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Encyclopedia > Donald H. Rumsfeld
Donald Rumsfeld
Donald Rumsfeld

Donald Henry Rumsfeld (born July 9, 1932) is the current Secretary of Defense of the United States, since January 20, 2001, under President George W. Bush. His current term of office is as the 21st Secretary of Defense, and he is the oldest person to have held that position. He served as the 13th Secretary of Defense from 1975 to 1977, making him also the youngest person to have held the position, under President Gerald Ford. Rumsfeld has also had a long career in private industry and public service.

Rumsfeld has been married to his wife Joyce since 1954. They have three children and five grandchildren.



Nixon administration

Born in Chicago, Illinois, of German descent (his grandfather was originally from Bremen in Northern Germany), Donald Rumsfeld attended Princeton University on scholarship (AB, 1954) and served in the United States Navy (1954-57) as a Naval aviator. He went to Washington, DC, in 1957, during the Eisenhower Administration, to serve as Administrative Assistant to a Congressman from Ohio. After a stint with an investment banking firm, he was elected to the United States House of Representatives from Illinois in 1962, at the age of 30, and was re-elected in 1964, 1966, and 1968.

Rumsfeld resigned from Congress in 1969 during his fourth term to serve in the Nixon Administration as Director of the United States Office of Economic Opportunity, Assistant to the President, and a member of the President's Cabinet (1969-1970); Counselor to the President, Director of the Economic Stabilization Program; and member of the President's Cabinet (1971-1972).

In 1973, he left Washington, DC, to serve as U.S. ambassador to the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) in Brussels, Belgium (1973-1974).

Ford administration

In August 1974, he was called back to Washington, DC, to serve in the Ford Administration successively as Chairman of the transition to the Presidency of Gerald R. Ford (1974); White House Chief of Staff member of the President's Cabinet (1974-1975); and the 13th U.S. Secretary of Defense (1975-1977). During this period he was instrumental in increasing the power of the military within the administration and at the expense of the CIA and Henry Kissinger. This was accomplished by promulgating the view that the Soviet Union was increasing defense spending and pursuing secret weapons programs, and that the proper response was a re-escalation of the arms race. This view was in direct contrast to CIA and generally accepted reports on the declining state of the Soviet economy, and the earlier success of Richard Nixon in establishing Detente (referring to a thawing of the Cold War) with the Soviet Union. However, Rumsfeld was able to pave the way for the increase in acceptance of the views of Leo Strauss, which served as part of the foundation for the military build-up of the Reagan administrations (which claimed credit for the eventual collapse of the Soviet Union).

In 1976, Rumsfeld was responsible for transferring George H.W. Bush from envoy to China into the position of Director of the CIA. This was reportedly an attempt to scuttle Bush's presidential ambitions, and led to a certain animosity between the two.

Secretary Rumsfeld laughing at the Cabinet table with President in 1975
Secretary Rumsfeld laughing at the Cabinet table with President Gerald Ford in 1975

In 1977, Rumsfeld was awarded the nation's highest civilian award, the Presidential Medal of Freedom.

Private career

From 1977 to 1985 Rumsfeld served as Chief Executive Officer, President, and then Chairman of G.D. Searle & Co., a worldwide pharmaceutical company. It was under Rumsfeld that Searle got FDA approval for the controversial artificial sweetener, aspartame. During his tenure at Searle, Rumsfeld reduced the number of employees in the company by around 60%. The financial turnaround of the company earned him awards as the Outstanding Chief Executive Officer in the Pharmaceutical Industry from the Wall Street Transcript (1980) and Financial World (1981). Rumsfeld is believed to have earned around US$12 million from the sale of Searle to Monsanto.

From 1985 to 1990 he was in private business. During his business career, Rumsfeld continued public service in a variety of posts, including:

  • Member of the President's General Advisory Committee on Arms Control - Reagan Administration (1982 - 1986);
  • President Reagan's Special Envoy on the Law of the Sea Treaty (1982 - 1983);
  • Senior Advisor to President Reagan's Panel on Strategic Systems (1983 - 1984);
  • Member of the U.S. Joint Advisory Commission on U.S./Japan Relations - Reagan Administration (1983 - 1984);
  • President Reagan's Special Envoy to the Middle East (1983 - 1984);
  • Member of the National Commission on the Public Service (1987 - 1990);
  • Member of the National Economic Commission (1988 - 1989);
  • Member of the Board of Visitors of the National Defense University (1988 - 1992);
  • Member of the Commission on U.S./Japan Relations (1989 - 1991);
  • Member of the Board of Directors for ABB Ltd (1990 - 2001);
  • FCC's High Definition Television Advisory Committee (1992 - 1993);
  • Chairman, Commission on the Ballistic Missile Threat to the United States (1998 - 1999);
  • Member of the U.S. Trade Deficit Review Commission (1999 - 2000);
  • Member of the Council on Foreign Relations (CFR) and
  • Chairman of the U.S. Commission to Assess National Security Space Management and Organization (2000).
Rumsfeld, at the time 's special envoy to the , meeting with Saddam Hussein during a visit to , in . Video frame capture, see the complete video (http://www.gwu.edu/~nsarchiv/NSAEBB/NSAEBB82/)
Rumsfeld, at the time Ronald Reagan's special envoy to the Middle East, meeting with Saddam Hussein during a visit to Baghdad, Iraq in 1983. Video frame capture, see the complete video (http://www.gwu.edu/~nsarchiv/NSAEBB/NSAEBB82/)

Rumsfeld served as Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of General Instrument Corporation from 1990 to 1993. A leader in broadband transmission, distribution, and access control technologies for cable, satellite and terrestrial broadcasting applications, the company pioneered the development of the first all-digital high definition television (HDTV) technology. After taking the company public and returning it to profitability, Rumsfeld returned to private business in late 1993. Until being sworn in as the 21st Secretary of Defense, Rumsfeld served as Chairman of Gilead Sciences, Inc. He was also chair of the RAND Corporation.

Reagan Administration

During his period as Reagan's Special Envoy to the Middle East, Rumsfeld was the main conduit for crucial American military intelligence, hardware and strategic advice to Saddam Hussein, then fighting Iran in the Iran-Iraq war. During this period, US policy supported Iraq, believing it to be a useful buffer against Iran's new religious government, although the United States had originally been hesitant to work with a Soviet client state. When he visited on December 19-20, 1983, he and Saddam Hussein had a 90 minute discussion which covered Syria's occupation of Lebanon, preventing Syrian and Iranian expansion, preventing arms sales to Iran by foreign countries, increasing Iraqi oil production via a possible new oil pipeline across Jordan. Not mentioned was Iraqi production and use of chemical weapons. The Iranian government had cited several Iraqi air and ground chemical weapons attacks in the preceding two months, and the Iranian news agency had reported the use of chemical weapons as early as 1981. The US State Department first condemned the use of chemical weapons in the war on March 5, 1984, two days before the ICRC confirmed Iranian allegations.

Rumsfeld's civic activities included service as a member of the National Academy of Public Administration and a member of the boards of trustees of the Gerald R. Ford Foundation, the Eisenhower Exchange Fellowships, the Hoover Institution at Stanford University, and the National Park Foundation. He was also a member of the U.S./Russia Business Forum and Chairman of the Congressional Leadership's National Security Advisory Group.

Rumsfeld, National Security Advisor Condoleezza Rice, and Secretary of State Colin Powell listen to President George W. Bush speak.

Rumsfeld was a founder and active member of the Project for the New American Century, whose goal is to "promote American global leadership" and which in September 2000 proposed to invade Iraq. He signed the 1998 PNAC Letter (http://www.theindyvoice.com/index.blog?entry_id=417960) sent to President William Jefferson Clinton advocating the use of force in Iraq to "protect our vital interests in the gulf".

While Rumsfeld was on the board of directors of ABB, the global technology group, they issued a press release on January 20, 2000 that said they have signed contracts to deliver equipment and services for two nuclear power stations at Kumho, on the east coast of North Korea. The deal was part of the 1994 U.S.-North Korea nuclear pact. He has not made any public statements explaining the arrangement.

Bush Administration

As Secretary of Defense under George W. Bush, Rumsfeld was frequently in the public eye as he headed the defense department during the U.S. invasion of Afghanistan and the 2003 invasion of Iraq. A remark that led to particular debate was his characterization of the bombing of Baghdad as Shock and Awe, part of the now famous Rumsfeld doctrine. His insistence on leading the war with few troops got him respect for the fast victory but harsh criticism when US troops could not prevent the looting and suffered losses after the "end of major combat" as proclaimed by George W. Bush. It has widely been argued that he holds responsibility for war crimes committed during the invasion by the U.S. military at Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq. (As a result of a war crimes complaint filed against him in Germany by the Center for Constitutional Rights, Rumsfeld canceled his planned participation at a conference in Munich. [1] (http://www.expatica.com/source/site_article.asp?subchannel_id=52&story_id=16014&name=Rumsfeld+scraps+Munich+visit+over+war+probe))

His press conferences were frequent, and the Secretary has developed a strong love-hate relationship with many American reporters.

Due to the stance of the German and French governments against a war in Iraq, Rumsfeld labeled these countries in an offhand remark as part of "Old Europe" (implying that those European countries which supported the war effort were part of a newer, modern Europe). The label gained instant popularity by a wide variety of commentators and met criticism and also support.

The BBC Radio 4 current affairs program Broadcasting House had been so taken by Rumsfeld's various remarks that it once held a regular slot called "The Donald Rumsfeld Soundbite of the Week" in which they played his most amusing comment from that week. Rumsfeld himself is said to have found the slot "hilarious." Rumsfeld's penchant for talking with his hands also made him the butt of jokes, including a series (http://www.poe-news.com/features.php?feat=31845) portraying him as a martial arts master.

Bush's decision to retain Rumsfeld for a second term after his re-election was controversial, both among Democrats and certain Republicans. During a 2004 meeting with US troops in Iraq, Rumsfeld responded to a soldier's comments about inferior military equipment by saying "you go to war with the army you have," a comment some characterized as needlessly cold. However, the whole response to the question lasted for about an hour and the soliders present gave Rumsfeld a standing ovation after the speech. There was also criticism about his use of a signature machine to sign the condolence letters to the families of the soldiers killed in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Donald Rumsfeld and Eritrean President Isaias Afewerki shake hands in Eritrea

External links

  • Works
    • What the Secretary Has Been Saying (http://www.defenselink.mil/speeches/secdef.html) official speeches and transcripts
    • Rumsfeld's Rules (http://www.opinionjournal.com/wsj/?id=85000505) advice on government, business and life, January 29, 2001
    • Strategic Imperatives in East Asia by Donald Rumsfeld (Heritage Foundation, 1998) ISBN B0006FCPRU
  • Biographies
    • White House Biography (http://www.whitehouse.gov/government/rumsfeld-bio.html)
    • Department of Defense Biography (http://www.defenselink.mil/bios/secdef_bio.html)
    • Rumsfeld's War: The Untold Story of America's Anti-Terrorist Commander by Rowan Scarborough (Regnery Publishing, 2004) ISBN 0895260697
    • Rumsfeld: A Personal Portrait by Midge Decter (Regan Books, 2003) ISBN 0060560916
    • The Rumsfeld Way: The Leadership Wisdom of a Battle-Hardened Maverick by Jeffrey A. Krames (McGraw-Hill, 2002) ISBN 0071406417
  • Directories
    • Looksmart - Donald Rumsfeld (http://search.looksmart.com/p/browse/us1/us317828/us317851/us4225550/us1141249/us1141409/us1141463/) directory category
    • Yahoo! - Donald Rumsfeld (http://dir.yahoo.com/Government/U_S__Government/Executive_Branch/Departments_and_Agencies/Department_of_Defense__DOD_/Office_of_the_Secretary/Rumsfeld__Donald___Secretary_of_Defense/) directory category
  • Articles
    • The Saddam in Rumsfeld's Closet, Jeremy Scahill (http://www.zmag.org/content/showarticle.cfm?SectionID=15&ItemID=2177)
    • Crude Vision: How Oil Interests Obscured US Government Focus On Chemical Weapons Use by Saddam Hussein (http://www.ips-dc.org/crudevision/index.htm), Institute for Policy Studies, March 24, 2003
    • Close-Up: Young Rumsfeld (http://www.theatlantic.com/issues/2003/11/mann.htm), James Mann, The Atlantic Monthly, November 2003
    • 'This is war' Rumsfeld told Bush, (http://washingtontimes.com/national/20040223-012306-4708r.htm) Washington Times, February 23, 2004
    • Conspiracy theory about Rumsfeld (http://www.mabus.biz/who/rumsfeld)
    • Donald Rumsfeld caught lying about weapons of mass destruction (http://www.moveon.org/censure/caughtonvideo/)
    • ABB to deliver systems, equipment to North Korean nuclear plants (http://www.abb.com/global/abbzh/abbzh251.nsf!OpenDatabase&db=/global/abbzh/abbzh250.nsf&v=553E&e=&url=/global/seitp/seitp202.nsf/0/C1256C290031524B4125686C00433604!OpenDocument) ABB News Release, January 20, 2000
Wikiquote has a collection of quotations related to:
  • Rumsfeld's political donations (http://www.newsmeat.com/washington_political_donations/Donald_Rumsfeld.php)

Preceded by:
Alexander Haig
White House Chief of Staff
Succeeded by:
Dick Cheney
Preceded by:
James R. Schlesinger
Secretary of Defense
Succeeded by:
Harold Brown
Preceded by:
William S. Cohen
Secretary of Defense
Succeeded by:
Current incumbent

  Results from FactBites:
Donald Rumsfeld - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia (3334 words)
Rumsfeld resigned from Congress in 1969 during his fourth term to serve in the Nixon Administration as Director of the United States Office of Economic Opportunity, Assistant to the President, and a member of the President's Cabinet (1969-1970); Counselor to the President, Director of the Economic Stabilization Program; and member of the President's Cabinet (1971-1972).
Rumsfeld was a founder and active member of the Project for the New American Century, whose goal is to "promote American global leadership" and which in September 2000 proposed to invade Iraq.
Rumsfeld himself is said to have found the slot "hilarious." Rumsfeld's penchant for talking with his hands also made him the butt of jokes, including a series portraying him as a martial arts master.
  More results at FactBites »



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