Back in Washington in 1969, he jumped from relative obscurity to a series of high-profile jobs in the Nixon administration — deputy director, then director, of the Office of Economic Opportunity, succeeding Mr. Rumsfeld, in 1971; deputy director of the Office of Management and Budget, under Mr. Weinberger, in 1972; and, in 1973, Mr. Weinberger’s deputy in the Department of Health, Education and Welfare.
From 1975 to 1977, Mr. Carlucci was President Ford’s ambassador to Portugal. He was credited with helping to keep Lisbon’s leftist government allied with the West by persuading the White House to support the regime despite strong opposition from Secretary of State Henry A. Kissinger.
While Mr. Carlucci’s previous appointments had been made by Republicans, it was President Carter, a Democrat, who named him deputy director of the Central Intelligence Agency under Adm. Stansfield Turner in 1978. Mr. Carlucci shut down many covert operations to restore the reputation of an agency tarnished by abuses of power.
After Reagan became president in 1981, his defense secretary, Mr. Weinberger, insisted that Mr. Carlucci, his former deputy at the budget office and H.E.W., be his deputy. Mr. Carlucci lacked experience in defense matters, but his nomination sailed through Senate confirmation.
In December 1983, after two years at the Pentagon, Mr. Carlucci resigned to become president and chief executive of Sears World Trade Inc., a new export trading subsidiary of Sears, Roebuck & Company. It was not a successful venture.
And in 1986, as Iran-contra rattled the White House and President Reagan sent up distress signals, Mr. Carlucci took over the troubled National Security Council — glad, friends said, to be back in his element.