15th Secretary of Defense, sworn in January 21, 1981

born August 18, 1917
San Francisco, California


Military Career

Political Positions

Business Positions

  • 1975-1980: vice-president of the Bechtel Group
  • 1987: publisher and chairman of Forbes magazine

Miscellaneous Achievements

Notable Career Events

  • the Strategic Defense Initiative (also known as "Star Wars") is embraced by Reagan, but congress isn't enthusiastic about providing funding.
  • tension in Libya mounts as Moammar al-Qadhafi begins claiming land for Libya, threatening U.S. interests in the middle east
  • Kuwait asks for U.S. help in protecting their oil tankers in the Persian Gulf from attacks by Iran.
  • the Iran/Contra affair. Although the U.S. agreed to help Kuwait against the Iranians, Reagan was selling arms to the iranians and giving the proceeds to the contras in nicaragua in the hopes that they would overthrow the leftist sandanistas. Weinberger knew of the arms sales, but did not know where the proceeds went. Weinberger is indicted, but later pardoned by George Bush in 1992.
Weinberger stepped down from the office of secretary of defense on November 23, 1987, citing his wife's health problems.

The Uses of Military Power

These are excerpts of a speech Weinberger made in November, 1984 regarding the use of military forces outside of the boundaries of the United States. He believed that these tests should be applied when there was a question of combat abroad:
  1. . . . The United States should not commit forces to combat overseas unless the particular engagement or occasion is deemed vital to our national interest or that of our allies. . . .
  2. . . . If we decide it is necessary to put combat troops into a given situation, we should do so wholeheartedly, and with the clear intention of winning. If we are unwilling to commit the forces or resources necessary to achieve our objectives, we should not commit them at all. . . .
  3. . . . If we do decide to commit forces to combat overseas, we should have clearly defined political and military objectives. . . .
  4. . . . The relationship between our objectives and the forces we have committed-their size, composition and disposition-must be continually reassessed and adjusted if necessary. . . .
  5. . . . Before the U.S. commits forces abroad, there must be some reasonable assurance we will have the support of the American people and their elected representatives in Congress. . . .
  6. . . . The commitment of U.S. forces to combat should be a last resort.
unfortunately, only the last of these directives was put into the national security policy (NSDD 238).

references: www.defenselink.mil, www.britanica.com