Rumsfeld, Donald Henry

Rumsfeld, Donald Henry, 1932–2021, American government official, b. Chicago, Princeton Univ. (B.A., 1954). After graduating college, Rumsfeld enlisted in the Navy as a jet plane pilot/instructor (1954-57), achieving the rank of lieutenant. A Republican with a reputation as a skilled political infighter, he was a congressman from Illinois from 1963 to 1969, when he resigned to become director of the Office of Economic Opportunity in the Nixon administration. Rumsfeld also served as U.S. ambassador to NATO (1971–73) under Nixon and later as President Ford's White House chief of staff (1974–75). In 1975, Rumsfeld was appointed secretary of defense; in that office he attempted to increase the military budget and deal with various problems of the troubled post–Vietnam War era. After 1977 he worked as a corporate executive until he was named President Ronald Reagan's special envoy to the Middle East (1983–84); he subsequently returned to the private sector.

In 2000, a quarter century after he first served as secretary of defense, he was appointed again to the office by President George W. Bush. Rumsfeld was an advocate of a national ballistic missile defense shield and flexible military forces, and his efforts to transform and modernize the military made him the most significant defense secretary since Robert McNamara. He also, however, became noted for blunt, sometimes undiplomatic public comments and statements, some of which alienated American allies, and for asserting his authority in a manner that alienated other government officials and some military officers. He was a key advocate for the U.S. invasion of Iraq, but he faced criticism when it failed to find weapons of mass destruction and led to an occupation that U.S. forces found more difficult than predicted, due in part to lack of adequate preparation. Rumsfeld's encouragement of interrogation techniques that led to the U.S. abuse and tormenting of Iraqi prisoners, as well as the ongoing insurgent and sectarian violence there, led to calls for his removal. He resigned in 2006 when the administration moved to change its strategy in Iraq; Robert M. Gates succeeded him.

See his memoir (2011), his study When the Center Held (2018); biography by B. Graham (2009); J. Mann, Rise of the Vulcans: The History of Bush's War Cabinet (2004); E. Morris, dir., The Unknown Known (documentary, 2013).

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