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 under President Gerald Ford as the 13th Secretary of Defense from 1975 to 1977, making him also the youngest person to have held the job. 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 six grandchildren.
Born in Chicago, Illinois, of German descent (his grandfather was originally from Bremen in Northern Germany), Donald Rumsfeld attended Princeton University on scholarship (BA, 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 investment banking firm A. G. Becker from 1960 to 1962, 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).
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.
As part of the Ford administration, Rumsfeld helped formulate the White House response to the death via LSD of CIA scientist Frank Olson. Olson, a participant in the controversial MKULTRA project, was determined to be a security risk after developing moral qualms about his work on mind control experiments, deciding to leave his government work and become a dentist. Unwittingly given LSD and apparently thrown to his death out a hotel window in 1953, the circumstances of Olson's death remained a mystery to his family until they were unearthed by the congressional Church Committee investigation into the CIA's domestic activities. In response to their threat to sue the United States government, White House staffers Rumsfeld and Dick Cheney reportedly warned President Gerald Ford that a lawsuit concerning Frank Olson could result in the public disclosure of additional and related measures taken in the interest of national security that could extend popular disatisfaction with the intelligence community and federal government. An out of court settlement was offered, along with personal meetings between the Olson family and the White House. The White House maintained, however, that Olson's death was a suicide, a detail that remained unchallenged until an exhumation of Olson's body suggested the scientist had been murdered. The exhumation was inspired by the Olson family's discovery of a CIA manual on interrogation that recomended drugging a subject before throwing them out a window. The full story was reported in late 2004 by The Baltimore Sun in a story reprinted in papers around the country, including here in the San Francisco Chronicle.
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.
In 1977, Rumsfeld was awarded the nation's highest civilian award, the Presidential Medal of Freedom.
From 1977 to 1985 Rumsfeld served as Chief Executive Officer, President, and then Chairman of G.D. Searle & Company, 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 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.
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 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 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.
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 considered canceling his participation at a conference in Munich but was able to attend after the complaint had not been accepted. )
Recently a federal suit has been filed against Rumsfeld in his home state of Illinois by 8 men who were tortured while at Abu Ghraib prison.
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 controvertially 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 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 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. The 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.
Documentaries and reports
The Saddam in Rumsfeld's Closet, Jeremy Scahill
Crude Vision: How Oil Interests Obscured US Government Focus On Chemical Weapons Use by Saddam Hussein, Institute for Policy Studies, March 24, 2003
Close-Up: Young Rumsfeld, James Mann, The Atlantic Monthly, November 2003
'This is war' Rumsfeld told Bush, Washington Times, February 23, 2004
Conspiracy theory about Rumsfeld
Donald Rumsfeld caught lying about weapons of mass destruction
ABB to deliver systems, equipment to North Korean nuclear plants ABB News Release, January 20, 2000
Quotations and humor
|- style="text-align: center;" | width="30%" |Preceded by:
James R. Schlesinger | width="40%" style="text-align: center;" |Secretary of Defense
1975–1977 | width="30%" |Succeeded by:
|- style="text-align: center;" | width="30%" |Preceded by:
William S. Cohen | width="40%" style="text-align: center;" |Secretary of Defense
2001 – present (a) | width="30%" |Succeeded by: