Unlike most of us, decades of problem-solving in the American public service for Reuben Pitts was “literally rocket science!”
The Pontotoc County Historical Society invites the public to a special presentation on Tuesday evening, May 3, when Pitts, a Pontotoc native, discusses his career as a scientist/missile expert in the inner circles of the U.S. Department of Defense .
The program will begin at 6 p.m. at the Community House of Pontotoc. This event is free.
A 1964 graduate of Pontotoc High School, Pitts is a defense consultant and president of Lyceum Consulting, LLC. He retired from the United States Public Service in 2008 with more than 40 years of service in the United States Navy. For most of his career, Pitts led integrated air and missile defense programs.
Pontotoc County Historical Society President Bob McGee said, “Reuben’s life story sounds like adventure novels, but he’s from here in Pontotoc, Mississippi. Join us on May 3 as Reuben recounts his experiences developing major weapons systems, battling the Soviets during the Cold War, shooting down a failed satellite and more.
“We are thrilled and honored to have Reuben as our guest speaker, as he truly is a rocket scientist,” McGee praised. “His career and his stories are incredible, as are the places he’s been, the things he’s done. When I recently asked him about the ongoing war in Ukraine and the weapons systems used there- down, he talked about the weapons, but he was even more excited about the politics, the strategies used, the geography of the country and why it matters so much.
“Reuben was often in the room when a lot of major events were happening in the 70s, 80s, 90s and 2000s,” McGee said. “He was a civilian employee of the Ministry of Defense, but he was often in the room with three star generals and others who made decisions about what was happening around the world.”
“He is a weapons systems expert, an explosive projectile expert and a problem solver. His work and innovations on weapons systems, particularly with target alignment, have led to the development and the use of global positioning systems (GPS).
McGee said Pitts was a colleague and friend of Gladys Mae West, an American mathematician known for her contributions to mathematical modeling of the Earth’s shape, and her work developing the satellite geodesy models that eventually became incorporated. in the Global Positioning System (GPS). West was inducted into the Air Force Space and Missile Pioneers Hall of Fame at a ceremony in her honor at the Pentagon, Dec. 6, 2018. West’s career began in 1956 when she was hired to work at the Naval Proving Ground in Dahlgren, Virginia, where she was the second black woman ever hired.
“Reuben worked with people like Gladys Mae West, the best and brightest this country had to offer,” McGee said. “He’s been all over the world. This is a can’t-miss event featuring one of the most accomplished people to ever come to Pontotoc.”
Pitts earned a BS in mechanical engineering from Mississippi State University in 1968. Early success in ordnance testing and design at the Naval Weapons Laboratory earned Pitts a promotion to Senior Design Officer Engineer Navy gun ammunition for gun ammunition design. Then, as the design manager of the 8-inch guided projectile project team, he achieved the first successful firing of guided ammunition from shipboard guns.
As head of the Intelligence Systems Processing Branch, Pitts led the development of the first mobile, field-deployable, computerized Intelligence Analysis Center (IAC) for the Marine Corps. He later served on the planning team to reintroduce the Navy to Wallops Island, Virginia; currently a multi-ship above-water combat weapons test laboratory for surface ship combat systems, combat aircraft and live missile firing.
For two years, he served as Scientific Advisor to the Commander, US Sixth Fleet, the commander of all US naval forces in the Mediterranean theater of operations. He was Chief of the Naval Surface Warfare Center (NSWCDD) Dahlgren Division Surface Ships Program Office from 1985 to 2003, where he oversaw program management for the division’s efforts in AEGIS, DD ( X) Navy, Theater Ballistic Missile Defense, Aircraft Carrier. , expeditionary warship and downsizing technology programs.
Pitts was selected to lead the technical analysis team in support of the official JAG investigation into the downing of Iran Air Flight 655 by USS Vincennes, and participated in subsequent briefings by CENTCOM, the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and Secretary of Defense.
Anticipating the future evolution of surface combatants, Pitts co-founded the NSWCDD Advanced Computing Technology effort, which eventually became the Aegis/DARPA-sponsored high-performance distributed computing program; the world’s most advanced real-time distributed computing technology effort.
This effort formed the basis of the Navy’s current Open Architecture initiative. Pitts led applications from total ship systems engineering to surface ship combat systems developments at the platform level, integrating combat systems and hull, mechanical and electrical functions and achieving commonality technologies, equipment and computer programs between ship classes.
While in this position, he was promoted to the rank of Senior Science and Technology Manager (SSTM).
In 2003, Pitts accepted the responsibility of technical director of PEO Integrated Warfare Systems (IWS), the general technical authority of PEO. In September of the same year, he was reassigned as a major program manager for integrated combat systems at the PEO.
In this position, he was the program manager for combat systems and training systems for all US Navy surface combatants, including aircraft carriers, cruisers, destroyers, frigates, ships amphibians and auxiliaries with a total bond authority that approached $6 billion. In this position, he began the Navy Warfare System Way Ahead effort which formed the Surface Navy’s foundation for future ship combat system budget strategies, he began the effort to test and business valuation that demonstrated savings of hundreds of millions of dollars, and he laid out the navy’s strategy. for the acquisition of warfare systems based on the principles of open architecture.
In July 2006, Pitts returned to NSWCDD to form and lead the Warfare Systems Department, a hands-on research and development organization with over 700 staff and an active budget of over $400 million. Under his leadership, the department became the Navy’s primary field operations voice for the future of Navy Surface Warfare and Warfare Systems architectures and technologies.
While in this position, he maintained his personal technical involvement as a certification official for surface marine combat systems. He also served as chairman of the Combat System Configuration Control Board and chairman of the Mission Readiness Committee for Operation Burnt Frost, which killed the inoperative USA 193 satellite in February 2008.
Pitts has been a guest speaker/lecturer/panellist at numerous symposia, conferences at the NAVSEA and DoD level, as well as at the Naval Postgraduate School, Defense Acquisition University, Applied Physics Lab at Johns Hopkins University, University of Mary Washington, and National Defense University.
For 19 years, Mr. Pitts served as the sole certification authority for all Aegis Combat System computer programs for the fleet.
Since retiring, Pitts has consulted with several defense companies, served on the core advisory team for the Aegis Ballistic Missile Defense Program, and chaired the investigation into the failed Midcourse Ground System (FTG) test. -06) of the Missile Defense Agency that occurred. in January 2010. He also led a team of missile defense experts to review and improve the way forward for Block SM-3 IB and Block IIA Divert and Attitude Control Systems.
He was a member of the Independent Panel of Experts commissioned by the Director of the Missile Defense Agency to review the status and recommend improvements to the ground-based interceptor, the primary weapon in defending the homeland against ballistic missile attack , and he currently continues to advise the Missile Defense Agency on a number of initiatives.
Pitts awards include Navy Superior Civilian Service Award (two awards), Navy Meritorious Civilian Service Award, John Adolphus Dahlgren Award, James E. Colvard Award (first recipient), Navy Science Assistance Program Science Advisor of the Year Award, selected for membership in the Pi Tau Sigma Mechanical Engineering Honor Society, and was listed in Outstanding Young Men of America.
He is an active Baptist Deacon and serves on the Board of Directors and Executive Committee of Global Outreach International, where he serves as Secretary/Treasurer.