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United States Secretary of Defense
Flag of the United States Secretary of Defense.svg
Flag of the Secretary
United States Department of Defense Seal.svg
Seal of the Department
Dr. Mark T. Esper – Secretary of Defense (cropped).jpg
Incumbent
Mark Esper

since July 26, 2019
United States Department of Defense
Office of the Secretary of Defense
Style Mr. Secretary
Member of Cabinet
National Security Council
Reports to President of the United States
Seat The Pentagon, Arlington County, Virginia
Appointer The President
with Senate advice and consent
Term length No fixed term
Constituting instrument 10 U.S.C. § 113
50 U.S.C. § 401
Formation September 17, 1947 (1947-09-17)
First holder James Forrestal
Succession Sixth
Deputy Deputy Secretary of Defense
Salary Executive Schedule, level I

The United States Secretary of Defense (SECDEF) is the head of the U.S. Department of Defense (DoD). The role was made in 1947. The Secretary of Defense is sixth in line to the United States presidential line of succession.

List of Secretaries

      Democratic       Republican       Political Independent / Unknown      Denotes an Acting Secretary of Defense

No. Secretary of Defense Took office Left office Time in office Party State of residence President
serving under
1
James Forrestal
Forrestal, JamesJames Forrestal
(1892–1949)
September 17, 1947 March 28, 1949 1 year, 192 days Democrat New York Truman, HarryHarry S Truman (Dem)
2
Louis A. Johnson
Johnson, LouisLouis A. Johnson
(1891–1966)
March 28, 1949 September 19, 1950 1 year, 175 days Democrat West Virginia Truman, HarryHarry S Truman (Dem)
3
George Marshall
Marshall, GeorgeGeorge Marshall
(1880–1959)
September 21, 1950 September 12, 1951 356 days Independent Pennsylvania Truman, HarryHarry S Truman (Dem)
4
Robert A. Lovett
Lovett, RobertRobert A. Lovett
(1895–1986)
September 17, 1951 January 20, 1953 1 year, 125 days Republican New York Truman, HarryHarry S Truman (Dem)
5
Charles Erwin Wilson
Wilson, CharlesCharles Erwin Wilson
(1890–1961)
January 28, 1953 October 8, 1957 4 years, 253 days Republican Michigan Eisenhower, DwightDwight D. Eisenhower (Rep)
6
Neil H. McElroy
McElroy, NeilNeil H. McElroy
(1904–1972)
October 9, 1957 December 1, 1959 2 years, 53 days Republican Ohio Eisenhower, DwightDwight D. Eisenhower (Rep)
7
Thomas S. Gates Jr.
Gates, ThomasThomas S. Gates Jr.
(1906–1983)
December 2, 1959 January 20, 1961 1 year, 49 days Republican Pennsylvania Eisenhower, DwightDwight D. Eisenhower (Rep)
8
Robert McNamara
McNamara, RobertRobert McNamara
(1916–2009)
January 21, 1961 February 29, 1968 7 years, 39 days Republican Michigan Kennedy, JohnJohn F. Kennedy (Dem)
Lyndon B. Johnson (Dem)
9
Clark Clifford
Clifford, ClarkClark Clifford
(1906–1998)
March 1, 1968 January 20, 1969 325 days Democrat Maryland Johnson, LyndonLyndon B. Johnson (Dem)
10
Melvin R. Laird
Laird, MelvinMelvin R. Laird
(1922–2016)
January 22, 1969 January 29, 1973 4 years, 7 days Republican Wisconsin Nixon, RichardRichard Nixon (Rep)
11
Elliot Richardson
Richardson, ElliotElliot Richardson
(1920–1999)
January 30, 1973 May 24, 1973 114 days Republican Massachusetts Nixon, RichardRichard Nixon (Rep)
Bill Clements
Clements, BillBill Clements
(1917–2011)
Acting
May 24, 1973 July 2, 1973 39 days Republican Texas Nixon, RichardRichard Nixon (Rep)
12
James R. Schlesinger
Schlesinger, JamesJames R. Schlesinger
(1929–2014)
July 2, 1973 November 19, 1975 1 year, 38 days Republican Virginia Nixon, RichardRichard Nixon (Rep)
Gerald Ford (Rep)
13
Donald Rumsfeld
Rumsfeld, DonaldDonald Rumsfeld
(born 1932)
November 20, 1975 January 20, 1977 1 year, 61 days Republican Illinois Ford, GeraldGerald Ford (Rep)
14
Harold Brown
Brown, HaroldHarold Brown
(1927–2019)
January 20, 1977 January 20, 1981 4 years, 0 days Independent California Carter, JimmyJimmy Carter (Dem)
15
Caspar Weinberger
Weinberger, CasparCaspar Weinberger
(1917–2006)
January 21, 1981 November 23, 1987 6 years, 306 days Republican California Reagan, RonaldRonald Reagan (Rep)
16
Frank Carlucci
Carlucci, FrankFrank Carlucci
(1930–2018)
November 23, 1987 January 20, 1989 1 year, 58 days Republican Virginia Reagan, RonaldRonald Reagan (Rep)
William Howard Taft IV
Taft, WilliamWilliam Howard Taft IV
(born 1945)
Acting
January 20, 1989 March 21, 1989 60 days Republican Ohio Bush, GeorgeGeorge H. W. Bush (Rep)
17
Dick Cheney
Cheney, DickDick Cheney
(born 1941)
March 21, 1989 January 20, 1993 3 years, 305 days Republican Wyoming Bush, GeorgeGeorge H. W. Bush (Rep)
18
Leslie Aspin
Aspin, LesLeslie Aspin
(1938–1995)
January 20, 1993 February 3, 1994 1 year, 14 days Democrat Wisconsin Clinton, BillBill Clinton (Dem)
19
William Perry
Perry, WilliamWilliam Perry
(born 1927)
February 3, 1994 January 23, 1997 / January 24, 1997 2 years, 356 days Independent Pennsylvania Clinton, BillBill Clinton (Dem)
20
William Cohen
Cohen, WilliamWilliam Cohen
(born 1940)
January 24, 1997 January 20, 2001 3 years, 362 days Republican Maine Clinton, BillBill Clinton (Dem)
21
Donald Rumsfeld
Rumsfeld, DonaldDonald Rumsfeld
(born 1932)
January 20, 2001 December 18, 2006 5 years, 332 days
(7 years, 29 days total)
Republican Illinois Bush, George W.George W. Bush (Rep)
22
Robert Gates
Gates, RobertRobert Gates
(born 1943)
December 18, 2006 June 30, 2011 / July 1, 2011 4 years, 194 days Republican Texas Bush, George W.George W. Bush (Rep)
Barack Obama (Dem)
23
Leon Panetta
Panetta, LeonLeon Panetta
(born 1938)
July 1, 2011 February 26, 2013 1 year, 240 days Democrat California Obama, BarackBarack Obama (Dem)
24
Chuck Hagel
Hagel, ChuckChuck Hagel
(born 1946)
February 27, 2013 February 17, 2015 1 year, 355 days Republican Nebraska Obama, BarackBarack Obama (Dem)
25
Ash Carter
Carter, AshAsh Carter
(born 1954)
February 17, 2015 January 20, 2017 1 year, 338 days Democrat Massachusetts Obama, BarackBarack Obama (Dem)
26
Jim Mattis
Mattis, JimJim Mattis
(born 1950)
January 20, 2017 January 1, 2019 1 year, 345 days Independent Washington Trump, DonaldDonald Trump (Rep)
Patrick M. Shanahan
Shanahan, PatrickPatrick M. Shanahan
(born 1962)
Acting
January 1, 2019 June 23, 2019 173 days Independent Washington Trump, DonaldDonald Trump (Rep)
Mark Esper
Esper, MarkMark Esper
(born 1964)
Acting
June 24, 2019 July 15, 2019 21 days Republican Virginia Trump, DonaldDonald Trump (Rep)
Richard V. Spencer
Esper, MarkRichard V. Spencer
(born 1954)
Acting
July 15, 2019 July 23, 2019 8 days Independent Wyoming Trump, DonaldDonald Trump (Rep)
27
Mark Esper
Esper, MarkMark Esper
(born 1964)
July 23, 2019 Incumbent 1 year, 91 days Republican Virginia Trump, DonaldDonald Trump (Rep)
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