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Secretaries of Defense

A member of the president's cabinet, the secretary heads the Department of Defense, created in 1947. The departmental predecessor was the Secretary of War. A civilian, the secretary is appointed by the president with the advice and consent of the Senate. All activities in the department are accomplished under his or her supervision.

The secretary administers the national military budget and holds authority over personnel, supplies and other aspects of defense. He or she also is the main advisor to the president on all Department of Defense matters and related topics.

The secretary is a member of the National Security Council, the National Aeronautics and Space Administration and other agencies. He or she also maintains close contact with the State Department and the Joint Chiefs of Staff. A deputy and several assistant secretaries are answerable to the secretary.

Term of Service
Secretary Home State Administration
1947 - 1949
James V. Forrestal New York Truman
1949 - 1950
Louis A. Johnson West Virginia Truman
1950 - 1951
George C. Marshall Pennsylvania Truman
1951 - 1953
Robert A. Lovett New York Truman
1953 - 1957
Charles E. Wilson Michigan Eisenhower
1957 - 1959
Neil H. McElroy Ohio Eisenhower
1959 - 1961
Thomas S. Gates Jr. Pennsylvania Eisenhower
1961 - 1963
Robert S. McNamara Michigan Kennedy
1963 - 1968
Robert S. McNamara Michigan L.B. Johnson
1968 - 1969
Clark M. Clifford Maryland L.B. Johnson
1969 - 1973
Melvin R. Laird Wisconsin Nixon
1973
Elliot L. Richardson Massachusetts Nixon
1973 - 1974
James R. Schlesinger Virginia Nixon
1974 - 1975
James R. Schlesinger Virginia Ford
1975 - 1977
Donald H. Rumsfeld Illinois Ford
1977 - 1981
Harold Brown California Carter
1981 - 1987
Caspar W. Weinberger California Reagan
1987 - 1989
Frank C. Carlucci Pennsylvania Reagan
1989 - 1993
Richard B. Cheney Wyoming G.H.W. Bush
1993 - 1994
Les Aspin Wisconsin Clinton
1994 - 1997
William J. Perry California Clinton
1997 - 2001
William Cohen Maine Clinton
2001 -
Donald H. Rumsfeld Illinois G.W. Bush

See cabinet officers sorted by administration.

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In House of War, the best-selling author James Carroll has created a history of the Pentagon that is both epic and personal. Through Carroll we see ho...

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