Donald Rumsfeld


Donald Rumsfeld : biography

July 9, 1932 –


  • Princeton University: A.B. (1954)

Intellectual heritage

  • John Boyd of OODA Loop fame.


Rumsfeld has been awarded 11 honorary degrees. Following his years as CEO, president, and later chairman of G. D. Searle & Company, he was recognized as Outstanding CEO in the pharmaceutical industry by the Wall Street Transcript (1980) and Financial World (1981).

His other awards include:

  • The Presidential Medal of Freedom (with Distinction) by President Ford (1977)
  • Royal Order of the Intare by King Kigeli V of Rwanda
  • George C. Marshall Medal by the Association of the U.S. Army (1984)
  • Woodrow Wilson Medal by Princeton University (1985)
  • Dwight D. Eisenhower Medal (1993)
  • Lone Sailor Award by the U.S. Navy Memorial Foundation (2002)
  • Statesmanship Award by the U.S. Assoc of Former Members of Congress (2003)
  • James H. Doolittle Award by the Hudson Institute (2003)
  • Gerald R. Ford Medal presented by President Ford and the Ford Foundation (2004)
  • Distinguished Eagle Scout Award by the Boy Scouts of America
  • Grand Cross of the Order of Merit of the Republic of Poland (2005)
  • Union League of Philadelphia Gold Medal for Citizenship (2006)
  • Claremont Institute Statesmanship Award (2007)
  • Victory of Freedom Award from the Richard Nixon Foundation (2010)
  • Order of Anthony Wayne from Valley Forge Military Academy
  • Special Grand Cordon of the Order of Brilliant Star (2011, Republic of China)

Return to government (2001–2006)

Rumsfeld was named Secretary of Defense soon after President George W. Bush took office in 2001 despite Rumsfeld’s past rivalry with the previous President Bush. Bush’s first choice, FedEx founder Fred Smith, was unavailable and Vice President-elect Cheney recommended Rumsfeld for the job.Bush, George W. (2010), pp. 83–84

Rumsfeld’s second tenure as Secretary of Defense cemented him as the most powerful Pentagon chief since Robert McNamara and one of the most influential Cabinet members in the Bush administration. His tenure would prove to be a pivotal and rocky one which led the United States military into the 21st century. Following the September 11, 2001 attacks, Rumsfeld led the military planning and execution of the U.S. invasion of Afghanistan and the subsequent 2003 invasion of Iraq. He pushed hard to send as small a force as possible to both conflicts, a concept codified as the Rumsfeld Doctrine.

Throughout his time as Defense Secretary, Rumsfeld was noted for his candor and quick wit when giving weekly press conferences or speaking with the press. U.S. News & World Report called him "a straight-talking Midwesterner" who "routinely has the press corps doubled over in fits of laughter." By the same token, his leadership was exposed to much criticism through provocative books covering the Iraq conflict, like Bob Woodward’s State of Denial, Thomas E. Ricks’ Fiasco, and Seymour Hersh’s Chain of Command.

Modernizing the military

Rumsfeld’s initial task, as outlined by President Bush, was to modernize the military and transform it into a lighter fighting force. Once in office, Rumsfeld immediately announced a series of sweeping reviews intended to accomplish this, and developed a new strategy for defense more relevant to the 21st century. One of his proposals was to reorganize the DOD’s global command structure of Unified Combatant Commands. United States Space Command was deactivated and United States Northern Command was created. This plan was approved by President Bush and implemented under the oversight of Rumsfeld.

September 11, 2001

The United States was attacked on September 11, 2001 by al Qaeda terrorists who hijacked commercial airliners and crashed them in coordinated strikes into both towers of the World Trade Center in Lower Manhattan, New York City and the Pentagon in Washington, D.C. The fourth plane crashed into a field in Shanksville, Pennsylvania, and its target was likely a prominent building in Washington, D.C., most probably either the Capitol Building or the White House. Within three hours of the start of the first hijacking and two hours after American Airlines Flight 11 struck the World Trade Center, Rumsfeld raised the defense condition signaling of the United States offensive readiness to DEFCON 3, the highest it had been since the Arab-Israeli war in 1973.