The White House was concerned about managerial laxity and operational missteps, so it decided to fire the ex-lawmaker it had made secretary of defense and replace him with a former deputy secretary known for making the Pentagon trains run on time. But hard questions remained about whether a mere technocrat would have the crisis management skills to cope with a dangerous world.
The year was 1994, the Democrat in the White House was Bill Clinton, and the defense intellectual chosen to turn an administration’s national security fortunes around was William Perry. He replaced Les Aspin, a former congressman who was viewed as having poor management skills and who was criticized for bungling an important operational issue (in Somalia, where Aspin declined military requests to send armor to U.S. forces involved in the disastrous mission known as “Blackhawk Down”).
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