Secretaries of Defense

Secretaries of Defense

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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. 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

SecretaryHome StateAdministration

1947 - 1949

James V. ForrestalNew YorkTruman

1949 - 1950

Louis A. JohnsonWest VirginiaTruman

1950 - 1951

George C. MarshallPennsylvaniaTruman

1951 - 1953

Robert A. LovettNew YorkTruman

1953 - 1957

Charles E. WilsonMichiganEisenhower

1957 - 1959

Neil H. McElroyOhioEisenhower

1959 - 1961

Thomas S. Gates Jr.PennsylvaniaEisenhower

1961 - 1963

Robert S. McNamaraMichiganKennedy

1963 - 1968

Robert S. McNamaraMichiganL.B. Johnson

1968 - 1969

Clark M. CliffordMarylandL.B. Johnson

1969 - 1973

Melvin R. LairdWisconsinNixon


Elliot L. RichardsonMassachusettsNixon

1973 - 1974

James R. SchlesingerVirginiaNixon

1974 - 1975

James R. SchlesingerVirginiaFord

1975 - 1977

Donald H. RumsfeldIllinoisFord

1977 - 1981

Harold BrownCaliforniaCarter

1981 - 1987

Caspar W. WeinbergerCaliforniaReagan

1987 - 1989

Frank C. CarlucciPennsylvaniaReagan

1989 - 1993

Richard B. CheneyWyomingG.H.W. Bush

1993 - 1994

Les AspinWisconsinClinton

1994 - 1997

William J. PerryCaliforniaClinton

1997 - 2001

William CohenMaineClinton

2001 -

Donald H. RumsfeldIllinoisG.W. Bush

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