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Star Spangled Security

Applying Lessons Learned over Six Decades Safeguarding America

with Joyce Winslow. Harold Brown

Publication Year: 2012

Harold Brown served as U.S. secretary of defense when the Soviet Union posed an existential threat with superior conventional force capability and a daunting nuclear weapons arsenal. No one could have been better suited to deter the Soviets during that most dangerous period in the Cold War.

A physicist, Brown had previously led Livermore Laboratory and its development of the Polaris missile warhead. By age 33 he was director of Defense Research and Engineering, and he later served as secretary of the U.S. Air Force early in the Vietnam War.

In the Carter administration, Brown reinvigorated the NAT O alliance, promoted AWACs, increased U.S. conventional force capabilities, and developed a new generation of nuclear weapons and delivery systems. As a senior negotiator of SALT II, he also helped set their limits.

Brown was the first American secretary of defense to visit China; as principal interlocutor he forged military-to-military relations. During his tenure, the Soviets invaded Afghanistan; the Iranian revolution resulted in the capture of American hostages; President Carter achieved the Camp David Peace Accords; and the Panama Canal Treaties —that still protect U.S. interests —were rewritten. Brown's role in each was integral.

Star Spangled Security provides lessons from the past to inform the future: from Afghanistan to Iran's pursuit of nuclear weapons; from international alliances and interests the U.S. needs to consider in a changing world to specific ideas for jumpstarting technological innovation that could boost American security and our economy today. Based on his twelve years of top-tier government service and nearly fifty more as a president of Caltech, a board member of a dozen corporations, the chair of recent, comprehensive studies of Chinese military capability, U.S. Intelligence, and technological innovation, and as the past chair and a current member of the Defense Policy Board that advises sitting secretaries of defense, Brown offers wise counsel to any American voter as well as to aspiring leaders.

Published by: Brookings Institution Press

Front Cover

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Inside Flap

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Title Page

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Copyright Information

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Table of Contents

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pp. ix-x

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pp. xi-xii

Turning recollections, thoughts, and judgments into a more or less coherent book is no easy task. I was therefore very fortunate to have Joyce Winslow as my collaborator on this one. We worked hard during our interviews and subsequently on the text to ensure that the book represents...

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pp. xiii-xviii

General David Jones hosted the farewell program on Monday, January 19, 1981, at Fort Myer, Virginia. I had chosen Dave, an air force general, to be chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. That choice troubled some. It didn’t follow the usual practice of rotation among the services....

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1. Oh, Say Can You See: The View from the Top

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pp. 1-5

I watched more than a dozen atmospheric nuclear tests, all of them before I became secretary of defense. Only one other secretary of defense (Charlie Wilson) may have seen one. I wanted to see the work of which I’d been part and to make sure the devices did work. At a test in 1956...

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2. What So Proudly We Hailed: Ensuring National Defense through its Budget

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pp. 6-37

The Preamble to the U.S. Constitution states that the purpose of our government is to “provide for the common defense, promote the general welfare, and secure the blessings of liberty to ourselves and our posterity.” The general welfare includes economic growth, standard of living,...

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3. Stripes and Bright Stars: How the Team at the Top Affects Security Policy

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pp. 38-73

A joke goes that when a new secretary of defense takes office he finds three envelopes in his desk that were left by his predecessor. They’re to be opened when he gets into trouble. There’s a crisis. The new secretary of defense opens the first envelope. The letter inside says: “Blame the...

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4. The Perilous Fight: Iranian Revolution and the Hostage Crisis

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pp. 74-85

Shortly after becoming president, Jimmy Carter made a world tour in 1977 to the “regional influentials,” as Zbigniew Brzezinski referred to them. Carter toasted Shah Mohammed Reza Pahlavi and called Iran “an island of stability.” But the stability that Carter and Brzezinski thought...

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5. Rockets' Red Glar and Bombs: Plans, Programs, and Agreements [Includes Image Plates]

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pp. 86-134

In October 1961 the Soviet Union exploded a thermonuclear bomb at its Siberian site with no notice of any kind. At 50 megatons, it was the largest bomb ever exploded, then or since. Its explosive energy was 3,200 times that of the Hiroshima bomb and sounded, one faraway observer...

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6. The Ramparts We Watched: Dealing with the Outside World

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pp. 135-182

One month after taking office as secretary of defense I turned my attention to NATO. My hope and priority were the same: to reinvigorate the alliance. By 1977 the focus of U.S. foreign policy had shifted from Vietnam to Europe, where the Soviet Union and the United States faced...

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7. That Banner Yet Waves: Preparing for What Lies Ahead

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pp. 183-213

In January 1981, at the end of the Carter presidency, White House counsel Lloyd Cutler hosted a dinner at the F Street Club for the president, cabinet, and a few other senior members of the administration. Each person got up and said something about his or her experience....

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8. Land of the Free: Stimulating the National Economy for International Security

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pp. 214-232

I write this book on the brink of the 2012 presidential election. A highly polarized House of Representatives has been debating whether, on the assumption that no increase in taxes can be allowed, to cut another $50 billion next year from military spending and as much from various...

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9. Home of the Brave: America at a Tipping Point

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pp. 233-242

Perhaps when people of my age and Brzezinski’s express concern about possible national decline, our views are influenced by identifying our own physical decline with national decline. The truth is that America is still second to none. Our military power, coupled with that of our...

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pp. 243-249

When my years of full-time government service ended in 1981, I embarked on a thirty-year career in the corporate and educational sectors. I’ve been a corporate director of more than a dozen businesses, including Mattel, IBM, and Cummins Engine, and an outside consultant...


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pp. 251-260


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pp. 261-275

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pp. 277

Over two years of interviews (and 700 pages of transcripts) Dr. Brown allowed me an insider’s view into the decisions, weapons, international agreements, and national wrangling that have directly affected American lives for the past sixty years—and defined his....

Back Cover

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p. 308-308

E-ISBN-13: 9780815723837
E-ISBN-10: 0815723830
Print-ISBN-13: 9780815723820
Print-ISBN-10: 0815723822

Page Count: 277
Publication Year: 2012

Research Areas


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Subject Headings

  • National security -- United States
  • United States -- Military policy.
  • United States -- Armed Forces -- Rules and practice -- Evaluation.
  • National security -- United States -- History.
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