See M. R. Laird et al., The Nixon Doctrine (1972).
The United States Secretary of Defense (SECDEF) is the head of the U.S. Department of Defense (DoD), concerned with the armed services and military matters. This position roughly corresponds to Minister of defense in other countries. The role of the Secretary of Defense is to be the principal defense policy advisor to the President and is responsible for the formulation of general defense policy related to all matters of direct and primary concern to the DoD, and for the execution of approved policy The Secretary is appointed by the President by and with the approval of the Senate, and is a member of the Cabinet. By statute the secretary must be a civilian who has not served in the active component of the armed forces for at least 10 years (- Note that Congress had passed a law to allow George Marshall to be appointed in 1950 despite having only been a civilian since 1945). The Secretary of Defense is sixth in the presidential line of succession.
The SecDef and the President together constitute the National Command Authority (NCA), which has sole authority to launch strategic nuclear weapons. All nuclear weapons are governed by the two-man rule, even at the highest levels in government. Both individuals must concur before a strategic nuclear strike may be ordered.
The SecDef, as the head of the United States Office of the Secretary of Defense, is assisted by a Deputy Secretary and five Under Secretaries in the fields of Acquisition, Technology & Logistics; Comptroller/Chief Financial Officer; Intelligence; Personnel & Readiness; and arguably the most important, Policy. All of these positions require Senate confirmation.
The Secretary of Defense also supervises the six members of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and the commanders of the ten Combatant Commands.
|#||Picture||Name||Term of Office||President(s) served under|
|1||James Vincent Forrestal||September 17, 1947||March 28, 1949||Harry S. Truman|
|2||Louis Arthur Johnson||March 28, 1949||September 19, 1950||Harry S. Truman|
|3||General George Catlett Marshall, Jr.||September 21, 1950||September 12, 1951||Harry S. Truman|
|4||Robert Abercrombie Lovett||September 17, 1951||January 20, 1953||Harry S. Truman|
|5||Charles Erwin Wilson||January 20, 1953||October 8, 1957||Dwight D. Eisenhower|
|6||Neil Hosler McElroy||October 9, 1957||December 1, 1959||Dwight D. Eisenhower|
|7||Thomas Sovereign Gates||December 2, 1959||January 20, 1961||Dwight D. Eisenhower|
|8||Robert Strange McNamara||January 21, 1961||February 29, 1968||John F. Kennedy, Lyndon B. Johnson|
|9||Clark McAdams Clifford||March 1, 1968||January 20, 1969||Lyndon B. Johnson|
|10||Melvin Robert Laird||January 22, 1969||January 29, 1973||Richard Nixon|
|11||Elliot Lee Richardson||January 30, 1973||May 24, 1973||Richard Nixon|
|12||James Rodney Schlesinger||July 2, 1973||November 19, 1975||Richard Nixon, Gerald Ford|
|13||Donald Henry Rumsfeld||November 20, 1975||January 20, 1977||Gerald Ford|
|14||Harold Brown||January 21, 1977||January 20, 1981||Jimmy Carter|
|15||Caspar Willard Weinberger||January 21, 1981||November 23, 1987||Ronald Reagan|
|16||Frank Charles Carlucci III||November 23, 1987||January 20, 1989||Ronald Reagan|
|17||Richard Bruce Cheney||March 21, 1989||January 20, 1993||George H. W. Bush|
|18||Leslie Aspin, Jr.||January 21, 1993||February 3, 1994||Bill Clinton|
|19||William James Perry||February 3, 1994||January 24, 1997||Bill Clinton|
|20||William Sebastian Cohen||January 24, 1997||January 20, 2001||Bill Clinton|
|21||Donald Henry Rumsfeld||January 20, 2001||December 18, 2006||George W. Bush|
|22||Robert Michael Gates||December 18, 2006||Incumbent||George W. Bush|