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Navy Secretary Lehman Bids Farewell to 'Best Job in the World'

April 11, 1987|Associated Press

WASHINGTON — John F. Lehman Jr., surrounded by military honor guards and laden with new medals for distinguished service, bade farewell Friday as the Navy's secretary and what he called the best job in the world.

The 44-year-old Lehman, the Reagan Administration's brash point man for the last six years in the successful drive to enlarge the Navy's fleet to 600 warships, was hailed by Defense Secretary Caspar W. Weinberger for his management acumen and role in re-establishing U.S. maritime superiority.

"Ladies and gentlemen, welcome to the Pentagon on this very beautiful but rather bittersweet day," Weinberger told a crowd of several hundred gathered on a parade ground above the banks of the Potomac River.

"When the President came to office, he had a clear goal to revitalize America's maritime strength along with our other military strength. . . . Carrying out the President's mandate, Secretary of the Navy Lehman has nurtured the development of the broad, bipartisan national consensus that maritime superiority is a critical element of the nation's security."

'Candid and Honest'

Weinberger noted that Lehman "has always given me very candid and honest advice about naval matters and he could never be accused of holding back anything."

Lehman often tangled with Weinberger and other top officials, at times drawing public rebukes from the defense secretary.

Lehman, who received a 19-cannon salute, responded: "It is very difficult to leave what is without question the best job--with all due respects, Mr. Secretary--the best job not only in the United States but in the world.

"Even when, as occasionally happened, they were slow to see the wisdom sometimes of my policies . . . always the level of debate and the methods of carrying out the policy differences were at a very high plane indeed."

Lehman, the 65th civilian secretary of the Navy and the only man to hold the job during the Reagan Administration, announced in February he had decided to step down. After taking time off to write a book, Lehman has said he intends to seek a job in industry.

He will be succeeded by James H. Webb, who was confirmed by the Senate on Thursday.

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