About Donald Rumsfeld

The 13th and 21st U.S. Secretary of Defense, Donald Rumsfeld published his number one New York Times bestselling memoir, Known and Unknown, in 2011.  The book spans his career and includes extensive primary source documentation on his supporting website.  His second book, Rumsfeld’s Rules will be published in May, 2013.

Mr. Rumsfeld chairs the non-profit Rumsfeld Foundation with his wife, Joyce.  The foundation supports microfinance development projects in 16 countries, fellowships for graduate students interested in public service in 15 colleges and universities, exchange programs for young leaders from nations in Central Asia and the Caucasus, and charitable causes that benefit the men and women of the U.S. Armed Forces and their families. All of his proceeds from the sales of his memoir go to the 36 military charities sponsored by the Rumsfeld Foundation. 

Donald Rumsfeld completed his second tour as the 21st Secretary of Defense on December 18, 2006.  During his tenure, Secretary Rumsfeld led the Defense Department in the response to the terrorist attacks on September 11, 2001, to include the liberation of Afghanistan from the Taliban and Al Qaeda, the liberation of Iraq from the regime of Saddam Hussein, and overseeing the reform and transformation of America’s Armed Forces to be better able to meet the challenges of the 21st Century.

Rumsfeld attended Princeton University on scholarships (B.A., 1954) and served in the U.S. Navy (1954-57) as an aviator, a flight instructor, and as an instructor of flight instructors.  He ended his service in the Naval Reserve as a Captain when he became Secretary of Defense in 1975.

In 1957, he came to Washington, D.C. to serve as Administrative Assistant to a Congressman. After a stint with an investment banking firm, he ran and was elected to the U.S. House of Representatives from Illinois in 1962, at the age of 30. He was re-elected in 1964, 1966, and 1968.

He resigned from Congress in 1969, during his fourth term, to join President Nixon’s Cabinet. He first served simultaneously as the Director of the Office of Economic Opportunity, Assistant to the President, and member of the Cabinet (1969-1970). From 1971 to 1972, he was Counsellor to the President, Director of the Economic Stabilization Program, and a member of the Cabinet.

In 1973, Mr. Rumsfeld left Washington, D.C. to serve as U.S. Ambassador to the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) in Belgium (1973-1974).

In August 1974, he was called back to Washington, D.C. to serve as Chairman of the transition to the Presidency of Gerald R. Ford. He later became White House Chief of Staff 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 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).  Mr. Rumsfeld served as Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of General Instrument Corporation from 1990 to 1993.  Until being sworn in as the 21st Secretary of Defense, Mr. Rumsfeld was a member and then Chairman of the Board of Gilead Sciences, Inc., a pharmaceutical company from 1988 to 2001.

During his business career, Mr. Rumsfeld continued his public service in a variety of Federal posts, including:

  • Member of President Reagan’s General Advisory Committee on Arms Control (1982-1986);
  • Special Presidential (Reagan) Envoy on the Law of the Sea Treaty (1982-1983);
  • Special Presidential (Reagan) Envoy to the Middle East (1983-1984);
  • Member of the U.S. Joint Advisory Commission on U.S./Japan Relations (1983-1984);
  • Member of the National Commission on Public Service (1987-1990);
  • Member of the National Economic Commission (1988-1989);
  • Member of the Commission on U.S./Japan Relations (1989-1991); and
  • Member of the U.S. Trade Deficit Review Commission (1999-2000).

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.

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., as well as service on a number of corporate boards of directors.

Mr. Rumsfeld has been awarded 11 honorary degrees and has received foreign awards and honors from the Republic of Korea, Latvia, Mexico, Nicaragua, Poland, Romania, Taiwan, and Ukraine.

In 1977, Mr. Rumsfeld was awarded our country’s highest civilian award, the Presidential Medal of Freedom.

Rumsfeld and his wife, Joyce, currently reside in New Mexico and spend time in Montana, Maryland, and Washington, D.C. They have three children and seven grandchildren.


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