Donald Rumsfeld

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Donald Rumsfeld : biography

July 9, 1932 –

Rumsfeld married his high school sweetheart Joyce H. Pierson on December 27, 1954. They have three children and six grandchildren. He attempted to get his law degree in 1956, and attended Georgetown University Law Center, but did not graduate.

Rumsfeld served in the United States Navy from 1954 to 1957, as a naval aviator and flight instructor. His initial training was in the North American SNJ Texan basic trainer after which he transitioned to flying the Grumman F9F Panther fighter. In 1957, he transferred to the Naval Reserve and continued his naval service in flying and administrative assignments as a drilling reservist. On July 1, 1958, he was assigned to Anti-submarine Squadron 662 at Naval Air Station Anacostia, District of Columbia, as a selective reservist. Rumsfeld was designated aircraft commander of Anti-submarine Squadron 731 on October 1, 1960, at Naval Air Station Grosse Ile, Michigan, where he flew the S2F Tracker. He transferred to the Individual Ready Reserve when he became Secretary of Defense in 1975 and retired with the rank of captain in 1989.

Electoral history

During the four elections during which he ran to represent Illinois’s 13th congressional district, Rumsfeld received shares of the popular vote that ranged from 57.82% (in 1964) to 76.01% (in 1966). In 1975 and 2001, Rumsfeld was overwhelmingly confirmed by the U.S. Senate after Presidents Gerald Ford and George W. Bush, respectively, appointed him as U.S. Secretary of Defense.

Return to the private sector (1977–2000)

Business career

In early 1977 Rumsfeld briefly lectured at Princeton’s Woodrow Wilson School and Northwestern’s Kellogg School of Management, located in Chicago, Illinois near his home town of Evanston. His sights instead turned to business, and from 1977 to 1985 Rumsfeld served as Chief Executive Officer, President, and then Chairman of G. D. Searle & Company, a worldwide pharmaceutical company based in Skokie, Illinois. During his tenure at Searle, Rumsfeld led the company’s financial turnaround, thereby earning awards as the Outstanding Chief Executive Officer in the Pharmaceutical Industry from the Wall Street Transcript (1980) and Financial World (1981). In 1985, Searle was sold to Monsanto Company. Rumsfeld is believed to have earned around $12 million from this sale.

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.

From January 1997 until being sworn in as the 21st Secretary of Defense in January 2001, Rumsfeld served as Chairman of Gilead Sciences, Inc. Gilead Sciences is the developer of Tamiflu (Oseltamivir), which is used in the treatment of bird flu. As a result, Rumsfeld’s holdings in the company grew significantly when avian flu became a subject of popular anxiety during his later term as Secretary of Defense. Following standard practice, Rumsfeld recused himself from any decisions involving Gilead, and he directed the Pentagon’s General Counsel to issue instructions outlining what he could and could not be involved in if there were an avian flu pandemic and the Pentagon had to respond.

Part-time public service

During his business career, Rumsfeld continued part-time public service in various posts. In November 1983, Rumsfeld was appointed Special Envoy to the Middle East by President Ronald Reagan, at a turbulent time in modern Middle Eastern history when Iraq was fighting Iran in the Iran–Iraq War. The United States wished for the conflict to end, and Rumsfeld was sent to the Middle East to serve as a mediator on behalf of the President.

When Rumsfeld visited Baghdad on December 20, 1983, he met Saddam Hussein at Saddam’s palace and had a 90-minute discussion. They largely agreed on opposing Syria’s occupation of Lebanon; preventing Syrian and Iranian expansion; and preventing arms sales to Iran. Rumsfeld suggested that if U.S.-Iraq relations could improve the U.S. might support a new oil pipeline across Jordan, which Iraq had opposed but was now willing to reconsider. Rumsfeld also informed Iraqi Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Minister Tariq Aziz that "Our efforts to assist were inhibited by certain things that made it difficult for us … citing the use of chemical weapons."Graham, By His Own Rules (2009) pp 159–60