By examining in considerable detail the manner in which five "pivotal" Secretaries-Forrestal, Wilson, McNamara, Laird and Schlesinger-pursued their tasks, Douglas Kinnard has written an incisive analysis of the position of Secretary of Defense. Each of them set different priorities and goals; e.g., McNamara concentrated on introducing centralized managerial techniques while Schlesinger focused on improving the United States' strategic situation. Each also operated in a different political milieu and with a different set of high-level relationships, including involvement with the President. Two continuities, however, are the central role of the defense budget in determining policy and the relative decline in influence of the senior military on major issues. An intelligent and skillfully written interpretive history.