William James Perry
(born October 11, 1927) is an American businessman
and engineer who was the United States Secretary of Defence from February 3,
1994, to January 23, 1997, under President Bill Clinton. He also served as
Deputy Secretary of Defence (1993ľ1994) and Under Secretary of Defence for
Research and Engineering (1977-1981).
William Perry in Rwanda 1994
Perry is currently the Michael and Barbara Berberian Professor at Stanford
University, with a joint appointment in the School of Engineering. He is a
senior fellow at the Freeman Spogli Institute for International Studies and
serves as co-director of the Nuclear Risk Reduction initiative and the
Preventive Defence Project. He is an expert in U.S. foreign policy, national
security and arms control.
Former Secretary Perry also has extensive business experience and currently
serves on the boards of several high-tech companies and is Chairman of Global
Technology Partners. He is a member of the National Academy of Engineering and a
fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. Among Perry's numerous
awards are the Presidential Medal of Freedom (1997), Knight Commander of the
Order of the British Empire (1998) and the Grand Cordon of the Order of the
Rising Sun (2002), awarded by the Emperor of Japan.
Early life and career
Born in Vandergrift, Pennsylvania, he graduated from Butler
Senior High School in 1945 and served in the United States Army
as an enlisted man from 1946 to 1947, including service in the
Occupation of Japan. Perry later received a commission in the
United States Army Reserve through ROTC, serving from 1950 to
Perry received his B.S. (1949) and M.A. (1950) degrees from Stanford
University, and a Ph.D. in mathematics from Pennsylvania State University in
1957. He was director of the Electronic Defense Laboratories of Sylvania/GTE in
California from 1954 to 1964, and from 1964 to 1977 president of ESL,
Incorporated, an electronics firm that he helped found. From 1977 to 1981,
during the Jimmy Carter administration, Perry served as undersecretary of
defense for research and engineering, where he had responsibility for weapon
systems procurement and research and development.
Among other achievements, he
was instrumental in the development of stealth aircraft technology. Not all of
the programs he developed were as well-received, however. As journalist Paul Glastris wrote in the Washington Monthly:
As under secretary, Perry effectively controlled which emerging technologies
and weapons systems would receive R&D funds and which systems the Pentagon would
procure. Among the regrettable high-tech weapons systems he gave the green light
to: the MX missile (still no basing system), the TV-guided Maverick missile
(fighter pilots become sitting ducks when they launch them), the F-18 fighter
(costs more, performs worse than the planes it replaced), the Aquila Remotely
Piloted Vehicle drone (worse than the Israeli version, 16 times as expensive),
the DIVAD gun (no amount of money could make it work), and the Apache helicopter
(the Pentagon recently grounded the entire fleet).
On leaving The Pentagon in 1981 Perry became managing director until 1985 of
Hambrecht & Quist, a San Francisco investment banking firm "specializing in
high-tech and defense companies."
Later in the 1980s and up to 1993, before returning to the Pentagon as deputy
secretary of defense, he held positions as chairman of Technology Strategies
Alliances, professor in the School of Engineering at Stanford University, and a
co-director of the Preventive Defense Project at Stanford's Center for
International Security and Cooperation. He was also a member of the Packard
Secretary of Defence
Perry entered office with broad national security experience, both in
industry and government, and with an understanding of the challenges that he
faced. A hands-on manager, he paid attention both to internal operations in the
Pentagon and to international security issues. He worked closely with his deputy
secretaries (John M. Deutch, 1994ľ95, and John P. White, 1995ľ97), and he met
regularly with the service secretaries, keeping them informed and seeking their
advice on issues. He described his style as "management by walking around."
Perry adopted "preventive defense" as his guide to national security policy
in the post-Cold War world. During the Cold War the United States had relied on
deterrence rather than prevention as the central principle of its security
strategy. Perry outlined three basic tenets of a preventive strategy: keep
threats from emerging; deter those that actually emerged; and if prevention and
deterrence failed, defeat the threat with military force.
In practical terms
this strategy relied on threat reduction programs (reducing the nuclear complex
of the former Soviet Union), counter-proliferation efforts, the NATO Partnership
for Peace and expansion of the alliance, and the maintenance of military forces
and weapon systems ready to fight if necessary. To carry out this strategy,
Perry thought it necessary to maintain a modern, ready military force, capable
of fighting two major regional wars at the same time.
As always with Secretaries of Defense, the formulation of the Defense budget
and shepherding it through Congress was one of Perry's most important duties.
The problem of how to deal with a large projected Defense budget shortfall for
the period 1995ľ2000, an issue that weakened Perry's predecessor Les Aspin and
contributed to his resignation, persisted when Perry took office.
presenting his 1995 budget request, which he termed "a post-Cold War budget,"
Perry stated that Defense required a few more years of downsizing and that its
infrastructure needed streamlining as well. The proposal, he said, maintained a
ready-to-fight force, redirected a modernization program (including a strong
research and development program), initiated a program to do business
differently (acquisition reform), and reinvested defense dollars in the economy.
Perry asked for $252.2 billion for FY 1995, including funds for numerous
weapon systems, such as a new aircraft carrier, three Aegis cruisers, and six
C-17 cargo aircraft. The budget projected a further cut of 85,500 in active duty
military personnel, leaving a force of 1.52 million. Ultimately Congress
provided $253.9 billion TOA, about $2 billion more than in FY 1994, but actually
a 1.2% cut in real growth.
In February 1995 Perry asked for $246 billion for the Department of Defense
for FY 1996. This proposal became entangled in the controversy during 1995 over
the House Republicans' Contract with America, their efforts to spend more on
defense than the administration wanted, and the continuing need for deficit
Perry cautioned Congress in September of the possibility that
President Clinton would veto the FY 1996 Defense budget bill because Congress
had added $7 billion in overall spending, mainly for weapon systems that the
Defense Department did not want, and because of restrictions on contingency
operations Congress had put in the bill. Three months later he recommended that
the president veto the bill. When Congress and the administration finally
settled on a budget compromise midway through FY 1996, DoD received $254.4
billion TOA, slightly more than in FY 1995, but in terms of real growth a 2%
The question of a national missile defense system figured prominently in the
budget struggles Perry experienced. Aspin had declared an end to the Strategic
Defense Initiative program, but long-standing supporters both inside and outside
of Congress called for its resurrection, especially when the Defense budget came
up. Perry rejected calls for revival of SDI, arguing that the money would be
better spent on battlefield antimissile defenses and force modernization, that
the United States at the moment did not face a real threat, and that if the
system were built and deployed it would endanger the strategic arms limitation
treaties with the Russians.
The secretary was willing to continue funding
development work on a national system, so that if a need emerged the United
States could build and deploy it in three years. President Clinton signed the FY
1996 Defense bill early in 1996 only after Congress agreed to delete funding for
a national missile defense system.
Shortly before he introduced his FY 1997 budget request in March 1996, Perry
warned that the United States might have to give up the strategy of preparing
for two major regional conflicts if the armed forces suffered further
The Five-Year Modernization Plan Perry introduced in March 1996
reflected his basic assumptions that the Defense budget would not decline in FY
1997 and would grow thereafter; that DoD would realize significant savings from
infrastructure cuts, most importantly base closings; and that other savings
would come by contracting out many support activities and reforming the defense
For FY 1997 the Clinton administration requested a DoD appropriation of
$242.6 billion, about 6% less in inflation-adjusted dollars than the FY 1996
budget. The budget proposal delayed modernization for another year, even though
the administration earlier had said it would recommend increased funding for new
weapons and equipment for FY 1997.
The proposal included advance funding for
contingency military operations, which had been financed in previous years
through supplemental appropriations. Modest real growth in the Defense budget
would not begin until FY 2000 under DoD's six-year projections. The procurement
budget would increase during the period from $38.9 billion (FY 1997) to $60.1
billion (FY 2001). For FY 1997 Congress eventually provided $244 billion TOA,
including funds for some weapon systems not wanted by the Clinton
Although he had not thought so earlier, by the end of his tenure in early
1997 Perry believed it possible to modernize the U.S. armed forces within a
balanced federal budget. Perry argued for the current force level of just under
1.5 million as the minimum needed by the United States to maintain its global
role. Further reductions in the Defense budget after 1997 would require cuts in
the force structure and make it impossible for the United States to remain a
Streamlining the military infrastructure
Perry devoted much time to restructuring defense acquisition policy and
procedure, pursuing measures on acquisition reform begun when he was deputy
secretary. Six days after he became secretary Perry released a document that
laid out a variety of proposed acquisition procedure changes, including
simplification of purchases under $100,000; maximum reliance on existing
commercial products; conforming military contracts, bidding, accounting, and
other business procedures to commercial practices when possible; eliminating
outdated regulations that delayed purchases; and announcing military purchase
requirements on data interchanges normally used by private business to increase
In June 1994 the secretary signed a directive ordering the
armed forces to buy products and components to the extent possible from
Commercial off-the-shelf sources rather than from defense contractors, signaling
a major departure from the traditional "milspec" over 30,000 military
specifications and standards that actually inflated the cost of military items.
In March 1996 Perry approved a new DoD comprehensive acquisition policy that
emphasized commercial practices and products. Program managers and other
acquisition officials would have the power to use their professional judgment in
purchasing. The plan canceled more than 30 separate acquisition policy memoranda
and report formats and replaced existing policy documents with new ones that
were about 90% shorter. Perry considered these reforms one of his most important
accomplishments, and saw savings generated by the new practices as part of the
key to adequate funding of the military in an era of continuing tight budgets.
In a further effort to save money Perry resorted to base closures and
realignments. In May 1994 he and General John M. Shalikashvili, chairman of the
Joint Chiefs of Staff, announced that Defense would go forward, as required by
law, with a 1995 round of base closings. In doing so Defense would consider the
economic impact on the affected communities and the capacity to manage the reuse
of closed facilities.
In March 1995 Perry released DoD's 1995 base realignment and closure (BRAC)
plan, recommending 146 actions. He estimated that implementing BRAC 95 would
bring one-time costs of $3.8 billion and net savings of $4 billion within a
At the time of his appointment it was not expected that Perry would involve
himself aggressively in foreign policy. He quickly belied this impression.
Within days of taking office he left Washington on his first trip abroad to
confer with European defense ministers. In April 1994 the Economist, in
an article entitled "Perrypatetic," observed: "The man who has started to sound
like a secretary of state is in fact the defense secretary, William Perry. . . .
He is popping up in public all over the place and moving into the strategy
business in a big way." In fact, Perry traveled abroad in his three-year tenure
more than any previous secretary.
Unlike most of his predecessors, Perry paid
attention to the other nations in the Americas, hosting the first Conference of Defense Ministers of the Americas at Williamsburg, Virginia, in 1995 and
attending the second conference in 1996 in Argentina. His extensive travel
matched his direct style. In his travels, he emphasized personal contact with
rank and file members of the armed forces. His frequent trips also reflected the
demands of the large number of foreign crises that occurred during his term,
including several requiring the deployment of U.S. forces.
Perry strongly supported the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation. He made
major efforts to promote its Partnership for Peace Program, which the Clinton
administration saw as a way to link NATO with the new Eastern European
democracies, including Russia, and as a compromise between the wishes of many of
the Eastern European countries to become full NATO members and Russia's
determined opposition. Individual nations could join the Partnership for Peace
under separate agreements with NATO, and many did so, enabling them to
participate in NATO joint training and military exercises without becoming
formal members of the alliance.
Perry conferred several times with Russian Defense Minister Pavel Grachev in an effort to allay Russia's worries about and
secure its membership in the Partnership for Peace. The issue remained
outstanding when Perry left office in early 1997, by which time NATO had
developed tentative plans to admit a few former Warsaw Pact members during the
summer of 1997.
Although he recognized that the reform movement in Russia might not succeed,
Perry did everything he could to improve relations with Moscow. He stressed the
need for continuing military cooperation with and aid to the states of the
former Soviet Union to facilitate destruction of their nuclear weapons. He used
the Cooperative Threat Reduction Act of 1992 (the Nunn-Lugar program), which
provided funds for the dismantling of nuclear weapons in Russia, Ukraine,
Belarus, and Kazakhstan, to diminish the nuclear threat.
He urged Congress to
continue the threat reduction program, defending it against claims that in
reality it provided foreign aid to Russia's military. By June 1996 when Perry traveled to Ukraine to observe the completion of that country's transfer of
nuclear warheads to Russia, the only former Soviet missiles still outside of
Russia were in Belarus. Perry testified in favor of U.S. ratification of the
START II treaty, completed in 1996; in October 1996 he spoke to a session of the
Russian Duma in Moscow, urging its members to ratify the treaty.
In Asia, like former defense secretary Caspar Weinberger a decade earlier,
Perry endeavored to improve relations with both the People's Republic of China
and Japan. He was the first secretary of defense to visit China after the
Tiananmen Square protests of 1989, when PRC authorities forcibly crushed a
dissident movement. While not ignoring long-standing problems such as the PRC's
weapons sales abroad and its human rights abuses, he believed that the U.S. and
the PRC should cooperate militarily.
He made some progress, although when China
threatened Taiwan just before the latter's presidential election in March 1996,
the United States sent two aircraft carrier task forces to the area to counter
In 1995 a young girl was raped by three U.S. servicemen stationed in Okinawa,
Japan. The crime led to demands that the United States diminish its military
presence on the island. Late in 1996 the United States agreed to vacate 20% of
the land it used on Okinawa and to close some military facilities, including
Futenma Marine Corps Air Station. The Japanese agreed that the 28,000 U.S.
troops stationed on Okinawa could remain.
The most serious ongoing international crisis was in Bosnia. When Perry took
over in 1994, the Bosnian Serbs were besieging Sarajevo, the Bosnian capital,
but the Serbs were forced to draw back in face of a UN ultimatum and warning of
air strikes. Shortly thereafter the Serbs threatened to overrun the Muslim city
of Gora×de in eastern Bosnia. Perry at first ruled out U.S. military action, but
in April 1994 U.S. fighter planes participated in UN air strikes at Gora×de,
causing the Bosnian Serbs to retreat.
In a major statement on Bosnia in June 1994 Perry attempted to clarify U.S.
policy there, declaring that the conflict did involve U.S. national interests,
humanitarian and otherwise, but not "supreme" interests. To limit the spread of
violence in Bosnia, the United States had committed air power under NATO to stop
bombardment of Bosnian cities, provide air support for UN troops, and carry out
Perry and the White House resisted congressional
pressures to lift an arms embargo imposed earlier by the United Nations on all
sides in the Bosnian conflict. During 1994ľ95 some senators, including
Republican leader Robert Dole, wanted the embargo against the Bosnian Muslims
lifted to enable them to resist the Serbs more effectively. Perry thought this
might provoke Serb attacks and perhaps force the commitment of U.S. ground
In August 1995 Clinton vetoed legislation to lift the arms embargo. (In
fact, the Bosnian Muslims had been receiving arms from outside sources.)
Meanwhile, although it had stated consistently that it would not send U.S.
ground forces to Bosnia, in December 1994 the Clinton administration expressed
willingness to commit troops to help rescue UN peacekeepers in Bosnia if they
In May 1995, after the Bosnian Serbs had taken about 3,000
peacekeepers hostage, the United States, France, Germany, and Russia resolved to
provide a larger and better-equipped UN force.
Applying strong pressure, in November 1995 the United States persuaded the
presidents of Serbia, Bosnia, and Croatia to attend a conference in Dayton,
Ohio, that after much contention produced a peace agreement, formally signed in
Paris in mid-December.
It provided for cessation of hostilities, withdrawal of
the combatants to specified lines, creation of a separation zone, and the
stationing in Bosnia of a Peace Implementation Force (IFOR). The North Atlantic
Council, with Perry participating, had decided in September 1995 to develop a
NATO-led force to implement any peace agreement for Bosnia, setting the force
size at 60,000 troops, including 20,000 from the United States. In congressional
testimony in November Perry explained why U.S. troops should go to Bosnia:
war threatened vital U.S. political, economic, and security interests in Europe;
there was a real opportunity to stop the bloodshed; the United States was the
only nation that could lead a NATO force to implement the peace; and the risks
to the United States of allowing the war to continue were greater than the risks
of the planned military operation.
The first U.S. troops moved into Bosnia in early December 1995, and by late
January 1996 the full complement of 20,000 had been deployed. Although Perry had
said earlier that they would leave Bosnia within a year, in June 1996 he hinted
at a longer stay if NATO decided the peace in Bosnia would not hold without
The secretary agreed to a study proposed in September 1996 by NATO defense
ministers for a follow-on force to replace IFOR. Finally in November 1996, after
the presidential election, Clinton announced, with Perry's support, that the
United States would provide 8,500 troops to a NATO follow-on force. The U.S.
force would be gradually reduced in 1997 and 1998 and completely withdrawn by
Perry also inherited from Aspin the problem of what to do about Ha´ti, where
a military junta continued to refuse to reinstate the deposed president,
Jean-Bertrand Aristide. In the spring of 1994, debate persisted in the United
States Congress on whether to intervene militarily to oust Raoul CÚdras, the
military leader, and restore Aristide to power.
President Clinton said that the
United States would not rule out the use of military force and also suggested
that military teams to train local security and police forces might be sent to Ha´ti. In the meantime, large numbers of refugees fled from Ha´ti in boats,
hoping to gain admittance to the United States. U.S. vessels intercepted most of
them at sea and took them to the Guantanamo Bay Naval Base in Cuba.
In spite of continuing pressure and obvious preparations in the United States
for an invasion of Ha´ti, the junta refused to yield. On September 19, 1994,
just after former President Jimmy Carter negotiated an agreement, the United
States sent in military forces with UN approval. Ha´ti's de facto
leaders, including CÚdras, agreed to step down by October 15 so that Aristide
could return to the presidency.
By the end of September, 19,600 U.S. troops were
in Ha´ti as part of Operation Uphold Democracy. At the end of March 1995, a UN
commander took over, and the United States provided 2,400 of the 6,000-man UN
force that would remain in Ha´ti until February, 1996. Given the opposition to
the mission when it began, the primary U.S. concern was to do its limited job
and avoid casualties among its forces. With the final withdrawal of U.S. troops,
and Aristide's duly elected successor installed in office in February 1996, the
Pentagon and the Clinton administration could label the Ha´tian operation a
success up to that point.
North Korea posed another serious problem for Perry, who backed the
administration's policy of pressuring its Communist regime to allow monitoring
of its nuclear facilities by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA).
Between February and October 1994 the United States increased its pressures on
North Korea. Perry warned in March that the United States would not permit the
development of an arsenal of nuclear weapons.
War was not imminent, he said, but
he indicated that he had ordered military preparations for a possible conflict.
Soon thereafter Perry stated that the United States would propose UN economic
sanctions if North Korea did not allow international inspection of its planned
withdrawal of spent fuel from a nuclear reactor fuel containing sufficient
plutonium to produce four or five nuclear weapons. North Korea began removing
the nuclear fuel in May 1994 without granting the IAEA inspection privileges,
and later said it would leave the IAEA.
On October 21, 1994 the United States and North Korea signed an agreement
after lengthy negotiations in Geneva, Switzerland, assisted again by former
President Carter. The United States, Japan, South Korea, and other regional
allies promised to provide North Korea with two light water nuclear reactors, at
an eventual cost of '$4 billion', to replace existing or partially
constructed facilities that could produce plutonium for nuclear weapons. North
Korea then agreed to open its nuclear facilities to international inspection,
and the United States pledged to lift trade restrictions and provide fuel oil
for electric power generation.
Perry considered this agreement better than
risking a war in Korea and a continuation of North Korea's nuclear program. He
promised that he would ask Congress for money to build up U.S. forces in South
Korea if the agreement broke down. Again a critical situation had moderated, but
implementing the agreement proved difficult. By the end of Perry's term some
issues remained outstanding, and tension between the two Koreas flared up from
time to time.
The Middle East
In the Persian Gulf area Iraq continued to make trouble, with periodic
provocative moves by Saddam Hussein triggering U.S. military action. After the
1991 Gulf War, acting in accord with a UN resolution, the United States
organized a coalition to enforce no-fly zones in Iraq, north of 36░ and south of
32░. In a tragic accident in April 1994 two U.S. Air Force F-15 aircraft,
operating in the no-fly zone north of the 36th parallel in Iraq, shot down two
U.S. Army helicopters after misidentifying them as Iraqi.
This incident, with
its high death toll, highlighted dramatically the complexities in dealing with
Iraq in the aftermath of the 1991 Gulf War. Further, in October 1994, when
several elite Iraqi divisions began to move toward Kuwait's border, the United
States mobilized ground, air, and naval forces in the area to counter the
threat. Perry warned Iraq that the U.S. forces would take action if it did not
move its Republican Guard units north of the 32nd parallel. Subsequently the UN
Security Council passed a resolution requiring Iraq to pull its troops back at
least 150 miles from the Kuwait border.
Iran, too, behaved aggressively, placing at least 6,000 troops in March 1995
on three islands at the mouth of the Persian Gulf claimed by both Iran and the
United Arab Emirates. Perry stated that the Iranian moves threatened shipping in
the Strait of Hormuz, a waterway on which moved a significant part of the
world's oil production.
The United States worked with its allies in the Persian
Gulf area to bolster their capacity to defend themselves and to use their
collective strength through the Gulf Cooperation Council. Most important, in
Perry's judgment, was the determination of the United States to maintain a
strong regional defense capability with aircraft and naval ships in the area,
prepositioned equipment, standing operational plans, and access agreements with
the Persian Gulf partners.
Provocative moves again by Iraq forced the United States to take strong
action. When Saddam Hussein intervened in September 1996 by sending some 40,000
troops to assist one side in a dispute between two Kurdish factions in northern
Iraq, he demonstrated that he was not deterred by a U.S. warning against using
Perry made clear that while no significant U.S. interests were
involved in the factional conflict, maintaining stability in the region as a
whole was vital to U.S. security and there would be a U.S. reaction. On both
September 2 and 3, U.S. aircraft attacked Iraqi fixed surface-to-air missile
(SAM) sites and air defense control facilities in the south, because, Perry
explained, the United States saw the principal threat from Iraq to be against
Another tragic incident on June 25, 1996 revealed the continuing tension in
the Middle East and the dangers involved in the U.S. military presence.
Terrorists exploded a truck bomb at the Khobar Towers apartment complex housing
U.S. military personnel in Dhahran, Saudi Arabia, killing 19 and wounding 500.
In September 1996 an investigative panel set up by Perry recommended vigorous
measures to deter, prevent, or mitigate the effects of future terrorist acts
against U.S. personnel overseas, and further, that a single DoD element have
responsibility for force protection. The panel found that the unit attacked at
Dhahran had not taken every precaution it might have to protect the forces at
Khobar Towers. Eventually the Defense Department moved units from Dhahran to
more remote areas in Saudi Arabia to provide better protection.
U.S. involvement in Somalia, a problem during Aspin's tenure, ended in 1994.
Under the protection of U.S. Marines on ships offshore, the last U.S. forces
left Somalia before the end of March, meeting a deadline set earlier by
President Clinton. Later, in February 1995, more than 7,000 U.S. troops assisted
in removing the remaining UN peacekeepers and weapons from Somalia in a markedly
successful operation. In another mission in Africa in 1994, the United States
became involved in humanitarian efforts in Rwanda.
A civil war between two rival
ethnic groups, the Hutu and Tutsi, resulted in widespread death and destruction
and the flight of hundreds of thousands of refugees from Rwanda into neighboring
countries, including Zaire. Although not part of the UN peacekeeping operation
in Rwanda, the United States provided humanitarian aid in the form of purified
water, medicine, site sanitation, and other means. In July the Pentagon sent in
aircraft and about 3,000 troops, most of them to Zaire. The U.S. forces also
took control of and rebuilt the airport at Kigali, Rwanda's capital, to aid in
distribution of food, medicine, and other supplies.
Accomplishments and resignation
Clearly, Perry bore a heavy load during his term as Secretary of Defense
between 1994 and 1997. Fine-tuning the budget, downsizing the military, and
conducting humanitarian, peacekeeping, and military operations provided him with
a full agenda. In January 1996 he talked about experiences over the past year in
which he never thought a Secretary of Defense would be involved. At the top of
the list was witnessing participation of a Russian brigade in a U.S. division in
the Bosnian peacekeeping operation.
The othersŚDayton, Ohio, becoming synonymous
with peace in the Balkans; helping the Russian defense minister blow up a
Minuteman missile silo in Missouri; watching United States and Russian troops
training together in Kansas; welcoming former Warsaw Pact troops in Louisiana;
operating a school at Garmisch, Germany, to teach former Soviet and East
European military officers about democracy, budgeting, and testifying to a
parliament; dismantling the military specifications system for acquisition;
cutting the ear off a pig in Kazakhstan; and eating rendered Manchurian toad fat
These things, Perry said, demonstrate "just how much the world has
changed, just how much our security has changed, just how much the Department of Defense has changed, and just how much my job has changed."
Shortly after President Clinton's reelection in November 1996, Perry made
known his decision to step down as secretary. He spoke of his growing
frustration over working with a Congress so partisan that it was harming the
military establishment, and said that he did not think the results of the 1996
congressional election would decrease the partisanship. He later explained that
his decision to retire was "largely due to the constant strain of sending U.S.
military personnel on life-threatening missions."
As he left the Pentagon Perry listed what he thought were his most important
accomplishments: establishing effective working relationships with U.S. military
leaders; improving the lot of the military, especially enlisted men and women;
managing the military drawdown; instituting important acquisition reforms;
developing close relationships with many foreign defense ministers; effectively
employing military strength and resources in Bosnia, Haiti, Korea, and the
Persian Gulf area; dramatically reducing the nuclear legacy of the Cold War; and
promoting the Partnership for Peace within NATO.
His disappointments included
failure to obtain Russian ratification of the START II treaty; slowness in
securing increases in the budget for weapon systems modernization; and the
faulty perceptions of the Gulf War illness syndrome held by some of the media
and much of the public. At a ceremony for Perry in January 1997 General Shalikashvili noted the departing secretary's relationship with the troops.
"Surely," Shalikashvili said, "Bill Perry has been the GI's secretary of defense.
When asked his greatest accomplishment as secretary, Bill Perry didn't name an
operation or a weapons system. He said that his greatest accomplishment was his
very strong bond with our men and women in uniform."
Perry's career in the Department of Defense actually spanned eight years of
profound changesŚfour years as Undersecretary for Research and Engineering in
1977ľ1981, a year as Deputy Secretary from 1993 to 1994, and three years as
After he left the Pentagon, Perry returned to San Francisco to join the board
of Hambrecht and Quist as a senior adviser. He also rejoined the faculty at
Stanford University, becoming a professor at the Freeman Spogli Institute for
International Studies, co-director of the Preventive Defense Project at the
Stanford University Center for International Security and Cooperation, and a
member of the advisory board of the Roosevelt Institution.
Mr. Perry serves on the board of directors of Los Alamos National Security,
LLC, the company that operates the Los Alamos National Laboratory and the board
of directors for LGS Innovations, a wholly owned subsidiary of Alcatel-Lucent
engaged in government services. Perry is an Advisory Board member for the
Partnership for a Secure America, a not-for-profit organization dedicated to
recreating the bipartisan center in American national security and foreign
Perry is also a member of the Board of Sponsors for the Bulletin of the
Atomic Scientists. He is Member of the Supervisory Council of the International
Luxembourg Forum on Preventing Nuclear Catastrophe. Perry also sits on the
Advisory Board of the Commonwealth Club of California and the Board of Directors
of the Center for a New American Security, a Washington, DC- based think tank
that specializes in U.S. national security issues.
In 1999, Perry was awarded the James A. Van Fleet Award by The Korea Society.
On January 5, 2006, he participated in a meeting at the White House of former
Secretaries of Defense and State to discuss United States foreign policy with
Bush administration officials.
In March, 2006, he was appointed to the Iraq Study Group, a group formed to
give advice on the U.S. government's Iraq policy.
On June 17, 2006, Perry gave the featured commencement speech to engineering
and science graduates at the University of California, Santa Barbara.
On October 1, 2008, Perry joined the financial board of the Thailand based
manufacturing company, Fabrinet, on which he continues to serve.
On October 16, 2008, Perry was award the Sylvanus Thayer Award by the United
States Military Academy.
In 2007, Secretary Perry joined three other eminent statesmen, former
Secretaries of State George P. Shultz and Henry Kissinger, and former Senator
Sam Nunn in calling for the United States to take the lead in reducing and
eliminating nuclear weapons.
Their op-ed, "A World Free of Nuclear Weapons",
published in the Wall Street Journal, reverberated throughout the world, and is
one of the key factors that has convinced political leaders and experts
internationally that the conditions are in place to achieve that goal. In 2010
the four produced the documentary Nuclear Tipping Point. The film is introduced
by General Colin Powell, narrated by Michael Douglas and includes interviews
with California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger and former Soviet President
- Presidential Medal of Freedom, 1997 (US).
- Knight Commander of the Order of the British Empire, 1998 (UK).
- Grand Cordon, Order of the Rising Sun, 2002 (Japan).
- Ordre National du Merite (France).
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