General (ret.) Lester L. Lyles
Lester Lyles

General (ret.) Lester L. Lyles

Chair of National Academies Committee on the
Rationale and Goals of the U.S. Civil Space Program

Former Air Force vice chief of staff and
Former Commander of the Air Force Materiel Command


General Lester L. Lyles received his B.S., in mechanical engineering from Howard University in 1968, his M.S. in mechanical and nuclear engineering from the Air Force Institute of Technology Program in 1969, and an Honorary Doctorate of Laws degree from New Mexico State University in 2002. He is a graduate of the Defense Systems Management College (1980), the Armed Forces Staff College (1981), the National War College (1985), and the National and International Security Management Course at Harvard University (1991).

General Lyles entered the United States Air Force in 1968 as a distinguished graduate of the Air Force ROTC program. He served in various assignments, including Special Assistant and Aide-De-Camp to the Commander of Air Force Systems Command ; and , Avionics Division Chief in the F-16 Systems Program Office. He served as Director of the Medium-Launch Vehicles Program and Space-Launch Systems offices in 1997 during the recovery from the Challenger Space Shuttle accident.

General Lyles became Vice Commander of Ogden Air Logistics Center, Hill AFB, Utah. He served as Commander of the center from 1993 until 1994, then commanded the Space and Missile Systems Center at Los Angeles AFB, Calif., until 1996. General Lyles became the Director of the Ballistic Missile Defense Organization in 1996. In May 1999, he was assigned as Vice Chief of Staff at Headquarters U.S. Air Force. In April 2000, he became the Commander, Air Force Materiel Command, Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, Ohio. The command conducts research, development, test and evaluation, acquisition management services and logistics support for the Air Force. He retired in October 2003.

The General has received many awards and decorations including the Defense Distinguished Service Medal, the Distinguished Service Medal, the Defense Superior Service Medal, and the Legion of Merit with oak leaf cluster. He was named Astronautics Engineer of the Year by the National Space Club in 1990, and received the Roy Wilkins Renown Service Award for outstanding contributions to military equal opportunity policies and programs from the NAACP in 1994. He received an Honorary Doctorate from New Mexico State University in 2003 , and was named Black Engineer of the Year / Lifetime Achievement in 2003.