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In the fascinating book The Nearly Impossible Job of Secretary of Defense, Charles Stevenson outlines the powers and yet also the challenges of one of the most difficult jobs in America. As he notes in his introduction, since the post of Secretary of Defense was created in 1947, "only half served more than eighteen months" (Stevenson, 2006)…
He lists the qualities and strengths that most of these men have had. He states that they "were talented and experienced, and they found themselves surrounded by consummate professionals, running a responsive bureaucracy" (Stevenson, 2006). But at the same time they had to survive "budgetary storms" which would make the work of long-term planning (so vital for a massive defense department) somewhat problematic. They would often be attacked by political opponents when they had little opportunity to hit back.
The biggest overall problem that the Secretary of Defense faces is that he has "enormous, sometimes overwhelming responsibilities" (Stevenson, 2006). These include the management of an organization that has over two million employees. These people are stationed all over the world. The Secretary also "manages a budget larger than the central government budget of any other nation . . . and higher than the total gross domestic product of all but a dozen countries in the world" (Stevenson, 2006). ...
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