Frank Carlucci

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Frank C. Carlucci (1930-) began his career as a Foreign Service Officer, and subsequently served in a variety of subcabinet positions in both Republican and Democratic administrations. After serving as Secretary of Defense, he went to work for the Carlyle Group, a Washington investment partnership, as vice president and managing director; he later became chairman. He is a Counselor for the Center for Strategic and International Studies.

Carlucci was known as Caspar Weinberger's protege, and, in turn, as Colin Powell's mentor.

Foreign Service

His State Department assignments took him to South Africa, the Congo, Zanzibar, and Brazil between 1957 and 1969.

Nixon Administration

In 1969, he moved to the Office of Economic Opportunity as assistant director, and moved up to director late in 1970. He then became associate director and deputy director of the Office of Management and Budget (1971-72) and under secretary of the Department of Health, Education, and Welfare (1972-74). At both places he worked under Caspar Weinberger.

Senior diplomatic and intelligence

In 1975 Carlucci returned to the State Department to serve as ambassador to Portugal until 1978, when he went to the Central Intelligence Agency as deputy director, staying until January 1981. The next month he joined Weinberger at the Department of Defense as deputy secretary, over the objections of some Reagan staff that he had worked for Carter. [1]

Return to industry

Carlucci left the Pentagon in January 1983 to become president and later chairman and chief executive officer of Sears World Trade, Inc., in Washington. He stayed with Sears until 1986, when he moved to the White House as Assistant to the President for National Security Affairs. In 1985-86, while still with Sears, he served on the President's Blue Ribbon Commission on Defense Management, chaired by David Packard. Carlucci worked particularly on the issues of long-range planning and the budgeting and programming process.

Secretary of Defense

He succeeded Weinberger as Ronald Reagan's Secretary of Defense. Carlucci did not undertake extensive organizational changes in DoD, probably because he entered office toward the end of the Reagan administration. He retained William Taft IV, who had been deputy secretary since 1984, and established close relationships with Chairman Admiral William Crowe, Jr., and other members of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. Although he had earlier been skeptical about the provisions of the Goldwater-Nichols Act giving the JCS chairman more power, he concluded eventually that the changes had worked out well.

The first incumbent secretary of defense to visit the Soviet Union, he went there twice: from 29 May to 1 June 1988 to attend a Reagan-Gorbachev summit meeting, and again early in August 1988 for meetings with his counterpart, Soviet Defense Minister Dmitri Yazov. In an earlier meeting in March 1988 in Berne, Switzerland, Carlucci and Yazov discussed the Soviet minister's contention that the Soviet Union was changing its military doctrine, putting more emphasis on defense. Carlucci established what he termed a "bridge of communications" with Yazov, but he saw no evidence to support the Soviet claim that they had adopted a defensive strategy.

The Defense budget confronted Carlucci with his most important domestic issue. As soon as he took office in November 1987, he had to deal with the DoD budget request for fiscal year 1989, beginning on 1 October 1988. Shortly after the stock market crash in October 1987, the administration and Congress agreed on limiting the FY 1989 DoD budget to about $299 billion, some $33 billion less than President Reagan had requested earlier. Carlucci established priorities for allocating the reduced funds among the military services and other units of the Defense Department. He chose to reduce personnel levels in order to protect a proposed military pay increase, and to reduce the force structure rather than cut training and support. In addition he terminated uneconomical or marginal programs and deferred or delayed others.

Working closely with Deputy Secretary Taft, Carlucci provided guidelines to the military departments on cutting the proposed FY 1989 budget and expected them to follow through, but he encountered trouble. The Army fought for cutbacks rather than elimination of certain weapons systems and retiring 620 helicopters. The Navy objected to Carlucci's order that it retire 16 frigates, since it meant the abandonment of the 600-ship Navy goal. Secretary of the Navy James Webb, Jr., resigned over this issue. The Air Force would retire its SR-71 Blackbird and deactivate a tactical fighter wing.

When DoD presented its revised $299.5 billion budget proposal to Congress in February 1988, it projected a reduction of 36,000 from the current personnel strength of 2,174,000. The budget request included funds for various weapon systems for each of the services, as well as $4.6 billion for the Strategic Defense Initiative (SDI).

After Congress completed work on the Defense budget in the summer of 1988, President Reagan vetoed the bill, even though Carlucci and the national security adviser, LTG Colin Powell, recommended approval. Reagan found unacceptable the reduced levels of ballistic missile defense, and Carlucci worked out a budget compromise with Congress.

To help accommodate to the tighter budget, with the usual political complaints of "not in my district", he proposed the creation of the Base Realignment and Closure Commission (BRAC). This bipartisan committee would propose a list of cuts and reorganizations that could either be accepted or rejected as a whole, but was outside the Congressional bargaining process. Carlucci actually thought the matter ought to be exclusively in the hands of the secretary of defense, but he proposed the commission approach as a politically viable way to achieve the result.

Strategic systems

Many existing and proposed weapon systems, especially ballistic missiles, posed difficult problems for Carlucci. The budget included $200 million for the Midgetman missile, which he opposed but accepted a Congressional desire to keep it; it was eventually cancelled. Carlucci anticipated that over the next five years DoD spending would decrease $300 billion from previous projections.

A long-standing issue related to the 50 MX intercontinental ballistic missiles placed in hardened underground silos in the mid-1980s. Carlucci considered these missiles vulnerable to Soviet attack and advocated putting all of them, including a second 50 MXs, on moving railroad cars. Congressional opposition prevented Carlucci from proceeding with the rail basing plan.

As a firm supporter of ballistic missile defense, Carlucci opposed negotiations on arms control that might limit U.S. choices in developing, testing, and deploying SDI systems. State Department arms control negotiator Paul H. Nitze and Admiral Crowe, among others, thought that it might be possible, in the interests of securing a new arms control agreement, to negotiate with the Soviet Union some limits on SDI testing without compromising the SDI program. Carlucci consistently opposed any such agreement.

After signature of the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty in 1987, the State Department hoped to move rapidly on a strategic arms reduction treaty (START). Carlucci again argued against negotiating limitations on SDI research and development, and Reagan made it clear that he would not trade SDI for a START agreement. Carlucci publicly defended SDI technological progress, observing that the major obstacle to securing the system was likely to be political rather than technical. He acknowledged the unlikelihood of achieving a perfect antimissile defense system, but argued that SDI would strengthen the U.S. deterrent at a time when the nation had no real defense against incoming missiles. He also portrayed SDI as a defense against rogue countries, such as Libya, that might be able to obtain nuclear-armed missiles capable of reaching the United States. Although he did not get as much money as he wanted for SDI in the FY 1989 budget, he secured enough to keep research and development work underway.

His stand on SDI did not detract from Carlucci's support of the efforts of the Reagan administration to negotiate arms control agreements with the Soviet Union. Some arms control advocates saw his appointment as secretary of defense to succeed Weinberger in 1987 as a sign that the Pentagon would soften its hard line approach on the issue. Carlucci testified strongly in favor of the INF Treaty, which he saw as enhancing NATO security in several ways. The treaty would reduce the Soviet military threat to Western Europe by removing an entire class of missile systems from the area and demonstrate to the USSR that NATO nations had the political will to make and support decisions necessary to ensure their security. He also emphasized that the INF Treaty included stringent national means of technical verification Carlucci created the On-Site Inspection Agency, now the Defense Threat Reduction Agency on 15 January 1988.

Persian Gulf

He dealt with many ramifications of the Iran-Iraq War. As Operation EARNEST WILL, The United States began to convoy Kuwaiti tankers, carrying the U.S. flag, in the summer of 1987. On one of his first trips abroad as secretary in January 1988 he visited Kuwait, Bahrain, Saudi Arabia, and U.S. ships in the Gulf.

Three months later U.S. relations with Iran reached another flash point when U.S. forces, in Operation PRAYING MANTIS, destroyed two Iranian oil platforms in retaliation for damage done by an Iranian mine to the USS Samuel B. Roberts (FFG-58) in the Gulf. In the southern half of the Gulf, U.S. ships clashed with Iranian forces, crippling or sinking six of their ships.

"Another serious incident in the Persian Gulf occurred on 3 July 1988, when the USS Vincennes mistakenly shot down a civilian Iranian airliner over Gulf waters, killing 290 persons. Carlucci set up a commission of inquiry to look into the matter, and the United States apologized to Iran and paid compensation to the victims' families. In August 1988 Iran and Iraq agreed to an armistice, ending their eight-year conflict, but Carlucci kept U.S. forces at full strength in the Persian Gulf, pending a formal settlement between the two countries.

Reflections on office

"Carlucci left office on 20 January 1989 with the advent of the Bush administration. In an interview with reporters shortly before his departure, Carlucci said he was most proud of three accomplishments: persuading Congress to agree to streamline base closing procedures, the conduct of the successful tanker escort operation in the Persian Gulf, and the development of a new, positive relationship with Soviet military authorities. Other achievements included setting funding priorities and guiding the process for cutting the FY 1989 Pentagon budget; developing a calm, measured approach to the Pentagon procurement fraud investigation; impressing on world leaders the dangers of long-range missile proliferation; and persuading Congress to drop the idea of using military forces to seal U.S. borders in the fight against drugs.

"Carlucci said his biggest disappointment was that the Pentagon had "not been able to preserve the defense consensus" in Congress and in the nation at a time when developments in the Communist world showed that "negotiating from strength works." In an article published soon after his retirement, he listed what he considered the central challenges policymakers would face in the 1990s: the emergence of new and dangerous threats to U.S. security from all over the world, the persistence of the Soviet threat, and the probability that the Western countries would face a growing tendency toward conflict arising from economic competition.

Early life

After graduation from Princeton University in 1952, he served two years as a lieutenant in the U.S. Navy, then studied at the Harvard Business School. He worked briefly in industry before joining the State Department.


  1. Frank C. Carlucci, November 23, 1987 - January 20, 1989, 16th Secretary of Defense, Reagan Administration, Department of Defense