Since its creation by the National Security Act of 1947 the office of secretary of defense has grown rapidly in power and influence, surpassing at times that of the secretary of state to become second only to the presidency in the government of the United States. The pivotal secretaries, according to Kinnard, are James Forrestal, Charles Wilson, Robert McNamara, Melvin Laird, and James Schlesinger.
Kinnard analyzes the administration of each of these secretaries not only within the domestic and international contexts of his time but also within the bureaucratic world in which the secretary functions along with the president and secretary of state.
"A useful analysis of the evolution of the American national defense process and organization, not only for military acolytes at the high altar of the Pentagon, but also for the laity who would understand how and why the national security process works and has worked." -- The Alabama Review
"Clear and disciplined prose mercifully free of social science jargon.... Kinnard has not meant this as a definitive...intended to provide insights into that office, Kinnard succeeds admirably." -- American Historical Review