John Lehman

John Francis Lehman Jr. (born September 14, 1942) is an American investment banker and writer who served as Secretary of the Navy (1981–1987) in the Ronald Reagan administration where he promoted the creation of a 600-ship Navy.[1] From 2003 to 2004 he was a member of the 9/11 Commission.

John Lehman
United States Secretary of the Navy
In office
February 5, 1981  April 10, 1987
PresidentRonald Reagan
Preceded byEdward Hidalgo
Succeeded byJim Webb
Personal details
John Francis Lehman Jr.

(1942-09-14) September 14, 1942
Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, U.S.
Political partyRepublican
EducationSaint Joseph's University (BA)
Gonville and Caius College, Cambridge (BA)
University of Pennsylvania (MA, PhD)

Lehman currently serves on the National Security Advisory Council for the Center for Security Policy (CSP), and on the board of trustees for the think tank Foreign Policy Research Institute (FPRI). Lehman was also a member of the National Commission on Terrorist Attacks Upon the United States, commonly called the 9/11 Commission, and has signed some policy letters produced by the Project for the New American Century. He also served as an advisor to Sen. John McCain for the 2008 presidential race,[2][3] and for Mitt Romney in his 2012 bid.[4]

Education and family

Lehman was born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, the son of Constance (Cruice) and John F. Lehman Sr., an industrial engineer and decorated United States Navy veteran (Lieutenant Commander).[5] He graduated from La Salle College High School and received a B.S. in international relations from Saint Joseph's University in 1964, gained a B.A. from Gonville and Caius College, Cambridge (later elevated to an M.A.) and went on to earn an M.A. and Ph.D. from the University of Pennsylvania.

He is a first cousin, once removed, of the late Grace Kelly (Princess Grace of Monaco), and is Chairman of the Princess Grace Foundation-USA, a public charity established after Princess Grace's death to support emerging artists in film, dance, and theater. He led the American delegation to the funeral of Prince Rainier. He and his family live in Bucks County, Pennsylvania, and Manhattan. He is a long time Republican. He is known for his quote: "Power corrupts. Absolute power is kind of neat." [6]

Military career

Lehman served in the U.S. Air Force Reserve for three years while at Cambridge, then in 1968 left the Air Force Reserve and joined the United States Naval Reserve as an ensign, later rising to the rank of commander as a Naval Flight Officer, serving in the A-6 Intruder as a bombardier/navigator.[7] He served on the staff of the National Security Council under Henry Kissinger. [8]

Lehman worked for UBS AG.

In 1977 Lehman founded the Abington Corporation, a consulting company with clients including defense companies such as Northrop Corporation. He remained its president and director until 1981, when he was appointed by Ronald Reagan to be Secretary of the Navy.[9]

Secretary of the Navy (1981–1987)

As the 65th secretary, appointed by Ronald Reagan in 1981, Lehman launched the idea of building a "600-ship Navy". He became Secretary of the Navy at 38, a young age that he was conscious of in his dealing with admirals. He was unique in still serving as a commander in the Naval Reserve while being Secretary of the Navy. He developed a strategic concept to counter the threat of Soviet incursion into Western Europe known as the "Lehman Doctrine." The plan called for a military response to any Russian invasion in Europe by attacking and invading the Soviet Far East along the Pacific, a much less defended front. Forces would sever the trans Siberian railroad and fight westward toward Moscow.

According to Hedrick Smith, in his book The Power Game, Lehman lost a fight at the Pentagon with Deputy Secretary of Defense W. Paul Thayer over lowering the number of future aircraft carriers planned. He immediately went to the White House where they were unaware of Thayer's decision, and obtained a press release declaring President Reagan had named two of the ships USS Abraham Lincoln (CVN-72) and USS George Washington (CVN-73), thereby implying that Reagan had endorsed the "600-ship fleet." Lehman was instrumental in the forced retirement of Admiral Hyman G. Rickover.[10] Lehman resigned in 1987.

He was subsequently promoted to the rank of captain in the U.S. Naval Reserve in 1989, later retiring from the U.S. Navy as a reserve officer in that rank after 30 years of service.

Later career

As of 2004, Lehman is chairman of the private equity investment firm J. F. Lehman and Company, as well as chairman of the Hawaii Superferry. Lehman is chairman of the board of OAO Technology Solutions Inc. He is also an honorary member of the First Troop Philadelphia City Cavalry. As of 2005, he is a member of a number of influential conservative American think tanks, including the Project for the New American Century, The Heritage Foundation, the Foreign Policy Research Institute, the Center for Security Policy, and the Committee on the Present Danger.

After his work in the 9/11 Commission in 2002, there was increased speculation that Lehman might be named to a chief security post within the Bush Administration. Positions suggested included Director of Central Intelligence, Director of National Intelligence and Secretary of Defense when Donald Rumsfeld stepped down. None of this speculation has proved accurate.

He currently serves as Chairman of the Princess Grace Foundation-USA and as a director of the OpSail Foundation. He is also a member of the board of overseers of the School of Engineering at the University of Pennsylvania, and is a trustee of La Salle College High School.[11] He has served on the board of directors of the Ball Corporation since 1987. Lehman is also an advisory board member for the Partnership for a Secure America, a not-for-profit organization dedicated to recreating the bipartisan center in American national security and foreign policy.

On June 26, 2012, Lehman revealed to the staff of the United States Naval Institute and in a speech given in Portsmouth, UK, the Reagan Administration secretly offered the use of the amphibious assault helicopter carrier Iwo Jima as a replacement in case either of the two British carriers, the Hermes and the Invincible, had been damaged or destroyed during the 1982 Falklands War.[12] This revelation made headlines in the United Kingdom, but except for the U.S. Naval Institute, not in the United States.[13][14]



  • On Seas of Glory: Heroic Men, Great Ships, and Epic Battles of the American Navy
  • Making War: The 200-Year-Old Battle Between the President and Congress Over How America Goes to War
  • America the Vulnerable: Our Military Problems and How to Fix Them
  • Oceans ventured : winning the Cold War at sea. New York: W. W. Norton. 2018.
  • "The Executive, Congress, and Foreign Policy: Studies of the Nixon Administration" (New York: Praeger, 1974).
  • Command of the Seas: Building the 600 Ship Navy

Critical studies and reviews of Lehman's work

Oceans ventured


  2. List of John McCain supporters
  3. Young, Mary (2008-04-15). "Ex-Navy secretary stumps for McCain in Berks County". Reading Eagle. Retrieved 2008-09-16.
  4. Talbot, George. "Top adviser says Mitt Romney will continue production of Littoral Combat Ship." Alabama Live, 8 October 2012.
  8. Wangenheim, Constantin (October 10, 2016). "John F. Lehman, Former US Secretary of the Navy, on the South China Sea". The Diplomat. Tokyo. Retrieved May 26, 2018.
  9. Judith Miller, The New York Times, 27 December 1982, Navy Secretary Said To Keep Ties To Company Aiding Arms Makers
  10. Allen, Thomas B.; Polmar, Norman (19 August 2017). "Rickover: Father of the Nuclear Navy". Potomac Books, Inc. via Google Books.
  12. "Reagan Readied U.S. Warship for '82 Falklands War". News and Analysis. United States Naval Institute. June 27, 2012. Retrieved 2012-07-13.
  13. Graham Smith (June 28, 2012). "Not so neutral after all: Ronald Reagan made secret plans to loan U.S. warship to Britain if aircraft carrier was lost during Falklands War". Daily Mail. Retrieved 2012-07-13.
  14. "Reagan 'cleared US ship for Falklands'". June 29, 2012. Archived from the original on January 2, 2013. Retrieved 2012-07-13.
  15. "Latest NOUS Awards". Naval Order of the United States. Archived from the original on 2017-06-03. Retrieved December 23, 2017.
  16. "Previous Morison Book Awards". Naval Order of the United States, New York Commandery. Archived from the original on 2016-08-27. Retrieved December 23, 2017.
Political offices
Preceded by
Edward Hidalgo
United States Secretary of the Navy
Succeeded by
Jim Webb
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