By Lt Col Mark Jacobsen, SAASS
/ Published April 20, 2021
When SAASS student Benjamin Bishop began studying General James “Jimmy” Doolittle's 1950s Science and Technology strategy, he had no idea that one day he would brief his research to the Secretary of the Air Force.
Colonel Bishop entered SAASS after a distinguished early career that included flying the F-15E and F-16C/D, attending the United States Air Force Weapons School, and earning two masters degrees: one in Space Operations from the University of Colorado, and the other in Cyber Warfare from the Air Force Institute of Technology.
While at SAASS, he became fascinated with the ways General Doolittle adapted to rapid changes in the character of war against a backdrop of Great Power Competition between the U.S. and the Soviet Union. Doolittle internalized deep lessons from his experience leading the air war of attrition against the German Luftwaffe. He often reflected on technologies that emerged throughout World War II like the V1 and V2 rockets, the jet-powered Messerschmitt Me-262, and nuclear weapons. He believed the U.S. needed to invest 10x to 100x more in Research and Development to ensure deterrence and win future wars. Bishop wrote his SAASS thesis on the way General Doolittle carried these lessons into his post-war role on the Air Force's Science Advisory Board.
Upon his graduation from SAASS, Bishop continued his education through the Air University PhD program, which allows officers to earn a doctoral degree while continuing their operational career without interruption. He completed his PhD after his successful defense of a dissertation titled "Jimmy Doolittle: Cincinnatus of The Air."
During this time Colonel Bishop commanded the 422 Test and Evaluation Squadron, earned a fourth Master's degree from National Defense University, and commanded the 354th Fighter Wing at Eielson Air Force Base, Alaska, where he oversaw the arrival of the F-35 Lightning II. While at Eielson he hosted Air Force Chief Scientist Dr. Richard Joseph, as well as MAJCOM Chief Scientists. When he discussed his research on General Doolittle's role in the Scientific Advisory Board in the 1950s, his audience was captivated.
Dr. Joseph invited Colonel Bishop to brief a broader audience that included Acting Secretary of the Air Force John Roth, U.S. Space Force Chief of Space Operations General John Raymond, and Air Force Vice Chief of Staff General David Allvin.
"From the perspective of the Chief Scientist Office, Col Bishop’s SAASS PhD in the history of S&T R&D could not have been better timed or structured," said Colonel Mario Serna, who serves on Dr. Joseph's staff. "We are returning to Great Power Competition, and how the Air Force was last structured to successfully wage Great Power Competition within the Science and Technology enterprise is a critically important reference."
The briefing received positive reviews, Colonel Serna said, and prompted requests for Colonel Bishop to brief other audiences.
Colonel Serna continued, "the way in which Doolittle helped reform the AF in a non-obvious manner—but one that was exquisitely effective—is a vital lesson for our future."
Colonel Bishop is grateful for the opportunity to help influence the Air Force's and Space Force's Science & Technology strategies.
He said, "It was a great opportunity to share the research opportunity that the SAASS program provided me."