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Letter Accepting the Resignation of Caspar W. Weinberger as Secretary of Defense

November 05, 1987

Dear Cap:

It is with the deepest regret that I accept your resignation as Secretary of Defense, effective upon the appointment and qualification of your successor.

Nearly 20 years ago, I had the good fortune to have you serve as my Director of Finance for the State of California. Your exceptional performance in that post as well as in subsequent positions with the Federal Government—among them, Chairman of the Federal Trade Commission, Director of the Office of Management and Budget, and Secretary of Health, Education, and Welfare-left me no doubt that you would make an outstanding Secretary of Defense. Not only was I correct in my judgment, but I am confident that you will be remembered as the most distinguished and effective Secretary of Defense in our Nation's history.

For the past seven years, you have worked tirelessly to help restore both America's military strength and its self-confidence. You have always recognized that the mantle of liberty carries with it responsibility and leadership. You've been indispensable in upgrading our military preparedness by promoting the B-1 bomber, overseeing expansion of our Navy to 600 ships, and eloquently advocating the Strategic Defense Initiative—the most important technological breakthrough in defense strategy in our lifetime. You have successfully enhanced the quality of our military personnel and improved morale, so that today the percentage of high school graduates among enlistees in our armed services is the highest in our Nation's history. You have also set an example in cracking down on waste and abuse in Pentagon spending, ensuring American taxpayers that their hard-earned monies are being properly and efficiently utilized.

I know well that you are an ardent admirer of Winston Churchill and an astute observer of history. As Secretary of Defense, you have demonstrated time and again the vision, the passion, the sound judgment, and the ability to inspire which Churchill possessed in such full measure. You recognize, as he did, that we live in a dangerous time when the survival and triumph of freedom are not self-evident. If freedom is to endure and expand, it will only be because we understand the lessons of history and the nature of the implacable enemy that confronts us globally. Having immersed yourself in these issues, you have helped this Nation apply these lessons to the many crises that we have faced together. As a result, the United States has been able to conduct itself in the 1980s in a way befitting a great Nation and the leader of the free world. Cap, you have my heartfelt gratitude for your incomparable service to our Nation. I know that as you return to the private sector, you will continue to champion the public policies that have kept our Nation strong, prosperous, and free.

Nancy joins me in offering you and Jane, and your loved ones, our warm best wishes for every future happiness. May God bless and keep you.



November 2, 1987

Dear Mr. President:

With profound regret, but with unbounded admiration for all that you have accomplished for our country, I must now, because of personal family health problems with which you are familiar, ask that you relieve me of the responsibilities of this great office you entrusted to me nearly seven years ago.

It is a source of great gratification to me to reflect on how much you have changed for the better, the policies and indeed the whole agenda of the State and the Nation you have served so extraordinarily well for the nearly 20 years I have had the great privilege of working with you.

So many of the ideas and programs which, when you first presented them, were dismissed without serious consideration, are now fully accepted, and it is only the details of those new ideas and concepts that are debated.

Virtually alone, you reversed the idea that only government could solve problems, and that government could only solve problems by spending more money. You first proposed not only that taxes should be cut, but that the government's taxing power itself be limited, as a way to reduce the scope of government's power, and thus to increase the freedom of all. Also, virtually alone, you have challenged the incongruous and dangerous strategic concept that we are only safe when we are completely vulnerable to Soviet missiles. You have steadfastly kept us to the goal of deployment of your Strategic Defense Initiative, toward which we are making great progress, and you have refused all temptations, Soviet or otherwise, to be diverted from that deployment.

You never hesitated to take unpopular paths, nor to violate the conventional wisdom because you recognized that principle must come ahead of what is popular, and that the conventional wisdom is not always wise.

Your leadership and vision have restored America's military strength, and thus secured for us all the benefits of the freedom and the peace that can only be ours when we are strong. Our NATO Alliance and our other Allies are united and strong, and America is greatly respected again, and this too is part of the inspiration and leadership you have provided.

Most of all, it has been a continuing delight to serve with you all these years, to be buoyed by your unquenchable optimism, and to have shared in the fun of working with you as you changed the course of history.

I leave with great regret, but content in the knowledge that the nation under your leadership is far more secure, happier, and better than if you had not served us so well. I am grateful too, as I know the nation will be, that in Frank Carlucci as Secretary, and Will Taft continuing as the Deputy Secretary, you have chosen such a wise and capable Defense team, and together with Colin Powell as your Security Adviser, for whom I also have the greatest respect and admiration, you will have the benefit of one of the very best teams America can provide.

This letter will serve as my resignation as Secretary of Defense, effective on the qualification and taking office of my successor.

Jane joins me in sending our very best wishes and warmest regards to you and Nancy.



Note: The originals of the letters were not available for verification of their contents.

Ronald Reagan, Letter Accepting the Resignation of Caspar W. Weinberger as Secretary of Defense Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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