U.S. Department of Defense - Missile Defense Agency

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2014 Ronald Reagan Award Winner

Dr. Michael Griffin


Dr. Michael Griffin recives the 2014 Ronald Reagan Award from VADM SyringThis year, we recognize Dr. Michael Griffin for his more than four-decades of service and commitment as a government official and private citizen to advancing the development and deployment of critical ballistic missile defense and national space capabilities.
Over the course of an illustrious career dedicated to the security of the United States and the exploration and exploitation of space to improve life on Earth as well as commercial and military enterprises, Dr. Griffin established himself as a true visionary and staunch advocate for truly revolutionary defense and space technologies.

Dr. Michael Griffin parlayed his extensive academic achievements in the fields of physics, aerospace engineering and science, electrical and civil engineering, and applied physics into a professional career featuring a wide variety of senior government, commercial, and academic roles.


Early in his career, he played a key role in conceiving and directing several first-of-a-kind space tests to further strategic defense research, development, and flight-testing. In support of the Strategic Defense Initiative Organization as a member of the Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Laboratory, he helped design the first space-to-space intercept of a ballistic missile in powered flight, also known as the Delta one-eighty series of missile defense technology space tests. These tests demonstrated for the first time the feasibility of boost-phase intercept using space-based platforms.

Dr. Griffin also helped develop the first broad-spectrum space borne reconnaissance of targets and decoys in a ballistic missile’s midcourse phase of flight as well as the first space-to-ground reconnaissance of ballistic missiles during the boost phase. He also played a leading role in numerous space missions and the development of cutting-edge technologies at the Applied Physics Laboratory and the National Aeronautics and Space Adminsitration’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory.

His early career included government service as both Chief Engineer and Associate Administrator for Exploration at NASA and, in 1986, as the Deputy for Technology at the Strategic Defense Initiative Organization.


Dr. Griffin was also a key player in the Team B study reports issued in 1995 and 1996 by the Heritage Foundation entitled Defending America – Ending America’s Vulnerability to Ballistic Missiles. The Team B reports offered far-sighted recommendations for a layered ballistic missile defense system, starting with sea-based interceptors and eventually adding space-based elements. The study team foresaw the expanded use of Aegis ships in a missile defense role through the modification and modernization of software, the battle management system, and interceptors.

Because of technical visionaries such as Dr. Griffin, today the United States has thirty operational Aegis Ballistic Missile Defense ships in the fleet that are capable of launching Standard Missile-3 Block IA and Block IB missiles against short-, medium-, and intermediate-range ballistic missiles.
The team also recommended the acceleration of a space-based infrared system known as Brilliant Eyes to enhance all wide-area interceptor systems, to include sea-based systems.

From 2005 to 2009, Dr. Michael Griffin served as the eleventh Administrator for NASA.
As Administrator for the U.S. space agency he oversaw such areas as the future of human spaceflight and the fate of the Hubble Telescope. And in 2008, as NASA Administrator, he found himself once again deeply involved in the execution of a critical mission using the sea-based missile defenses for which he advocated more than a decade earlier.

Together with the number two officer in the Defense Department, General James Cartwright, Dr. Griffin oversaw and answered public concerns about a special mission involving the firing of the Standard Missile-3 from a Navy cruiser to destroy a failing, in-bound U.S. government satellite. The satellite carried toxic fuel that, had it come to earth over a populated area, could have led to a loss of life. The SM-3 used several national sensors to guide itself to the target, where it collided with the satellite in low earth orbit, smashing the tank containing the toxic fuel and successfully completing this highly urgent mission.

Today, as the Chairman and Chief Executive Officer at Schafer Corporation, Dr. Griffin is one the world’s foremost experts in many of the most important and highly-sophisticated technical and engineering areas within the space and national security sectors.

Through his work, he continues to provide innovative engineering and technology to the Pentagon, Intelligence Community, Department of Homeland Security, NASA, and new commercial space companies.

For his steadfast service to his country and ground-breaking research in complex engineering systems, and in recognition of his vision and outstanding leadership in the development of a critical defense system, Dr. Michael Griffin is presented with the 2014 Ronald Reagan award for meritorious achievements in missile defense and space.