Donald Henry Rumsfeld (born July 9, 1932) is an American politician and businessman. Rumsfeld served as the 13th Secretary of Defense from 1975 to 1977 under President Gerald Ford, and as the 21st Secretary of Defense from 2001 to 2006 under President George W. Bush. He is both the youngest and the oldest person to have served as Secretary of Defense. Additionally, Rumsfeld was a four-term U.S. Congressman from Illinois(1962–1969), Director of the Office of Economic Opportunity (1969–1970), Counsellor to the President (1969–1973), the United States Permanent Representative to NATO (1973–1974), and White House Chief of Staff (1974–1975).
Born in Illinois, Rumsfeld attended Princeton University, graduating in 1954 with a degree in political science. After serving in the Navy for three years, he mounted a campaign for Congress in Illinois’ 13th Congressional District, winning in 1962 at the age of 30. He was a leading co-sponsor of theFreedom of Information Act. Rumsfeld reluctantly accepted an appointment by President Richard Nixon to head the Office of Economic Opportunity in 1969; appointed Counselor by Nixon and entitled to Cabinet-level status, he would also head up the Economic Stabilization Program before being appointed Ambassador to NATO. Called back to Washington in August 1974, Rumsfeld was appointed Chief of Staff by President Ford, and soon successfully urged Ford to veto an expansion of the Freedom of Information Act, though the veto was easily overridden. He recruited a young one-time staffer of his, former Congressman Dick Cheney, to succeed him when Ford nominated Rumsfeld Secretary of Defense in 1975.
When Ford lost the 1976 election, Rumsfeld returned to private business life, and was named president of G. D. Searle & Company, a noted pharmaceutical company, during which time he led the legalization of Aspartame. He was later named CEO of General Instrument from 1990 to 1993, and chairman of Gilead Sciences from 1997 to 2001.
Rumsfeld was recommended for the position of Defense Secretary by incoming Vice President Dick Cheney in late 2000, and was appointed in January 2001 by President George W. Bush. His tenure has been noted to be one of the most pivotal in recent history; as one of the key individuals responsible for the restructuring of the military in the new 21st century, Rumsfeld was crucial in planning the United States’ response to theSeptember 11, 2001 attacks, which included two wars (one in Afghanistan and one in Iraq). Highly popular with the media for his outspokenness and candor, he gradually lost political support as the wars continued and resigned in late 2006. He has since published his autobiography Known and Unknown: A Memoir.
Career in government (1962–1977)
Member of Congress
In 1957, during the Dwight D. Eisenhower administration, Rumsfeld served as Administrative Assistant to David S. Dennison, Jr., a Congressman representing the 11th district of Ohio. In 1959, he moved on to become a staff assistant to Congressman Robert P. Griffin of Michigan. Engaging in a two-year stint with an investment banking firm, A. G. Becker, from 1960 to 1962,Rumsfeld would instead set his sights on becoming a member of Congress.
He was elected to the United States House of Representatives for Illinois’ 13th congressional district in 1962, at the age of 30, and was re-elected by large majorities in 1964, 1966, and 1968.While in Congress, he served on the Joint Economic Committee, the Committee on Science and Aeronautics, and the Government Operations Committee, as well as on the Subcommittees on Military and Foreign Operations. He was also a co-founder of the Japanese-American Inter-Parliamentary Council in addition to being a leading cosponsor of the Freedom of Information Act.
As a young Congressman, Rumsfeld attended seminars at the University of Chicago, an experience he credits with introducing him to the idea of an all volunteer military, and to the economistMilton Friedman and the Chicago School of Economics. He would later take part in Friedman’s PBS series Free to Choose.
Return to the private sector (1977–2000)
In early 1977 Rumsfeld briefly lectured at Princeton’s Woodrow Wilson School and Northwestern’s Kellogg School of Management, located in Chicago, Illinois near his home town of Evanston. His sights instead turned to business, and from 1977 to 1985 Rumsfeld served as Chief Executive Officer, President, and then Chairman of G. D. Searle & Company, a worldwide pharmaceutical company based in Skokie, Illinois. During his tenure at Searle, Rumsfeld led the company’s financial turnaround, thereby earning awards as the Outstanding Chief Executive Officer in the Pharmaceutical Industry from the Wall Street Transcript (1980) and Financial World (1981). In 1985, Searle was sold to Monsanto Company. Rumsfeld is believed to have earned around $12 million from this sale.
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.
From January 1997 until being sworn in as the 21st Secretary of Defense in January 2001, Rumsfeld served as Chairman of Gilead Sciences, Inc. Gilead Sciences is the developer of Tamiflu (Oseltamivir), which is used in the treatment of bird flu. As a result, Rumsfeld’s holdings in the company grew significantly when avian flu became a subject of popular anxiety during his later term as Secretary of Defense. Following standard practice, Rumsfeld recused himself from any decisions involving Gilead, and he directed the Pentagon’s General Counsel to issue instructions outlining what he could and could not be involved in if there were an avian flu pandemic and the Pentagon had to respond.
Presidential and vice presidential aspirations
During 1976 Republican National Convention, Rumsfeld received one vote for Vice President of the United States, although he did not seek the office, and the nomination was easily won by Ford’s choice, Senator Bob Dole. During the 1980 Republican National Convention he also received one vote for Vice President. Economist Milton Friedman later noted that he, Friedman, regarded Reagan’s pick of Bush as “the worst decision not only of his campaign but of his presidency,” and that Rumsfeld was instead his preference. “Had he been chosen,” Friedman said, “I believe he would have succeeded Reagan as president and the sorry Bush-Clinton period would never have occurred.”
Rumsfeld briefly sought the Presidential nomination in 1988, but withdrew from the race before primaries began. During the 1996 election he initially formed a presidential exploratory committee, but declined to formally enter the race. He was instead named national chairman for Republican nominee Bob Dole‘s campaign.
Rumsfeld was awarded the “Defender of the Constitution Award” at the 2011 Conservative Political Action Conference in Washington, D.C., on February 10, 2011. After leaving office, Rumsfeld repeatedly criticized former fellow Cabinet member Condoleezza Rice, Secretary of State. In 2011 she finally responded, saying that Rumsfeld “doesn’t know what he’s talking about.”
Also, in February 2011, Rumsfeld endorsed the repeal of the military’s Don’t Ask Don’t Tell policy, saying that allowing gays and lesbians to openly serve “is an idea whose time has come.”