Colonel Philip S. Simonsen, son of Beverly Simonsen and the late Donald Simonsen of Sleepy Eye, retired on Aug. 1, after a 28-year career in the United States Air Force.
A ceremony in his honor was held at the National Reconnaissance Office (NRO) in Washington, D.C. Colonel Simonsen was the Deputy Director of the Space Systems Program Office, Signal Intelligence Systems Acquisition Directorate in the NRO. The NRO is staffed by Department of Defense and Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) personnel with the mission to design, build and operate the nation’s reconnaissance satellites that are essential for national security. He directed a staff of over 300 specialists executing a portfolio of space intelligence programs including five Acquisition Category 1 Programs worth over $16 billion. He served as Deputy Program Director, then Program Director for flawless launch and activation of two $2 billion spacecraft, and successfully delivered the systems to operations and provided more than a two-fold increase in intelligence collection capability. He also served on the US Air Force’s Acquisition Development Team where he guided career vectoring, in-residence school selection and command selection boards for officers. He also served on numerous personnel panels for the NRO’s 400+ Air Force civilian specialists.
Colonel Simonsen graduated from Sleepy Eye High School in 1981, received a Bachelor of Aerospace Engineering and Mechanics degree from the University of Minnesota Institute of Technology in 1985, and was commissioned through the Reserve Officer Training Corps. He commanded the Satellite Control and Network Systems Group, Los Angeles Air Force Base, Calif. and the 22nd Space Operations Squadron, Schriever Air Force Base, Colo., where he directed acquisition and operations of the Air Force’s $10 billion worldwide satellite control network. He served two previous assignments in acquisition and space operations at the National Reconnaissance Office, and in a previous duty in Los Angeles, was the Program Manager for the block of Global Positioning System (GPS) satellites orbiting the earth today. His staff assignments included two tours at the Pentagon, including duty during the 9/11 attack.
Colonel Simonsen earned Masters degrees from the University of Southern California and the Air War College. He is also a graduate of the Air Command and Staff College, the Defense Systems Management College, and Harvard University’s JFK School of Executive Education. He is a Master Space Professional and Acquisition Officer, and his major decorations include the Legion of Merit, Defense and Air Force Meritorious Service Medals, Joint Service and Air Force Commendation Medals and Joint Service and Air Force Achievement Medals. Colonel Simonsen and his family reside in Springfield, Va.