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AFGSC welcomes new Chief Scientist

  • Published
  • By Carla Pampe
  • Air Force Global Strike Command Public Affairs
Air Force Global Strike Command welcomed its new Chief Scientist, Dr. Rodney Miller, on Aug. 10.

As Chief Scientist, Miller serves as the chief science and technology advisor to the AFGSC commander, and provides assessments on a wide range of scientific and technical issues affection the command's mission.

Miller comes to the command after a 24-year active-duty Air Force career as a nuclear scientist and acquisition officer.

"I'm a nuclear engineer by education and also interest, so I started my career in the Milstar System Program Office. Back during the Cold War, Milstar was the first really hardened nuclear command and control satellite system, so I was responsible for nuclear survivability for Milstar," he said. "I got the bug for nuclear technology at that point, and of course it was with space as well. Because I had a Bachelor's Degree in nuclear engineering from Purdue, the Air Force sent me to the Air Force Institute of Technology to get my master's degree, and ultimately back to get my Ph.D. in nuclear engineering."

During his career, Miller held a variety of positions, responsible for areas like nuclear treaty monitoring, nuclear stockpile support on the Air Staff, counter proliferation technology development, work on the Space Based Infrared System and nuclear acquisitions.

"About the same time Global Strike Command stood up, the Air Force stood up Air Force Program Executive Office for Strategic Systems, which was responsible for nuclear weapon acquisition for the Air Force," he said. "I was responsible for overseeing our ICBM portfolio, so Minuteman III activities and new warheads."

As a colonel, Miller served as the military assistant for the Air Force Chief Scientist, giving him the opportunity to work with all the chief scientists across the Air Force and the Department of Defense.

"My final assignment was kind of a closure for my original assignment. I was the program manager and senior materiel leader in charge of the Advanced Extremely High Frequency Satellite Communications System, that's the system that replaces Milstar," he said. "So, it was kind of bookends in nuclear command and control, and in the middle, nuclear technology, warheads and treaty monitoring."

After retiring in December 2014, Miller worked for Bechtel National, which manages the two national laboratories, Lawrence Livermore in California and Los Alamos in New Mexico, and two of the nuclear production facilities for the National Nuclear Security Administration.

After a few months, the opportunity to make the move to AFGSC presented itself.

"I'm very excited to be here at Global Strike Command," he said. "For me, this is a dream come true, and certainly closes the loop on my career to the point of getting to support the Air Force nuclear enterprise, which is a mission that I care a great deal about."

Miller's fascination with all things nuclear began when he was a young boy.

"I read a book by Isaac Asimov about the atomic nucleus, and at that point I was just fascinated with all things nuclear, and read widely at that level and higher about nuclear technology," he said.

Growing up in Lafayette, Indiana, Miller had the opportunity to be mentored in junior high school by particle physicists who were working at Purdue University.

"I was also very fascinated with the original Star Trek, and I wanted to be Scotty, learning about anti-matter, making nuclear rockets and things, so I just always from a very young age was interested in nuclear technology and space technology," he said. "And then of course, I learned about nuclear weapons in that period of time, reading books in our local library about Pacific testing and the effects of nuclear testing on the Marshall Islanders, for example. It was very fascinating, and I wanted to prevent that from happening.

Miller said growing up during the Cold War, the threat of nuclear war was always in the background, and he became interested in how nuclear technology could be used to protect people as well.

"I started my career doing nuclear command and control, building a satellite that helped our Air Force nuclear enterprise to have a nuclear deterrent capability, because during the Cold War we were worried about the Russians executing a decapitating first strike on the United States," he said. "So I had the opportunity to work on things like Milstar and the GPS nuclear detection system to detect and to deter that, and I was fascinated with that."

In his role as the AFGSC Chief Scientist, Miller expects that his role will be two-fold.

"First, to look to the future, to help the command to use science and technology to modernize our nuclear deterrent capabilities, be it in the ICBM force or the bomber force," he said. "There is a lot of opportunity for that, and new programs that are emerging for where science and technology is needed and will be relied upon to do those missions.

"I'm sure, also, that science and technology has a role to play in our current operations in supporting our Airmen in the field today as they do their mission, be it in support of security forces or ensuring we have safe and secure nuclear weapons and global strike capabilities," he said. "There is really no end to what science and technology can do to support our command, and I view my role as making sure that Barksdale Air Force Base and Air Force Global Strike Command work with our science and technology practitioners as they develop applications and capabilities that we can use to support the nuclear deterrent. I want to make sure that our Airmen are given the best tools that we can possibly give them to execute one of the most important missions that our country has for the Department of Defense."

During the coming months, Miller said he looks forward to enhancing partnerships and relationships the command has established in the local community, as well as supporting education in the science, technology, engineering and mathematics fields. He offered a few words of advice for those interested in STEM fields.

"Don't be afraid of math and science. Learn as much as you can, and don't be afraid to be a geek," he said. "I think a lot of times people worry that there is a certain type of stereotypical person who does science, technology, engineering and mathematics, and I think that we have to kill that view.

"Science and technology is in everything we do. And it doesn't matter if you have a Ph.D., a bachelor's degree, an associate's degree, or even a high school diploma; you're going to use science and technology," he added.

Miller said the world has moved "far afield from the days when we could just put scientists in white lab coats and keep them in a laboratory.

"Everyone uses science and technology, so I would say learn as much as you can about anything that has to do with that, and be willing to ask questions," he said. "There are no dumb questions, because no one, including the greatest scientific minds of our time, even including Albert Einstein, weren't above asking questions. Just go out and learn."