SECDEF: The Nearly Impossible Job of Secretary of Defense

SECDEF: The Nearly Impossible Job of Secretary of Defense

by Charles A. Stevenson
Pub. Date:
Potomac Books

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SECDEF: The Nearly Impossible Job of Secretary of Defense

SECDEF offers an expert’s insights into one of the most difficult jobs in Washington. Of the twenty-one men who have held the post of secretary of defense since it was created in 1947, only half served more than eighteen months. The first, James Forrestal, committed suicide soon after leaving the Pentagon. Seven of his successors were fired or allowed to resign gracefully after losing the confidence of the president. Many left frustrated and disappointed, while few retained the celebrity and esteem they held while in office. One observer has called the job “the graveyard of political ambitions.”Charles A. Stevenson, who as a national security adviser to four U.S. senators has seen several defense secretaries in action, examines the unique challenges of this office to learn why the failure rate has been so high. SECDEF focuses on how the secretary performs in the broader world of national security policymaking, how he handles civil-military relations in planning strategy and wars, how he functions on the National Security Council and deals with the president and secretary of state, and how well he performs as a politician, especially in dealing with Congress. In office, Charles Stevenson finds, these men have tended to fall into one of the three general roles for executing such responsibilities: revolutionaries, firefighters, or, the most common role, team players. Stevenson analyzes each type for its defining characteristics and evaluates individual secretaries. This book will appeal to defense professionals and students alike and to readers interested in American defense and foreign policy who want to learn more about the important role often played by the person informally labeled the SECDEF.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781574887952
Publisher: Potomac Books
Publication date: 06/30/2007
Edition description: New Edition
Pages: 224
Product dimensions: 6.00(w) x 9.00(h) x (d)

Table of Contents

Illustrations     ix
Preface     xi
Background and Evolution of the Office
The Nearly Impossible Job     3
The Cemetery for Dead Cats     7
Politics and Personalities
The Revolutionaries     21
McNamara: The Numbers of Power     23
Schlesinger: The Independence of Ideas     45
Weinberger: The Power of Tenacity     59
The Firefighters     75
Laird: The Power of Politics     77
Aspin: The Politics of Failure     91
Cohen: The Politics of Defense     105
The Team Players     119
Brown: The Technology of Power     121
Cheney: The Power of Decisiveness     135
Perry: The Power of Decency     147
The Rumsfeld Transformation     159
Roles and Performances
Manager of the Pentagon     181
War Planner     189
Diplomat     199
NSC Adviser     207
Successes and Failures     213
Secretaries of Defense     216
Foreign Travel by Secretaries of Defense     217
Notes     219
Bibliography     237
Index     245
About the Author     249

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