Obituary: Glenn A. Kent, National Security Strategist, Senior RAND Research Fellow
April 26, 2012
Lt. Gen. Glenn A. Kent, a strategist, analyst and teacher whose career spanned World War II, the Cold War and the post-Cold War eras, died April 25.
Kent devised the framework that would serve as the U.S. government's general plan for nuclear war from 1961 to 2003. His "single integrated operational plan" governed the war-time deployment of nuclear weapons by land, sea and air.
An acute analyst of U.S. nuclear strategy, Kent served 33 years in the U.S. Air Force, from which he retired from active duty as Lieutenant General in 1974. In 1982 he became a senior research fellow at RAND Corporation, a nonprofit research institution, where he worked for more than 20 years before retiring in 2008.
"Lt. Gen. Kent made enormous contributions to the field of defense analysis and evaluation during his two careers, at RAND and in the U.S. Air Force," said RAND President Michael Rich. "He is known for his emphasis on logic, rigor, clarity and transparency in both thought and expression—high standards he achieved and taught."
At a period of deep distrust between the U. S. and Soviet Union, Kent helped convince both sides that prudent and mutual reductions in nuclear weapons could lead to a more stable nuclear balance.
Kent shaped the development of the U.S. Air Force's F-15 and F-16 fighters, and was closely involved with surveillance and control weapon systems such as JSTARS and AWACS, technologies that revolutionized air battle management. He often referred to these systems as "the eyes and ears of commanders around the world."
His Strategy-to-Task process led to well-founded investment strategies and systems such as the Joint Direct Attack Munition (JDAM), which transformed air-delivered munitions.
"Lt. Gen. Kent was the consummate teacher, and those with whom he worked were his students, whether they were junior or senior in their positions," said Natalie Crawford, former vice president and director of RAND Project AIR FORCE. "The span of his influence was very broad, and the variety of the major issues he addressed was enormous."
"Glenn Kent has done more to illuminate the decision process on key Department of Defense issues through analysis than any other individual," former U.S. Secretary of Defense Harold Brown wrote in the foreword to Kent's book, Thinking About America's Defense: An Analytical Memoir.
"Kent's influence … goes beyond the effect of particular studies, through both his mentoring efforts and his style: simplicity and transparency of the model; clear choice of measure of merit as seen through the eyes of the decisionmaker; realistic inputs on costs and on technological issues; uncovering the key drivers of the outcome; and displaying the way in which the answers depend on the assumptions," Brown wrote.
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