Adm. Stansfield Turner spent four years sitting on one of Washington's hot seats, the one reserved for the director of the Central Intelligence Agency.
Turner was appointed to the post by President Jimmy Carter in 1976. They had been classmates at the U.S. Naval Academy, although they did not know each other then. Among the 820 members of the class of 1947, Turner ranked 25th, Carter 59th.
Turner, a native of Chicago, attended Amherst College before the academy, and later, after a year on a cruiser, attended Oxford University as a Rhodes Scholar.
He had a distinguished record in the Navy, advancing through the ranks as he served on destroyers in the Atlantic and Pacific and winning decorations for his service in the Korean War. He also held high-level Navy positions in Washington and served two years as president of the Naval War College in Newport, R.I.
Later he was named commander of the 2nd Fleet, then commander-in-chief, Allied Forces Southern Europe, with headquarters in Naples, Italy. It was then that he won his fourth star and became a full admiral. And it was while he was serving in that post that Carter nominated him to head the CIA. He won Senate confirmation by a unanimous vote.
In his new position, he quickly trimmed the staff by several hundred to reflect the technological advances in intelligence gathering capability and instituted what he described as "new methods, new management systems, new styles of openness."
Turner's tenure at the CIA ended when Carter was defeated in 1980, and he since has devoted himself to the public lecture circuit and to teaching and writing.
Recently, however, he said he has been giving fewer lectures. "I used to give 25 to 30 lectures a year, but I'm now substituting more teaching instead," he said.
He has taught at Yale and at West Point and is in his third year of teaching at the University of Maryland Graduate School of Public Affairs, which trains people forgovernment service.
"I teach a course based on terrorism and democracy," he said, "how the U.S. government responds to terrorism, how nations make strategy. I start with the Peloponnesians and the Greeks and work up through history."
He is pleased by the caliber of students he finds today. "I'm gratified so many young people want to do things for our country," he said.
Turner has some misgivings about the nation's defense, saying he fears it will be jeopardized because of "understandable demands to cut defense rather than raise taxes. That could easily go too far," he said.
"Only if the military comes up with a sound explanation of why they need what they need can we prevent the cuts from going too far," he said. "My reading is that the joint chiefs have failed to address the tough issues, and we could end up with too much of what we don't need and not enough of what we do."
He said the joint chiefs simply must address the problems raised by interservice rivalry. "We don't need four air forces," he said. "There's a lot of overlap and we can't afford that."
Also, he argued that "we do not need penetrating bombers, such as the B-1 and B-2 that cost $1-billion each, because we can launch missiles from outside the combat zone from B-52s."
Nuclear weaponry also must be addressed, he said. "As a result of our policies of the past 40-some years, we and the Russians between us have perhaps 40,000 nuclear warheads. And the best way, in my opinion, to start away from that frightening situation is for the United States unilaterally to cut its weaponry down to 3,500 tomorrow. That's the number (former President) Bush agreed to," he said.
On other issues, Turner said he thinks the military should follow the commander-in-chief's lead on gays in the military. "I wish the issue had never arisen," he said. "But having arisen, I think we should go along (with President Clinton). I don't think it's going to have as drastic consequences as some predict, and I don't think they have any basis for making those predictions, any more than they did when they argued that integrating blacks into the military would ruin morale."
He expects the Navy to be adversely affected by the Tailhook scandal if it doesn't face up to the issue. "I'm concerned about the lieutenants and people who perpetrated offensive actions," he said, "but I'm much more concerned about the captains and admirals who tolerated it and were derelict in their duties in not stopping it," he said. "There's a cultural problem here when a segment of the Navy believes it has license to do things that are illegal and immoral."
Turner, who lives today in McLean, Va., with his wife, Patricia, says he still sees Carter occasionally. "I'm very proud of what he's doing," he said. "He's making a great contribution to the world and the country, "and I think that Carter is coming back in people's esteem because of his performance as an ex-president and also will come back in our esteem as a president."
He cited Carter's "very substantial" accomplishments in foreign policy. "And he ran an ethical presidency," he said. "I don't think you can point to a scandal in the Carter time or accusations such as those that have been levied every couple of weeks since then."
And when Turner, now 69, surveys the world scene today, he continues to see the CIA as vital.
"I'm worried that cuts for the CIA are going to go too deep," he said. "We should remember that if you cut our military, you need as much warning as you can get."