Harold Brown, who as defense secretary in the Carter administration championed cutting-edge fighting technology during a tenure that included the failed rescue of hostages in Iran, has died at age 91. Brown died Friday, said the Rand Corp., the California-based think tank which Brown served as a trustee for more than 35 years. Brown was a nuclear physicist who led the Pentagon to modernize its defense systems with weapons that included precision-guided cruise missiles, stealth aircraft, advanced satellite surveillance, and improved communications and intelligence systems, the AP reports. He successfully campaigned to increase the Pentagon budget during his term, despite skepticism inside the White House and from Democrats in Congress.
That turbulent period included the Soviet Union's invasion of Afghanistan and the Iranian hostage crisis. An effort in April 1980 to rescue the hostages failed when one of the helicopters on the mission struck a tanker aircraft in eastern Iran and crashed, killing eight US servicemen. "I considered the failed rescue attempt my greatest regret and most painful lesson learned," Brown wrote in his book Star Spangled Security. Brown faced numerous obstacles when he took the job as Pentagon chief, including pressure to reduce the defense budget both from within the administration and from influential congressional Democrats. Wary of the growing Soviet threat, Brown sought to withstand the pressure to cut defense and, gradually, managed to increase spending. (Upon George HW Bush's passing, the media assessed his influence on the world.)