Best Defense

A Shoutout for Two Key Things Harold Brown Did as Defense Secretary Under Carter

A forgotten legacy.

A US Air Force (USAF) F-117A Nighthawk Stealth Fighter aircraft flies over Nellis Air Force Base (AFB), Nevada (NV), during the joint service experimentation process dubbed Millennium Challenge 2002 (MC02). (Staff Sgt. Aaron Allmon II via Wikimedia Commons).
A US Air Force (USAF) F-117A Nighthawk Stealth Fighter aircraft flies over Nellis Air Force Base (AFB), Nevada (NV), during the joint service experimentation process dubbed Millennium Challenge 2002 (MC02). (Staff Sgt. Aaron Allmon II via Wikimedia Commons).

Harold Brown doesn’t get talked about much nowadays, but he did two crucial things in his tenure as defense secretary, from 1977 to 1981.

First, he helped keep the all-volunteer Force alive, when some were calling it a failure and saying the draft should be resumed.

Second, and even more importantly, he embraced the digital revolution then emerging in Silicon Valley. It was no accident that both he and his brilliant acquisition chief, William Perry (yes, who himself became defense secretary in 1994) both came to Washington from jobs in California. As I wrote in the December issue of Proceedings, “The computer revolution they emphasized changed everything from how targets would be hit (with precision weapons) to how U.S. aircraft would avoid being hit (stealth technology meant making some U.S. jets almost invisible to radar.”

Thomas E. Ricks covered the U.S. military from 1991 to 2008 for the Wall Street Journal and then the Washington Post. He can be reached at ricksblogcomment@gmail.com. @tomricks1

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