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Dr. Bruce Simpson
Dr. Bruce Simpson, the executive director for the Air Armament Center, will retire April 3, ending a government career that saw tremendous growth in weapons technology, including the development of the next generation of precision-guided weapons. (U.S. Air Force photo/Samuel King Jr.)
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Simpson ends 30-year federal career

Posted 3/26/2012   Updated 3/26/2012 Email story   Print story


by Lois Walsh
Team Eglin Public Affairs

3/26/2012 - EGLIN AIR FORCE BASE, Fla. -- Over the span of 30 years, Dr. Bruce Simpson has seen many changes in the way the Air Force does business.

Simpson, executive director of the Air Armament Center, will retire April 3, ending a government career that saw tremendous growth in weapons technology, including the development of the next generation of precision-guided weapons.

In 1981, an Eglin team recruited the Auburn University graduate for the Air Force Armament Laboratory's Seek Eagle office. He remained at the lab until 1994.

"There were really and truly a couple of reasons to work for the government," Simpson said. "I wanted to continue my education, and the government offered a program through the University of Florida. After talking to the government guys, it was obvious you were given a lot more responsibility than with industry. It was a great opportunity, a great location and a great place to be."

After spending three years at Kirtland AFB, N. M., Simpson returned to Eglin in 2006 to become the Director of the 308th Armament Systems Wing here. With the onset of Desert Storm and through the Air Force's involvement in several wars, the wing saw the face of weapons development begin its transition as the needs of the warfighters changed.

"In Desert Storm, I was running a group that had the ballistics range, so there was a need to address the hard, deeply buried targets identified in Iraq at that time," he said. "There was a huge effort that became the GBU-28."

Simpson was a key player in the early ballistics, fill and scale testing which fed into the modeling programs he worked. The data fed into the bigger program on the acquisition side.

"We used to brief that GBU-28 was developed in 28 days, but it was based on the 10 years of work addressing the issues inherent with hard, deeply buried targets that went on before that," he said.

Simpson admits it was a "fun, fast time" getting it done to go to war.

"It was rewarding from a professional perspective and it became a weapon of choice in the inventory that's been there ever since," he said.

The challenge to continue to meet warfighter needs kept Simpson busy as the Director of the 308th Armament Systems Wing and then the executive director of the Air Armament Center. He said action in Desert Storm demonstrated the benefits of precision guided weapons that met the weather, smoke and dust restrictions which led to the GPS-guided weapons today.

"Immediately after the fast, hard push for systems came the JDAM which was a success story for the entire community, " Simpson said. "We went from a bomber dropping massive amounts of ordnance and hoping to hit a target to everything coming out of a weapons bay being guided to a specific aim point. The advent of precision-guided weapons with all their weather capabilities is one of those revolutions in military affairs that people talk about. Working those technologies for those several years was very exciting."

Simpson said besides armament advancements, the entire acquisition process has undergone reform. He used GBU-28 and JDAM as examples of doing things smart, fast and cheaper when there's a sense of urgency.

"When you aren't in the constraints of wartime, it takes much longer to move through the system, but when you don't have that burning need out there, we let things languish in the system," he said. "It's time to let the new guys have it, people who will continue working acquisition reform."

Simpson is concerned about the critical shortage of engineers to follow the path he and others have followed through their careers. He believes a technical career in government service will continue to be a good place to work in the long term.

"Take advantage of what the government offers. There are all sorts of opportunities to get more education, to get additional training. I'm a product of that," said Simpson, who earned both a Master of Science and Doctor of Philosophy degree in engineering while assigned to Eglin.

Besides his degrees, Simpson also earned numerous awards and honors during his government career, including the Meritorious Executive Presidential Rank Award in 2008. The award, presented by the President, honors high-performing senior career employees for sustained extraordinary accomplishment.

Simpson's retirement comes at a time when the Air Armament Center is undergoing changes under Air Force Materiel Command's five-center transition. While he can't predict what the restructure will look like, Simpson said the people here should take great pride in their heritage and the past.

"They've made a huge difference. We've changed the way we fight and will continue to do that in the future," he said. "Continue to focus on the mission, the next generation of weapons and the next set of threats that face the nation. If they do that, everything else will work out. If you're not attacking targets or training to attack targets, you're not doing the Air Force mission. We bring the ability to attack those targets."

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