United States. In March 1971 he became manager of the TV-guided, air-to-ground Maverick missile program at Headquarters Aeronautical Systems Division, Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, Ohio. In June 1973 he assumed command of the 4950th Test Wing there.
In March 1974 General Abrahamson was assigned as inspector general, Air Force Systems Command, Andrews Air Force Base, Md. From May 1976 to July 1980 he served as director for the F-16 Multinational Air Combat Fighter Program, Aeronautical Systems Division, Wright-Patterson Air Force Base. He then became deputy chief of staff for systems at Air Force Systems Command headquarters.
In November 1981 the general was assigned as associate administrator for the Space Transportation System, Headquarters National Aeronautics and Space Administration, Washington, D.C. He was responsible for the nation's space shuttle program, leading it safely and successfully through 10 developmental and early operational launches. During his tenure, NASA performed many firsts, including the first satellite retrieval and repair mission that vividly demonstrated the operational capabilities of the space shuttle. General Abrahamson assumed his present duties in April 1984.
The general is a command pilot with more than 3,000 flying hours. His military decorations and awards include the Distinguished Service Medal, Legion of Merit with two oak leaf clusters, Meritorious Service Medal, Air Medal with oak leaf cluster, Air Force Commendation Medal, NASA Distinguished Service Medal, Order of King Olaf of Norway, Order of the Orange from the Netherlands and the Order of King Leopold of Belgium. He also wears the Space Badge and Command Missile Badge. General Abrahamson has received honorary doctorate degrees in engineering from New York University, Utah State University and Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute. In 1984 he received the General Bernard A. Schriever Award for outstanding achievement in support of Air Force missile and space programs. In 1986 he received the Dr. Robert H. Goddard Trophy for leadership and excellence in advancing space flight programs contributing to United States leadership in astronautics. In 1987 he was honored as Man of the Year in Science and Technology from the Achievement Rewards for College Scientists Foundation, Metropolitan Chapter, Washington, D.C.
He was promoted to lieutenant general July 21, 1982, with same date of rank.