Obituaries

Frank Carlucci, 87, diplomat and defense secretary to Reagan

Mr. Carlucci was able to close domestic bases while maintaining strength abroad as the Cold War wound down.
Scott Applewhite/Associated Press/file 1988
Mr. Carlucci was able to close domestic bases while maintaining strength abroad as the Cold War wound down.

NEW YORK — Frank C. Carlucci, a troubleshooting Republican who worked for four presidents in a wide-ranging government career that reached its zenith when he served as national security adviser and secretary of defense in President Ronald Reagan’s second term, died Sunday at his home in McLean, Va. He was 87.

His wife, Marcia Myers Carlucci, said the cause was complications of Parkinson’s disease.

In posts that carried him into international controversies, occasional dangers, and Washington’s highest echelons, Mr. Carlucci was a daredevil diplomat, an expert budget-whacker, and, to presidents and Cabinet secretaries, the indispensable No. 2 man who ran things: the day-to-day affairs of America’s antipoverty programs, its health, education, and welfare systems, its intelligence services, and its military operations.

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After years in the administrations of Presidents Nixon, Ford, and Carter, Mr. Carlucci was named national security adviser by Reagan in 1986, succeeding Rear Admiral John M. Poindexter, who had resigned as the Iran-Contra affair, and his role in fostering it, came to light.

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The appointment aimed at restoring confidence in an administration shaken by the scandal. Mr. Carlucci, the fixer, soon cleaned house at the National Security Council, abolishing Lieutenant Colonel Oliver North’s political-military affairs section, which had hatched the covert plot to sell arms to Iran to finance right-wing guerrillas, known as the contras, fighting Nicaragua’s leftist government.

A year later, Reagan named Mr. Carlucci defense secretary. He succeeded Caspar W. Weinberger, who had resigned for personal reasons but who was also under pressure in the Iran-Contra affair.

Mr. Carlucci was cool, experienced, and knowledgeable — once more a good fit. He had been deputy defense secretary under Weinberger in Reagan’s first term, and he had ably managed the big Pentagon bureaucracy and overseen budgets, procurement, weapons planning, and deployment of the nation’s global military forces.

Though he was defense secretary for only 14 months, Mr. Carlucci was not a caretaker. He presided over $33 billion in budget cuts, closing domestic bases while maintaining strength abroad as the Cold War wound down. He shared Reagan’s faith in space-based missile defenses and mobile missiles on rail cars, which were not developed. But he also backed arms control agreements with Moscow.

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Leaving government when President George H.W. Bush assumed office in January 1989, Mr. Carlucci joined the Carlyle Group, a Washington investment partnership. He retired as its chairman in 2003.

Frank Charles Carlucci III was born on Oct. 18, 1930, in Scranton, Pa., to Frank Jr., an insurance broker, and Roxanne (Bacon) Carlucci. He graduated in 1948 from Wyoming Seminary, a prep school in Pennsylvania, and in 1952 from Princeton, where he studied with two future Cabinet secretaries, Donald H. Rumsfeld (Defense) and James A. Baker III (Treasury, State). He then served two years in the Navy.

Mr. Carlucci studied business at Harvard for a year, but after bailing out of a brief unsatisfying business career, he joined the State Department in 1956. A year later he began a 12-year diplomatic career that took him to South Africa, the Belgian Congo (now Congo), Zanzibar, and Brazil.

In 1954, he married Jean Anthony. They had two children, Karen Romano and Frank IV. The marriage ended in divorce, and in 1976 he married Marcia Myers. They had a daughter, Kristin Carlucci Weed. In addition to his wife, he leaves his children; a sister, Joan Kleinrock; and six grandchildren.