Russell Murray II, 83

Devil's Advocate in Defense Department

Russell Murray II raised concerns about the high cost of many weapons systems and played a key role in long-range military planning.
Russell Murray II raised concerns about the high cost of many weapons systems and played a key role in long-range military planning. (Family Photo)
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By Alexander F. Remington
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, January 30, 2009

Russell Murray II, 83, a weapons analyst and assistant secretary of defense who played a role in long-range military planning and was known for raising concerns about the high cost of many weapons systems, died of cancer Jan. 26 at his home in Alexandria.

Mr. Murray trained as an aeronautical engineer and worked for the Grumman aircraft company in New York before joining the Defense Department in 1962 as a military weapons systems analyst.

He spent seven years at the Pentagon, where he played a key role in reorienting the Defense Department toward a focus on conventional weapons instead of nuclear arms.

He returned to the private sector before President Jimmy Carter appointed him in 1977 as assistant secretary of defense for program analysis and evaluation.

During the next several years, according to Aviation Week & Space Technology, he became known as a "devil's advocate" for his skepticism when evaluating the cost and effectiveness of military requests, including the controversial Marine Corps Harrier jet and C-5 transport programs.

Defense Secretary Harold Brown wrote in 1981 that Mr. Murray directed "landmark studies and analyses" and that "strategic nuclear weapons systems, reinvigorating NATO and the near and long-term programming for a new Rapid Deployment Force are in large part the result of his intellectual leadership."

His honors included Defense Department awards for meritorious civilian service and distinguished public service.

Mr. Murray was a native of Woodmere, N.Y., and a 1949 graduate of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, where he also received a master's degree in aeronautical engineering. He was an Army Air Forces veteran of World War II.

He spent his early career at Grumman Aircraft Engineering in Bethpage, N.Y., where he became assistant chief of operations analysis.

After his first tour at the Pentagon, he was director of long-range planning for the pharmaceutical company Pfizer International in New York City and then director of review at the Center for Naval Analyses, a military-focused think tank in Alexandria.

In 1981, Mr. Murray was named principal of the Systems Research and Applications Corp. in Arlington and in 1985 became special counsel to the House Armed Services Committee. After he retired in 1989, he consulted for about 15 years on national security matters with the Center for Naval Analyses.

He enjoyed carpentry and cabinet-making and built his own harpsichord, dining room table and sailboat. He was a member of the Ferrari Club of Washington and after his retirement enjoyed racing cars.

Survivors include his wife of 54 years, Sally Tingue Gardiner Murray of Alexandria; three daughters, Ann "Twig" Mahon of Alexandria, Prudence Bovee of Burke and Alexandria Haines of Cumberland, Md.; and four grandsons.

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