Melvin R. Laird
Secretary of Defense (1969-1972)
In defense of our country
Melvin R. Laird served as Secretary of Defense in the first administration of President Richard M. Nixon. Mr. Laird was voted, in the department, in a poll of reporters covering defense and national security issues, "the most effective, likeable, trustworthy, strong and forthcoming Secretary of Defense."
While Secretary of Defense, Mr. Laird withdrew 20,000 U.S. ground combat forces from Korea and ordered a race relations task force be created to develop a program for racial harmony in the military. He also promoted the first women to flag rank in the history of the military.
In the midst of the escalating Indochina conflict, Mr. Laird became the architect of the Vietnamization plan, whereby the American role in Vietnam was to be gradually replaced by the South Vietnamese military.
Mr. Laird is credited for increasing the number of Polaris submarines and pushing for the construction of an Anti Ballistic Missile (ABM) system, citing that an ABM system was essential to the nation's defense. In addition, he pushed to bring military intelligence operations under greater civilian control, and urged the modernization of European armed forces to improve the strength of the Atlantic alliance. He created the Japanese-U.S. Military Council and increased cost sharing among nations of the Pacific.
When Mr. Laird resigned, he had established the All-Volunteer Military Force, had presided over the ending of the draft, and reduced the military budget from 47% to 30% of the national budget.
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