Donald Rumsfeld

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Donald H. Rumsfeld
21st United States Secretary of Defense
From: January 20, 2001 – December 18, 2006
President George W. Bush
Predecessor William Cohen
Successor Robert Gates
13th United States Secretary of Defense
From: November 20, 1975 – January 20, 1977
President Gerald Ford
Predecessor James Schlesinger
Successor Harold Brown
Former U.S. Representative from Illinois's 13th Congressional District
From: January 3, 1963 – March 20, 1969
Predecessor Marguerite Church
Successor Phil Crane
Party Republican
Spouse(s) Joyce H. Pierson
Religion Presbyterian
Military Service
Allegiance United States
Service/branch United States Navy
Service Years 1954–1957 (active)
1957–1975 (reserves)
1975–1989 (Individual Ready Reserve)
Rank Captain

Donald Henry Rumsfeld (July 9, 1932 – June 30, 2021[1][2]) was the Secretary of Defense first under President Gerald Ford from 1975 to 1977 and second under George W. Bush from 2001 to 2006.

In his second term as Secretary, Rumsfeld showed an intense, unwavering commitment to military transformation—his vision of a leaner, more lethal Department of Defense. He performed brilliantly for the press and won over public opinion. However inside the Pentagon, he ran roughshod over the most experienced generals and admirals, who resented his resistance to professional advice. After 9-11, he directed the War in Afghanistan, which seemingly vindicated this concept of transformation. While the prospect of war in Iraq in 2003 promised a wider proving ground for it, the unexpected counterinsurgency campaign that followed undermined Rumsfeld's transformation and highlighted his failures in planning and his resistance to changing policies. In late 2006, Bush fired Rumsfeld, replacing him with Robert Gates, who changed strategies and commanders, thus calming the Iraq insurgency.

Early life and career

Born in Chicago, Donald Rumsfeld received his bachelor's degree in 1954 from Princeton University, where he captained the wrestling team. After serving three years (1954–57) in the Navy as an aviator, he worked as a congressional aide in Washington, and as an investment banker in Chicago.

Political career

In 1962, he won election as a Republican to the United States House of Representatives from the North Shore district of Illinois;[3] he was reelected in 1964,[4] 1966,[5] and 1968.[6]

GOP establishment revolt, 1964–65

See main article: GOP establishment revolt, 1964-1965

During his time in the House, Rumsfeld was a close ally of Moderate Republican then-representative Gerald Ford of Michigan. Following Republican defeats in the 1964 elections coinciding with Barry Goldwater's landslide defeat in the presidential race by incumbent Democrat Lyndon B. Johnson, Rumsfeld led the effort to replace conservative House Republican leader Charles A. Halleck with Ford,[2] which ultimately proved successful.[7] He later reflected in a 2009 interview:[8]

We thought that Gerald Ford would present a face for the Republican Party that would give us a better chance of increasing our numbers. Why be in Congress unless you are striving to be the majority party? Why would you not want to accomplish that? We felt we would have a much better chance with Gerald Ford.

Nixon and Ford

Rumsfeld gave up his safe congressional seat the following year to serve at the Office of Economic Opportunity and at the White House in the administration of President Richard Nixon. From 1973 to 1974 Rumsfeld was in Brussels, Belgium, as U.S. ambassador to the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO).

In August 1974, after Nixon resigned, Rumsfeld was summoned back to Washington to head President Ford's transition team. He then served as Ford's chief of staff until nominated and confirmed as Secretary of Defense. While at the Department of Defense he campaigned vigorously for increased defense spending, took an active role in Strategic Arms Limitation Talks (SALT) with the Soviet Union, and made his own test flight in an early version of the B-1 bomber.


After Ford lost the 1976 presidential election, Rumsfeld returned to the private sector, applying his tough-minded management style as chief executive officer, president, and chairman of the G. D. Searle pharmaceutical firm and in subsequent corporate assignments. He continued to speak out on defense issues and was a voice on several prestigious national commissions.


When George W. Bush was elected president in 2000, his transition manager, Vice-President-elect Dick Cheney, who had been Rumsfeld's protégé in both the Nixon and Ford administrations, recruited Rumsfeld to serve a second term as defense secretary.

Quickly confirmed by the Senate, Rumsfeld took office in January 2001. During his first seven months on the job, he sought, amid opposition, to restructure the military to meet the needs of the post-Cold War era. After al-Qaeda terrorists attacked the U.S. on September 11, using hijacked aircraft to strike Defense Department headquarters at the Pentagon and to destroy the World Trade Center, Rumsfeld was an outspoken champion of the Bush Administration's War on Terror. He oversaw the defeat of the Taliban regime in Afghanistan, which had aided al-Qaeda, and he presided over the largest military buildup since the early 1980s, disarming some media skeptics with his confidence and candor.


Once the war with the regime of dictator Saddam Hussein began, the rapid success of U.S.-led forces in ousting Saddam appeared to vindicate Rumsfeld's insistence on sophisticated weaponry, strategic flexibility, and preemptive action. However, after major combat operations ended, and U.S. liberation forces began to face daily attacks from Saddam supporters and other terrorists, critics charged that Rumsfeld had underestimated the problems involved. The criticism intensified in April 2004, with the release of photographs providing evidence of pranks carried out on Iraqi terrorist prisoners by a handful of U.S. military personnel at Baghdad's Abu Ghraib prison during the fall of 2003. Rumsfeld acknowledged in early 2005 that he had twice offered to resign after the Abu Ghraib revelations, but that President Bush had rejected the offers.

For most of 2005 and 2006, President Bush continued to back Rumsfeld but his strategy in Iraq had failed and he was a drag on the GOP. Finally, on November 8, 2006, the day after an election in which Democrats had captured control of Congress, Bush announced that Rumsfeld would step down; named to replace him was Robert Gates, a conservative who had headed the Central Intelligence Agency during the presidency of George H. W. Bush.


Rumsfeld resigned on 18 December 2006 after Democrats won the House and Senate by campaigning against the war and Rumsfeld's handling of the war in Iraq. A number of retired generals, including George Soros associated Gen. Clark, had called for his resignation.[9]

When he began his first term as defense secretary, he was the youngest person in U.S. history to hold that position; when he left office at the end of his second term, he was the oldest.

Positions on social issues

While Rumsfeld has not expressed support for same-sex "marriage", he has not condemn it, merely saying that he didn't know whether or not he supports phony homosexual marriages.[10] He supported homosexuals serving in the military.[11]

While he didn't express support for abortion, he has also failed to condemn it as so far, and his stance on the subject is unrecorded on On the Issues.[12]

Later life

In the 2016 presidential election, Rumsfeld endorsed Republican nominee Donald Trump over corrupt Democrat Hillary Clinton, stating:[13]

Donald Trump is a known unknown who's a recent entry into the equation. And I am a lot more comfortable with a known unknown, who I will support, than with a known known who is unacceptable.

When asked about George H. W. Bush's support of Clinton, he said that the 41st president was "up in years."[14]


  1. Byrnse, Jesse; Kheel, Rebecca (June 30, 2021). Former Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld dies at 88. The Hill. Retrieved June 30, 2021.
  2. 2.0 2.1 Greenwood, Max; Biette-Timmons, Nora (June 30, 2021). Former Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld Dies. Huffington Post. Retrieved June 30, 2021.
  3. IL District 13 Race - Nov 06, 1962. Our Campaigns. Retrieved June 30, 2021.
  4. IL District 13 Race - Nov 03, 1964. Our Campaigns. Retrieved June 30, 2021.
  5. IL District 13 Race - Nov 08, 1966. Our Campaigns. Retrieved June 30, 2021.
  6. IL District 13 Race - Nov 05, 1968. Our Campaigns. Retrieved June 30, 2021.
  7. Barnes, Bart (March 4, 1986). Ex-House Majority Leader Charles Halleck Dies at 85. The Washington Post. Retrieved June 30, 2021.
  8. Gerald R. Ford Oral History Project. Gerald R. Ford Foundation. Retrieved June 30, 2021.
  13. Stein, Sam (June 23, 2016). Donald Rumsfeld Endorses Trump, A Man Who Once Called Him A ‘Disaster’. Huffington Post. Retrieved June 30, 2021.
  14. Conway, Madeline (September 22, 2016). Rumsfeld on George H.W. Bush voting for Clinton: ‘He’s up in years’. Politico. Retrieved June 30, 2021.

Further reading

  • Graham, Bradley. By His Own Rules (2009), 803 pp. the best of the journalistic biographies