Laird, Melvin Robert, 1922–, American politician, U.S. secretary of defense (1969–73), b. Omaha, Nebr. After serving (1942–46) in the navy during World War II, he entered politics as a Republican and was (1946–52) a state senator in Wisconsin. As a member (1953–69) of the U.S. House of Representatives, he served on the appropriations committee where he actively supported a large military budget and a strong nuclear defense posture as well as increased funds for health and education. Laird became secretary of defense in President Nixon's cabinet and presided over the shift from a conscripted to an all-volunteer army. He supported (1970) the invasion of Cambodia and approved the strategy of bombing North Vietnam to force a peace settlement. After his resignation as secretary, he served (1973) briefly as counselor to the president for domestic affairs. Laird is the author of A House Divided (1962) and editor of Republican Papers (1968).
See M. R. Laird et al., The Nixon Doctrine (1972).