Carter’s De­fense chief over­saw arse­nal he him­self helped de­sign

Centre Daily Times (Sunday) - - Obituaries - BY ROBERT D. MCFADDEN

Harold Brown, Pres­i­dent Jimmy Carter’s de­fense sec­re­tary in an era of ris­ing So­viet chal­lenges, died Fri­day at his home in Ran­cho Santa Fe, Cal­i­for­nia. He was 91. His daugh­ter Deb­o­rah Brown said the cause was pan­cre­atic can­cer.

Brown was a bril­liant sci­en­tist of nu­clear tech­nol­ogy who helped de­velop Amer­ica’s nu­clear arse­nal and ne­go­ti­ate its first strate­gic arms con­trol treaty.

As de­fense sec­re­tary from 1977 to 1981, Brown presided over the most for­mi­da­ble power in his­tory: le­gions of in­tercon­ti­nen­tal bal­lis­tic mis­siles and fleets of world-rang­ing bombers and nu­clear sub­marines, with enough war­heads to wipe out So­viet so­ci­ety many times over. But that was hardly the ques­tion.

In an age that im­per­iled hu­man­ity with nu­clear Ar­maged­don, the is­sue was whether Amer­ica could keep pace with So­viet strate­gic ca­pa­bil­i­ties, main­tain­ing the bal­ance of ter­ror – an as­sur­ance of mu­tual de­struc­tion, with hun­dreds of mil­lions killed out­right – that had dom­i­nated the nu­clear arms race and strate­gic plan­ning through­out the post­war era.

In those days, “Dr. Strangelove,” Stan­ley Kubrick’s 1964 black com­edy film about the doc­trine of mu­tu­ally as­sured de­struc­tion, shaded de­bates over nu­clear strat­egy be­cause the con­cept of de­ter­rence was based on the du­bi­ous as­sump­tion that if the Rus­sians launched a sur­prise nu­clear at­tack, Amer­ica could sur­vive and re­tal­i­ate, dev­as­tat­ing So­viet cities and strate­gic tar­gets, al­though mil­lions would die.

In ad­di­tion to his daugh­ter Deb­o­rah, he is sur­vived by an­other daugh­ter, Ellen Brown; a sis­ter and two grand­chil­dren.

Harold Brown

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