Weinberger to Step Down

David Hoffman, Molly Moore
Washington Post Staff Writers
Tuesday, November 3, 1987

Defense Secretary Caspar W. Weinberger has decided to resign because of the deteriorating health of his wife, Jane, and President Reagan is expected to name national security adviser Frank C. Carlucci as the new defense secretary, administration officials said last night.

The president is also considering appointing Army Lt. Gen. Colin L. Powell, the deputy national security adviser, to succeed Carlucci, the officials said. Before coming to the White House, Powell served as military assistant to Weinberger.

The officials said an announcement of the changes may come as soon as today, when Reagan is planning to announce a new secretary of labor. Weinberger, whose wife is suffering from cancer and severe arthritis, was unavailable for comment last night following a report on his plans by NBC News. Two weeks ago, asked about another news report that he planned to resign, Weinberger dismissed it as "the same reports" of resignation that persisted in earlier years.

Weinberger, 70, has held a powerful seat in Reagan's Cabinet, enhanced in part by his long personal relationship with the president and his easy access to the Oval Office. As defense secretary, Weinberger served as a strong advocate for Reagan's ambitious $ 2 trillion rearmament program, even in the face of growing pressure for cutbacks from a Congress worried about the deficit.

Aided by former Assistant Secretary Richard N. Perle, Weinberger was also a frequent opponent of arms control proposals advocated by Secretary of State George P. Shultz, and he was particularly forceful in resisting limits on the president's missile defense program, the Strategic Defense Initiative (SDI).

While officials said Weinberger's departure is not the result of pressure from within the administration, it may presage a new approach to arms control in the final year of Reagan's presidency. Carlucci, who previously served as deputy defense secretary under Weinberger, is known within the administration as a more pragmatic and flexible policymaker than Weinberger on arms control issues.

The shift comes at a critical time as Reagan makes final preparations for signing a treaty next month with Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev eliminating medium-range and shorter-range missiles in Europe. The agreement is the first major arms control treaty of Reagan's presidency and is to be signed at the first U.S.-Soviet summit in this country since 1973.

Even more important, Reagan and Gorbachev seem to be approaching intensified bargaining aimed at an agreement cutting strategic nuclear arsenals in half. A critical factor will be Reagan's response to Soviet insistence that restrictions be imposed on development and deployment of a space-based missile defense system as part of any accord on reducing offensive weapons.

Weinberger has refused to accept restraints that could slow the SDI missile defense program, now in research, and he oversaw a major expansion in its spending.

Powell, 50, has received high marks from White House officials while serving as Carlucci's deputy. One administration source said "it would make sense" for Reagan to appoint Powell to succeed Carlucci. If appointed, Powell would become the first black ever to hold the post.

Close acquaintances said Jane Weinberger's health has been deteriorating steadily in recent months. She recently completed a series of radiation treatments for the malignancy and has had persistent problems with arthritis that have occasionally left her bedridden, they said.

The couple, who celebrated their 45th wedding anniversary in August, recently sold their huge McLean residence and moved into a two-suite accommodation at the Watergate apartments because they could not install an elevator for her in the McLean house, acquaintances said.

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