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Former Secretary of Defense
Donald H. Rumsfeld was sworn in as the 21st Secretary of Defense on January 20, 2001, and served until December 18, 2006. A former Navy pilot, Secretary Rumsfeld has also served as the 13th Secretary of Defense, White House Chief of Staff, U.S. Ambassador to NATO, U.S. Congressman and chief executive officer of two Fortune 500 companies.
Secretary Rumsfeld was responsible for directing the actions of the Defense Department in response to the terrorist attacks on September 11, 2001, to include Operation Enduring Freedom in Afghanistan and Operation Iraqi Freedom. He did so while overseeing the reform and transformation of America's military to better address the threats of the 21st Century. Secretary Rumsfeld proposed and the President approved a significant reorganization of the worldwide command structure, known as the Unified Command Plan, that resulted in the establishment of the U.S. Northern Command and the U.S. Strategic Command. Under Secretary Rumsfeld's leadership, the Department initiated the most significant change of the military's global posture in a generation -- away from a static, defensive Cold War posture to more flexible arrangements that enable U.S. forces to respond to any contingency.
The Department also refocused its space capabilities and fashioned a new concept of strategic deterrence that increases security while reducing strategic nuclear weapons. To help strengthen the deterrent, the missile defense research and testing program was reorganized and revitalized, free of the restraints of the ABM treaty.
Mr. Rumsfeld attended Princeton University on academic and NROTC scholarships (A.B., 1954) and served in the U.S. Navy (1954-57) as an aviator and flight instructor. In 1957, he transferred to the Ready Reserve and continued his Naval service in flying and administrative assignments as a drilling reservist until 1975. He transferred to the Standby Reserve when he became Secretary of Defense in 1975 and to the Retired Reserve with the rank of Captain in 1989.
In 1957, he came to Washington, DC to serve as Administrative Assistant to a Congressman. After a stint with an investment banking firm, he was elected to the U.S. House of Representatives from Illinois in 1962, at the age of 30, and was re-elected in 1964, 1966, and 1968.
Mr. Rumsfeld resigned from Congress in 1969 during his fourth term to join the President's Cabinet. From 1969 to 1970, he served as Director of the Office of Economic Opportunity and Assistant to the President. From 1971 to 1972, he was Counsellor to the President and Director of the Economic Stabilization Program. 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 as Chairman of the transition to the Presidency of Gerald R. Ford. He then became Chief of Staff of the White House and a member of the President's Cabinet (1974-1975). He served as the 13th U.S. Secretary of Defense, the youngest in the country's history (1975-1977).
From 1977 to 1985 he served as Chief Executive Officer, President, and then Chairman of G.D. Searle & Co., a worldwide pharmaceutical company. The successful turnaround there earned him awards as the Outstanding Chief Executive Officer in the Pharmaceutical Industry from the Wall Street Transcript (1980) and Financial World (1981). From 1985 to 1990 he was in private business.
Mr. Rumsfeld served as Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of General Instrument Corporation from 1990 to 1993. General Instrument Corporation was a leader in broadband transmission, distribution, and access control technologies. Until being sworn in as the 21st Secretary of Defense, Mr. Rumsfeld served as Chairman of the Board of Gilead Sciences, Inc., a pharmaceutical company.
Before returning for his second tour as Secretary of Defense, Mr. Rumsfeld chaired the bipartisan U.S. Ballistic Missile Threat Commission, in 1998, and the U.S. Commission to Assess National Security Space Management and Organization, in 2000.
During his business career, Mr. Rumsfeld continued his public service in a variety of Federal posts, including:
While in the private sector, Mr. 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 Hoover Institution at Stanford University, and the National Park Foundation, and as Chairman of the Eisenhower Exchange Fellowships, Inc.
In 1977, Mr. Rumsfeld was awarded the nation's highest civilian award, the Presidential Medal of Freedom.
Rumsfeld resigned as Secretary of Defense in 2006.