Carter: Laird Led Defense Department Through Time of Great Change


Melvin R. Laird, who ended the military draft and oversaw the beginning of the U.S. withdrawal from Vietnam while serving as President Richard M. Nixon’s secretary of defense from 1969 to 1973, died yesterday at age 94.

Richard Nixon Administration
January 22, 1969 – January 29, 1973
Melvin R. Laird, who served as secretary of defense from 1969 to 1973 and oversaw the military’s transition to an all-volunteer force, died Nov. 16, 2016, at age 94. DoD photo
Richard Nixon Administration
January 22, 1969 – January 29, 1973
Melvin R. Laird
Melvin R. Laird, who served as secretary of defense from 1969 to 1973 and oversaw the military’s transition to an all-volunteer force, died Nov. 16, 2016, at age 94. DoD photo

In a statement, Defense Secretary Ash Carter said Laird’s death is “a loss for the United States and the Department of Defense.”

“Secretary Laird served his nation with distinction in the United States Navy, where he was awarded a Purple Heart during World War II, in the U.S. Congress, as secretary of defense, and at the White House,” Carter said.

Transition to All-Volunteer Force

“Under President Richard Nixon, Secretary Laird led the Defense Department through a time of great change in the world and within our department,” Carter continued. “He was always particularly proud that he oversaw the successful transition to an all-volunteer force. Through it all, he demonstrated an unfailing commitment to protecting our country, strengthening our military, and making a better world.”

Laird never lost that dedication or his willingness to contribute to the Defense Department’s mission, Carter said.

“As secretary of defense, I've often benefited from his counsel, his encouragement, and his friendship,” he added. “He was a reminder of the long arc of our great country, and what we all owe to those who came before us. On behalf of the men and women of the Defense Department, I send my thoughts and prayers to the Laird family.”