Former US Cabinet officer Weinberger dead at 88

Caspar W. Weinberger, who oversaw the Pentagon's biggest peacetime spending increase as President Ronald Reagan's defense secretary and later was indicted for his role in the Iran-Contra affair, died Tuesday. He was 88. Weinberger had been hospitalized in Bangor, Maine, with a high fever and pneumonia brought on by his age, according to his son, Caspar Weinberger Jr. President George W. Bush called him "an American statesman and a dedicated public servant" who strengthened the military and helped end the Cold War. "This good man made many contributions to our nation," the president said in a statement. Weinberger served as President Richard M. Nixon's budget director and was given the nickname "Cap the Knife" for his efforts to slash government spending. Yet Weinberger's best-known role may have been as Reagan's defense secretary, when the classic cold warrior presided over a cumulative $2 trillion in military spending. Determined to ensure US strategic strength to counter the Soviet Union, Weinberger pushed Congress to fund such programs as the Strategic Defense Initiative, Midgetman and MX missiles, B-1B bombers and stealth aircraft.