James Rodney Schlesinger

James Rodney Schlesinger

Schlesinger, James Rodney, 1929-, U.S. Secretary of Defense (1973-75) and Secretary of Energy (1977-79), b. New York City. After graduating from Harvard (A.B., 1950; A.M., 1952; Ph.D., 1956), he taught economics (1955-63) at the Univ. of Virginia and was then (1963-69) a specialist in strategic studies for the RAND Corp. In 1969 he was appointed assistant director of the Bureau of the Budget by President Richard Nixon, under whom he later assumed the offices of chairman of the Atomic Energy Commission (1971), director of the Central Intelligence Agency (Feb., 1973), and Secretary of Defense (July, 1973). Under President Jimmy Carter, he was the first Secretary of Energy.
James Rodney Schlesinger (born February 15, 1929) was United States Secretary of Defense from 1973 to 1975 under presidents Richard Nixon and Gerald Ford. He became America's first Secretary of Energy under Jimmy Carter.

While Secretary of Defense, he opposed amnesty for draft dodgers, and pressed for development of more sophisticated nuclear weapon systems. Additionally, his support for the A-10 and the lightweight fighter program (later the F-16) helped ensure that they were carried to completion.

Early life and career

Schlesinger was born in New York City, the son of Rae, a Russian Jewish immigrant, and Julius Schlesinger, an Austrian Jew. He was educated at Horace Mann School and Harvard University, where he earned a B.A. (1950), M.A. (1952), and Ph.D. (1956) in economics. Between 1955 and 1963 he taught economics at the University of Virginia and in 1960 published The Political Economy of National Security. In 1963 he moved to the Rand Corporation, where he worked until 1969, in the later years as director of strategic studies.

Nixon Administration

In 1969 Schlesinger joined the Nixon administration as assistant director of the Bureau of the Budget, devoting most of his time to Defense matters. In 1971 President Nixon appointed Schlesinger a member of the Atomic Energy Commission (AEC) and designated him as chairman. Serving in this position for about a year and a half, Schlesinger instituted extensive organizational and management changes in an effort to improve the AEC's regulatory performance.

Director of Central Intelligence (1973)

On February 2, 1973 he became Director of Central Intelligence, after Richard Helms, the previous director, had been fired for his refusal to block the Watergate investigation. Schlesinger's first words upon becoming DCI were, reportedly, "I'm here to make sure you don't screw Richard Nixon." Although his CIA service was short, barely six months, it was stormy as he again undertook comprehensive organizational and personnel changes. He became so unpopular at CIA Headquarters in Langley, Virginia that a security camera had to be installed opposite his official portrait because of fears that it would be vandalized. By this time he had a reputation as a tough, forthright, and outspoken administrator.

Secretary of Defense (1973–1975)

Schlesinger left the CIA to become Secretary of Defense on July 2, aged 44. Despite his relative youth, given his academic and government credentials he appeared exceptionally well-qualified for the post. As a university professor, researcher at Rand, and government official in three agencies, he had acquired an impressive background in national security affairs.

Nuclear strategy

Shortly after assuming office, Schlesinger outlined the basic objectives that would guide his administration: maintain a "strong defense establishment"; "assure the military balance so necessary to deterrence and a more enduring peace"; obtain for members of the military "the respect, dignity and support that are their due"; assume "an . . . obligation to use our citizens' resources wisely"; and "become increasingly competitive with potential adversaries . . . . We must not be forced out of the market on land, at sea, or in the air. Eli Whitney belongs to us, not to our competitors." In particular, Schlesinger saw a need in the post-Vietnam era to restore the morale and prestige of the military services; modernize strategic doctrine and programs; step up research and development; and shore up a DoD budget that had been declining since 1968.

Analyzing strategy, Schlesinger maintained that the theory and practice of the 1950s and 1960s had been overtaken by events, particularly the rise of the Soviet Union to virtual nuclear parity with the United States and the effect this development had on the concept of deterrence. Schlesinger believed that "deterrence is not a substitute for defense; defense capabilities, representing the potential for effective counteraction, are the essential condition of deterrence." He had grave doubts about the assured destruction strategy, which relied on massive nuclear attacks against an enemy's urban-industrial areas. Credible strategic nuclear deterrence, the secretary felt, depended on fulfilling several conditions: maintaining essential equivalence with the Soviet Union in force effectiveness; maintaining a highly survivable force that could be withheld or targeted against an enemy's economic base in order to deter coercive or desperation attacks against U.S. population or economic targets; establishing a fast-response force that could act to deter additional enemy attacks; and establishing a range of capabilities sufficient to convince all nations that the United States was equal to its strongest competitors.

To meet these needs, Schlesinger built on existing ideas in developing a flexible response nuclear strategy, which, with the President's approval, he made public by early 1974. The United States, Schlesinger said, needed the ability, in the event of a nuclear attack, to respond so as to "limit the chances of uncontrolled escalation" and "hit meaningful targets" without causing widespread collateral damage. The nation's assured destruction force would be withheld in the hope that the enemy would not attack U.S. cities. In rejecting assured destruction, Schlesinger quoted President Nixon: "Should a President, in the event of a nuclear attack, be left with the single option of ordering the mass destruction of enemy civilians, in the face of the certainty that it would be followed by the mass slaughter of Americans?"

With this approach Schlesinger moved to a partial counterforce policy, emphasizing Soviet military targets such as ICBM missile installations, avoiding initial attacks on population centers, and minimizing unintended collateral damage. He explicitly disavowed any intention to acquire a destabilizing first-strike capability against the USSR. But he wanted "an offensive capability of such size and composition that all will perceive it as in overall balance with the strategic forces of any potential opponent."

Because he regarded conventional forces as an equally essential element in the deterrence posture of the United States, Schlesinger wanted to reverse what he perceived as a gradual downward trend in conventional force strength. He pointed out that because Soviet nuclear capabilities had reached approximate parity with the United States, the relative contribution to deterrence made by U.S. strategic forces had inevitably declined. One of the missions of conventional forces, he noted, was to deter or defeat limited threats.

In this vein Schlesinger devoted much attention to the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation, citing the need to strengthen its conventional capabilities. He rejected the old assumption that NATO did not need a direct counter to Warsaw Pact conventional forces because it could rely on tactical and strategic nuclear weapons, noting that the approximate nuclear parity between the United States and the Soviets in the 1970s made this stand inappropriate. He also rejected the argument that NATO could not afford a conventional counterweight to Warsaw Pact forces. In his discussions with NATO leaders, Schlesinger promoted the concept of burden-sharing, stressing the troubles that the United States faced in the mid-1970s because of an unfavorable balance of international payments. He urged qualitative improvements in NATO forces, including equipment standardization, and an increase in defense spending by NATO governments of up to five percent of their gross national product.

During President Nixon's last days in the White House during the Watergate crisis, when the President's mental stability was doubted by some, Schlesinger is thought to have instructed the Joint Chiefs of Staff to check with him before carrying out any of Nixon's orders regarding nuclear weapons. He also drew up contingency plans for an emergency deployment of the 82nd Airborne to Washington D.C. in the event of Nixon refusing to step down in the event of impeachment and usurping of the marines.

Yom Kippur War and Cyprus crisis

Schlesinger had an abiding interest in strategic theory, but he also had to deal with a succession of immediate crises that tested his administrative and political skills. In October 1973, three months after he took office, Arab countries launched a surprise attack on Israel to start the Yom Kippur War. A few days after the war started, with Israel not faring well militarily and the Soviets resupplying the Arab countries, the United States began shipping and airlifting supplies to Israel. As Schlesinger explained, the initial U.S. policy to avoid direct involvement rested on the assumption that Israel would win quickly. But when it became clear that the Israelis faced formidable military forces and could not make their own resupply arrangements, the United States took up the burden. Schlesinger rejected charges that the Defense Department delayed the resupply effort to avoid irritating the Arab states and that he had had a serious disagreement over this matter with Secretary of State Henry Kissinger. Eventually the combatants agreed to a cease-fire, but not before the Soviet Union threatened to intervene on the Arab side and the United States declared a worldwide alert of its forces. In the aftermath of the Yom Kippur conflict, partly because of U.S. assistance to the Israelis, the Arab members of the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) cut off oil shipments to the United States for several months.

Another crisis flared in July 1974 when Turkish forces, concerned about the safety of the Turkish minority community, invaded Cyprus after the Cypriot National Guard, supported by the government of Greece, overthrew President Archbishop Makarios. When the fighting stopped, the Turks held the northern section of the island, about 40 percent of the total area. Turkey's military action caused controversy in the United States, because of protests by supporters of the Greek Cypriots and because Turkish forces used some U.S.-supplied military equipment intended solely for NATO purposes. Schlesinger felt the Turks had overstepped the bounds of legitimate interests in Cyprus and suggested that the United States might have to reexamine its military aid program to Turkey. During this time President Nixon resigned and Gerald R. Ford succeeded him; eventually Ford and Secretary of State Henry Kissinger made it clear that they favored continued military assistance to Turkey as a valued NATO ally, but Congress in December 1974 prohibited such aid, instituting an embargo that lasted five years.

Indochina

The last phase of the Indochina conflict occurred during Schlesinger's tenure. Although all U.S. combat forces had left South Vietnam in the spring of 1973, the United States continued to maintain a military presence in other areas of Southeast Asia. Some senators criticized Schlesinger and questioned him sharply during his confirmation hearings in June 1973 after he stated that he would recommend resumption of U.S. bombing in North Vietnam and Laos if North Vietnam launched a major offensive against South Vietnam. However, when the North Vietnamese did begin an offensive early in 1975, the United States could do little to help the South Vietnamese, who collapsed completely as the North Vietnamese entered Saigon in late April. Schlesinger announced early in the morning of 29 April 1975 the evacuation from Saigon by helicopter of the last U.S. diplomatic, military, and civilian personnel.

Only one other notable event remained in the Indochina drama. In May 1975 forces of the Communist Cambodian government boarded and captured the crew of the Mayaguez, an unarmed U.S.-registered freighter. The United States bombarded military and fuel installations on the Cambodian mainland while a battalion of Marines landed by helicopter on an offshore island to rescue the crew. The 39 captives were retrieved, but the operation cost the lives of 41 U.S. military personnel. Nevertheless, the majority of the American people seemed to approve of the administration's decisive action.

Defense budget

Unsurprisingly, given his determination to build up U.S. strategic and conventional forces, Schlesinger devoted much time and effort to the Defense budget. Even before becoming secretary, in a speech in San Francisco in September 1972, he warned that it was time "to call a halt to the self-defeating game of cutting defense outlays, this process, that seems to have become addictive, of chopping away year after year." Shortly after he took office, he complained about "the post-war follies" of Defense budget-cutting. Later he outlined the facts about the DoD budget: In real terms it had been reduced by one-third since FY 1968; it was one-eighth below the pre-Vietnam War FY 1964 budget; purchases of equipment, consumables, and R&D were down 45 percent from the wartime peak and about $10 billion in constant dollars below the prewar level; Defense now absorbed about 6 percent of the gross national product, the lowest percentage since before the Korean War; military manpower was at the lowest point since before the Korean War; and Defense spending amounted to about 17 percent of total national expenditures, the lowest since before the Pearl Harbor attack in 1941. Armed with these statistics, and alarmed by continuing Soviet weapon advances, Schlesinger became a vigorous advocate of larger DoD budgets. But he had little success. For FY 1975, Congress provided TOA of $86.1 billion, compared with $81.6 billion in FY 1974; for FY 1976, the amount was $95.6 billion, an increase of 3.4 percent, but in real terms slightly less than it had been in FY 1955.

Dismissal as Secretary of Defense

Schlesinger's insistence on higher defense budgets, his disagreements within the administration and with Congress on this issue, and his differences with Secretary of State Kissinger all contributed to his dismissal from office by President Ford in November 1975. Kissinger strongly supported the Strategic Arms Limitation Talks process, while Schlesinger wanted assurances that arms control agreements would not put the United States in a strategic position inferior to the Soviet Union. The secretary's harsh criticism of some congressional leaders dismayed President Ford, who was more willing than Schlesinger to compromise on the Defense budget. On 2 November 1975, the president dismissed Schlesinger and made other important personnel changes. Kissinger lost his position as special assistant to the President for national security affairs but remained as secretary of state. Schlesinger left office on 19 November 1975, explaining his departure in terms of his budgetary differences with the White House.

The unreported, but important, main reason behind Schlesinger's dismissal, though, was his insubordination toward President Ford. During the Mayaguez incident, Ford ordered several retaliatory strikes against the Cambodians. Schlesinger told Ford the strikes were carried out, but Ford later learned that Schlesinger, who disagreed with the order, had none of them carried out. Ford let the incident go, but when Schlesinger committed further insubordination on other matters, Ford finally fired him. This is all reported in Bob Woodward's 1999 book, Shadow.

In spite of the controversy surrounding both his tenure and dismissal, Schlesinger was by most accounts an able secretary of defense. A serious and perceptive thinker on nuclear strategy, he was determined that the United States not fall seriously behind the Soviet Union in conventional and nuclear forces and devoted himself to modernization of defense policies and programs. He got along well with the military leadership because he proposed to give them more resources, consulted with them regularly, and shared many of their views. Because he could be blunt in his opinions and did not enjoy the personal rapport with legislators that prior Secretary of Defense Melvin Laird had, his relations with Congress were often strained. A majority of its members may have approved Schlesinger's strategic plans, but they kept a tight rein on the money for his programs. As for the Pentagon bureaucracy, Schlesinger generally left its management to Deputy Secretary of Defense William P. Clements.

Post-Defense Department activities

After leaving the Pentagon, Schlesinger wrote and spoke forcefully about national security issues, especially the Soviet threat and the need for the United States to maintain adequate defenses. When Jimmy Carter became President in January 1977 he appointed Schlesinger, a Republican, as his special adviser on energy and subsequently as the first Secretary of Energy in October 1977. He launched the Department of Energy's Carbon Dioxide Effects and Assessment Program shortly after the creation of that department in 1977. In July 1979, Carter replaced him as part of a broader Cabinet shakeup.

Thereafter he resumed his writing and speaking career and was employed as a senior adviser to Lehman Brothers, Kuhn, Loeb Inc., of New York City. On June 11, 2002 he was appointed by U.S. President George W. Bush to the Homeland Security Advisory Council. He also serves as a consultant to the United States Department of Defense, and is a member of the Defense Policy Board. On January 5, 2006, he participated in a meeting at the White House of former Secretaries of Defense and State to discuss United States foreign policy with Bush administration officials. On January 31, 2006 he was appointed by the Secretary of State to be a member of the Arms Control and Nonproliferation Advisory Board. On May 2, 2006, he was named to be a co-chairman of a Defense Science Board study on DOD Energy Strategy.

On June 5, 2008, Defense Secretary Robert Gates appointed Schlesinger to head a task force to ensure the "highest levels" of control over nuclear weapons. The purpose of the review is to prevent a repeat of recent incidents where control was lost over components of nuclear weapons, and even nuclear weapons themselves.

Schlesinger is currently the Chairman of the Board of Trustees of The MITRE Corporation; a Senior Advisor for Lehman Brothers; on the advisory board of The National Interest; a Director of BNFL, Inc., Peabody Energy, Sandia Corporation, Seven Seas Petroleum Company, Chairman of the Executive Committee of The Nixon Center. He has written a number of opinion pieces on global warming, expressing a strongly skeptical position.

Schlesinger is also aware of the peak oil issue and supports it. The keynote speech at the first day of an oil depletion conference hosted by the Association for the Study of Peak Oil in Cork, Schlesinger said that the oil industry executives now privately concede that the world faces an imminent oil production peak, and argued that the report "Facing Hard Truths about Energy" by the US oil industry grouping the National Petroleum Council constituted "a backdoor admission that in the next decade or two we face a moment of truth". Conceptually Schlesinger means that the battle was over and that the peak oil movement has won.

On June 5, 2008, US Secretary of Defense Robert Gates announced that he had asked Schlesinger to lead a senior-level task force to recommend improvements in the stewardship and operation of nuclear weapons, delivery vehicles and sensitive components by the US DoD following the 2007 United States Air Force nuclear weapons incident. Members of the task force came from the Defense Policy Board and the Defense Science Board.

See also

References

External links

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