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John F. Lehman

14 September 1942 –

Secretary of the Navy John F. Lehman

John Francis Lehman Jr. was born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, on 14 September 1942. His father was a U.S. Navy industrial engineer who ultimately obtained the rank of lieutenant commander. After graduating from high school, Lehman entered St. Joseph’s College and graduated with a bachelor’s degree in international relations in 1964. He went on to obtain his master’s degree at Cambridge University and his doctorate at the University of Pennsylvania. While he was at Cambridge, he spent three years in the Air Force Reserves. In 1968, he left the Air Force Reserves and accepted a commission as an ensign in the U.S. Navy, where he ultimately advanced to the rank of commander as a naval aviator. While serving in the Reserves, he also served on the National Security Council and as deputy director of the U.S. Arms Control and Disarmament Agency.

In January 1981, while he was president of the Abington Corporation, Lehman was selected to be Secretary of the Navy for President Ronald Regan’s administration. During his tenure as the 65th Secretary of the Navy, Lehman supported the idea of building a “600-ship Navy” to rebuild the fleet after post–Vietnam War cutbacks and to counter the Soviet threat. He also developed what would become to be known as the “Lehman Doctrine,” which was the plan for a military response to a Russian invasion of Europe. Lehman, who was still a Reserve naval aviation officer while serving as secretary, was an advocate for the resurgence of aircraft carriers. His support for the 600-ship Navy, promotion of the U.S. maritime strategy, and reactivation of Iowa-class battleships were his solution to overcoming Soviet military superiority by bringing the fight to their doorstep. Lehman resigned from the position on 10 April 1987.

After serving as secretary, Lehman was a leading member of a number of conservative American think tanks. In 2002, Lehman worked on the 9/11 Commission. During the 2008 presidential election, Lehman was named a possible leading candidate for Secretary of Defense, but Senator John McCain lost the election to President Barrack Obama.

The future Arleigh Burke-class missile guided destroyer USS John F. Lehman (DDG-137) is named in his honor. 

Published: Mon Jan 09 12:48:00 EST 2023