Miller Center

American President

A Reference Resource

Donald H. Rumsfeld (2001–2006): Secretary of Defense

Donald Henry Rumsfeld was born in Chicago, Illinois, in 1932. He received an A.B from Princeton University in 1954 and served in the U.S. Navy from 1954 to 1957 as an aviator.

Rumsfeld was a member of the House of Representatives from Illinois (1962-1970). During the administration of Richard M. Nixon, he was director of the Ofice of Economic Opportunity (1969-1970) and director of the Economic Stabilization Program (1971-1972). Following his time in the Nixon administration, Rumsfeld served as U.S. ambassador to NATO in Brussels, Belgium (1973-1974).

President Gerald R. Ford brought Rumsfeld into the White House to chair the transition to the Ford presidency; Rumsfeld eventually became Ford's chief of staff (1974-1975) before moving to the Pentagon as secretary of defense (1975-1977).

Rumsfeld worked in the private sector for several years as the chief executive officer, president, and chairman of G.D. Searle & Co. (1977-1985) before turning to private business (1985-1990). From 1990 to 1993, he was chairman and C.E.O. of General Instrument Corporation, a technology firm, and chairman of Gilead Science, Inc., a pharmaceutical company.

While in the private sector, Rumsfeld remained involved in matters of state, serving as a member of the President's General Advisory Committee on Arms Control (1982-1986) and as a special envoy to the Middle East (1983-1984). He was also member of the National Commission on the Public Service (1987-1990), a member of the the National Economic Commission (1988-1989), a member of the Board of Visitors of the National Defense University (1988-1992), and a member of the Commission on U.S./Japan Relations (1989-1991).

In addition, Rumsfeld concerned himself with national security matters in a number of capacities, as chairman of the Commission on the Ballistic Missile Threat to the United States (1998-1999) and as chairman of the U.S. Commission to Assess National Security Space Management and Orgainization.

President George W. Bush appointed Rumsfeld secretary of defense in 2001. He served in that capacity until 2006, when he resigned.