|8th United States Secretary of Defense|
January 21, 1961 – February 29, 1968
|President||John F. Kennedy|
Lyndon B. Johnson
|Preceded by||Thomas Gates|
|Succeeded by||Clark Clifford|
|President of the World Bank Group|
April 1, 1968 – July 1, 1981
|Preceded by||George Woods|
|Succeeded by||Tom Clausen|
|Born||Robert Strange McNamara|
June 9, 1916
San Francisco, California, U.S.
|Died||July 6, 2009 (aged 93)|
Washington, D.C., U.S.
|Political party||Republican (until 1978)|
|Spouse(s)||Margaret Craig (m. 1940; d. 1981)|
Diana Masieri Byfield (m. 2004)
|Children||3 (including Craig)|
|Education||University of California, Berkeley (BA)|
Harvard University (MBA)
|Allegiance|| United States|
|Service/branch|| United States Army|
|Years of service||1940–1946|
|Rank|| Lieutenant colonel|
|Unit|| U.S. Army Air Forces|
Robert Strange McNamara (June 9, 1916 – July 6, 2009) was an American business executive and the eighth Secretary of Defense, serving from 1961 to 1968 under Presidents John F. Kennedy and Lyndon B. Johnson. He played a major role in escalating the United States involvement in the Vietnam War. McNamara was responsible for the institution of systems analysis in public policy, which developed into the discipline known today as policy analysis.
He was born in San Francisco, California, graduated from UC Berkeley and Harvard Business School and served in the United States Army Air Forces during World War II. After the war, Henry Ford II hired McNamara and a group of other Army Air Force veterans to work for Ford Motor Company. These "Whiz Kids" helped reform Ford with modern planning, organization, and management control systems. After briefly serving as Ford's president, McNamara accepted appointment as Secretary of Defense.
McNamara became a close adviser to Kennedy and advocated the use of a blockade during the Cuban Missile Crisis. Kennedy and McNamara instituted a Cold War defense strategy of flexible response, which anticipated the need for military responses short of massive retaliation. McNamara consolidated intelligence and logistics functions of the Pentagon into two centralized agencies: the Defense Intelligence Agency and the Defense Supply Agency. During the Kennedy administration, McNamara presided over a build-up in U.S. soldiers in South Vietnam. After the 1964 Gulf of Tonkin incident, the number of U.S. soldiers in Vietnam escalated dramatically. McNamara and other U.S. policymakers feared that the fall of South Vietnam to a Communist regime would lead to the fall of other governments in the region.
McNamara grew increasingly skeptical of the efficacy of committing U.S. soldiers to Vietnam. In 1968, McNamara resigned as Secretary of Defense to become President of the World Bank. He remains the longest serving Secretary of Defense, having remained in office over seven years. He served as President of the World Bank until 1981, shifting the focus of the World Bank towards poverty reduction. After retiring, he served as a trustee of several organizations, including the California Institute of Technology and the Brookings Institution.