Lt Gen James A. Abrahamson, USAF (Retired)
Director, SDIO 1984-1989
2004 Ronald Reagan Award Winner
James A. Abrahamson, Lieutenant General, USAF (Retired) is the Chairman and CEO of StratCom International as well the Chairman of the Board for the Orbimage Corporation. Prior to his position as CEO of StratCom, General Abrahamson served as the working Chairman of the Board for the Oracle Corporation, the world's second largest software company. Prior to that assignment, he was the President and founder of the Hughes Aircraft Transportation Sector, responsible for many programs on advanced technology for automobiles for General Motors Corporation.
His military career spans from 1955 when he entered the Air Force as a Second Lieutenant, to 1989 when he retired as a Lieutenant General and Director of the then Strategic Defense Initiative Organization (SDIO), Office of the Secretary of Defense in Washington, D.C. He was 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 provided overall policy direction and supervision for the conduct of research and development programs associated with the SDIO mission as well as oversight of the acquisition process for all SDI program requirements. In concert with the Joint Chiefs of Staff and the Department of Defense's Under Secretary for Policy, he was also responsible for the review and development of strategy and policy implications of our nation's early developing missile defensive capabilities.
General Abrahamson was born in Williston, North Dakota. He earned a Bachelor of Science degree in Aeronautical Engineering from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Cambridge, and a Master of Science degree in the same field through the Air Force Institute of Technology program at the University of Oklahoma. General Abrahamson was commissioned a Second Lieutenant through the Reserve Officer Training Corps in November 1955 and completed pilot training at Laughlin Air Force Base, Texas, in May 1957.
In 1964, he was Top Gun at F-100 Fighter Pilot School and then assigned to Cannon Air Force Base, N.M. During this period, he served two temporary tours of duty in Southeast Asia where he flew 49 combat missions. He also was an Outstanding Graduate of the Air Force Command and Staff College, and in 1966 he attended the Aerospace Research Pilot School at Edwards Air Force Base, California. Upon graduation he was selected as an astronaut with the Air Force's Manned Orbiting Laboratory. Unfortunately, this project was cancelled and he did not get a chance to fly in space. In June 1973, he took command of the 4950th Test Wing at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base.
In March 1974, General Abrahamson was assigned to Air Force Systems Command as AFSC Inspector General, Andrews Air Force Base, Md. In 1976, he was assigned as Director for the F-16 Multinational Air Combat Fighter Program at Aeronautical Systems Division, Wright-Patterson Air Force Base. In 1980, he assumed the duties of Deputy Chief of Staff for Systems, Air Force Systems Command Headquarters. In November 1981, the General was loaned to the National Aeronautics and Space Administration and assigned as Associate Administrator for the Space Transportation System, Headquarters, NASA, 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.
General Abrahamson is a command pilot and has earned the space badge and command missile badge. He has more than 3,500 flying hours. His military decorations and awards include the Air Force Distinguished Service Medal, Legion of Merit with two oak-leaf clusters, Meritorious Service Medal, Air Medal with oak-leaf cluster, 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. In 1984, he received the General Bernard A. Schriever Award for outstanding achievement in support of United States Air Force missile and space programs. In1986, the General received the Doctor Robert H. Goddard Trophy for leadership and excellence in advancing space flight programs contributing to U.S. 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. General Abrahamson holds three honorary doctorate degrees in engineering from New York University, Utah State University, and Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute.