The U.S. lost a dedicated public servant yesterday with the passing of James R. Schlesinger, a prominent member of the Washington establishment during a particularly troubled time in our country’s more recent history.
Serving as chairman of the U.S. Atomic Energy Commission, director of the Central Intelligence Agency, secretary of defense, and as the first secretary of energy—all during the 1970s—Schlesinger exhibited extraordinary dedication in tackling some of the most challenging issues of the time.
A staunch advocate of maintaining a strong defense in the face of rising Soviet power, Schlesinger vigorously sought to expand nuclear response options beyond the strategically limiting theory of mutual assured destruction.
Schlesinger championed a shift from an almost-exclusive focus on counter-value targeting to counter-force, even while improving and strengthening America’s—and NATO’s—conventional power so that various non-military initiatives to deter aggression and preserve peace were more likely to find enduring success. He was also an ardent champion of the men and women serving their country in uniform at a time when such service occurred under the troubled clouds of the closing days of the Vietnam Conflict.
Schlesinger recognized what it meant to commit oneself to work that was inherently controversial in both the social and political spheres and strove to ensure military service was accorded due respect and honor.
Recognizing the value of deeply considered strategic analysis, he was instrumental in the establishment of the Office of Net Assessment, a resource supporting defense secretaries, presidents, and the broader military establishment for over 40 years.
“Secretary Jim Schlesinger was a patriot, a thoughtful and insightful leader and a principled man who served our nation well in difficult times,” noted The Heritage Foundation’s Founder and Chairman of the Asian Studies Center, and Chung Ju-yung Fellow, Edwin J. Feulner.
Time and time again, Jim Schlesinger exhibited willingness, a fierce tenacity, and a remarkable devotion to doing what he could in the interest of America’s long-term good. His selfless leadership, vision, and commitment to our nation will be sorely missed.