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Weinberger, Caspar

Weinberger, Caspar (1917–), lawyer, government official, secretary of defense. President Ronald Reagan appointed Weinberger, a former California and federal official, as secretary of defense in 1981. Weinberger worked to implement Reagan's defense program, stressing armed forces modernization, readiness, and sustainability to counter the threats of the Soviet Union, which Reagan labeled the “evil empire.” Weinberger pushed for a broad strategic weapons program, including B‐1B bombers, a stealth aircraft, the Trident II submarine‐launched ballistic missile, and the MX “Peacekeeper” ICBM. He backed development of Reagan's space‐based system to defend against missile attack—the Strategic Defense Initiative or “Star Wars” program.

Weinberger persuaded Congress to approve large increases in the defense budget, which increased from about $176 billion (total obligational authority) in fiscal year 1981 to over $276 billion in fiscal year 1985, the largest peacetime defense buildup in U.S. history. After that, he was less successful in getting his budget requests through Congress. Between 1981 and 1985, there was substantial real growth; after 1985, although the dollar amount of the defense budget continued to increase slowly, there was negative real growth.

Weinberger was cautious about committing military forces in trouble spots around the world, but while he was at the Pentagon, U.S. forces joined an international peacekeeping force in Lebanon (August 1982) and invaded Grenada (October 1983) to oust a Communist‐controlled government. Responding to tension in the Persian Gulf, the Department of Defense created the unified Central Command for Southwest Asia. During Weinberger's term, Congress passed the Goldwater‐Nichols Act (1986), which strengthened the control of the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff over the JCS organization and increased his influence as adviser to the president on military matters. Weinberger showed little enthusiasm for the U.S.‐USSR arms control negotiations (START and the INF Treaties), which Reagan accorded high priority during his second term (1985–89). Although within the administration, he opposed the activities leading to the Iran‐Contra Affair (1986). Weinberger was later indicted on a charge that he had not disclosed to an independent counsel the existence of notes he kept on the matter; President George Bush pardoned him in 1992 shortly before his trial was to begin.

After serving longer than any secretary of defense except Robert S. McNamara, Weinberger left office in November 1987.
[See also Grenada, U.S. Intervention in.]

Bibliography

Caspar W. Weinberger , Fighting for Peace: Seven Critical Years in the Pentagon, 1990.
Roger R. Trask and and Alfred Goldberg , The Department of Defense, 1947–1997: Organization and Leaders, 1997.

Roger R. Trask

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Weinberger, Caspar Willard

Caspar Willard Weinberger (wīn´bûrgər), 1917–2006, U.S. government official, U.S. secretary of defense (1981–87), b. San Francisco, grad. Harvard (1938), Harvard Law School (1941). After serving in the army during World War II and as a law clerk (1945–47), he was a lawyer in private practice and a Republican member of the California State Assembly (1953–59). He held several California state posts under Gov. Ronald Reagan in the late 1960s, then he served under Presidents Nixon and Ford as a chairman of the Federal Trade Commission (1970), deputy director (1970–72) and director (1972–73) of the Office of Management and Budget (where he earned the nickname "Cap the Knife" for his efforts to cut the budget), and secretary of health, education, and welfare (1973–75). When Reagan won the presidency in 1980, Weinberger became one his advisers and then was appointed secretary of defense. In the post he oversaw the largest peacetime expansion of the U.S. military, and was an advocate of a strong anti-Soviet stance on the part of the United States. After leaving government Weinberger was associated with Forbes, Inc., where he was chairman from 1993 until his death. In 1992 he was indicted on perjury charges for having failed to turn over diaries to the investigation into Iran-contra affair; a pardon (1992) by President George H. W. Bush foreclosed a trial.

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