Until being sworn in as the 21st Secretary of Defense of the United States, Mr. Rumsfeld was in private business. Born in Chicago, Illinois, in 1932, he attended Princeton University on scholarship (AB, 1954) and served in the United States Navy (1954-57) as a Naval aviator.
He went to Washington, DC, in 1957, during the Eisenhower Administration, to serve as Administrative Assistant to a Congressman. After a stint with an investment banking firm, he was elected to the U.S. House of Representatives from Illinois in 1962, at the age of 30, and was re-elected in 1964, 1966, and 1968.
Mr. Rumsfeld resigned from Congress in 1969 during his fourth term to serve in the Nixon Administration as:
Director of the Office of Economic Opportunity, Assistant to the President, and a member of the President's Cabinet (1969-1970); and, as Counsellor to the President, Director of the Economic Stabilization Program, and a member of the President's Cabinet (1971-1972). In 1973, he left Washington, DC, to serve as U.S. Ambassador to the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) in Brussels, Belgium (1973-1974).
In August 1974, he was called back to Washington, DC, to serve in the Ford Administration successively as:
Chairman of the transition to the Presidency of Gerald R. Ford (1974); Chief of Staff of the White House and a member of the President's Cabinet (1974-1975); and, 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 worldwide 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). From 1985 to 1990 he was in private business.
Mr. 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, Mr. Rumsfeld returned to private business in late 1993. Until being sworn in as the 21st Secretary of Defense, Mr. Rumsfeld served as Chairman of Gilead Sciences, Inc.
During his business career, Mr. Rumsfeld continued public service in a variety of posts, including:
Member of the President's General Advisory Committee on Arms Control - Reagan Administration (1982 - 1986); President Reagan's Special Envoy on the Law of the Sea Treaty (1982 - 1983); Senior Advisor to President Reagan's Panel on Strategic Systems (1983 - 1984); Member of the U.S. Joint Advisory Commission on U.S./Japan Relations - Reagan Administration (1983 - 1984); President Reagan's Special Envoy to the Middle East (1983 - 1984); Member of the National Commission on the Public Service (1987 - 1990); Member of the National Economic Commission (1988 - 1989); Member of the Board of Visitors of the National Defense University (1988 - 1992); Member of the Commission on U.S./Japan Relations (1989 - 1991); FCC's High Definition Television Advisory Committee (1992 - 1993); Chairman, Commission on the Ballistic Missile Threat to the United States (1998 - 1999); Member of the U.S. Trade Deficit Review Commission (1999 - 2000); and Chairman of the U.S. Commission to Assess National Security Space Management and Organization (2000).
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 Eisenhower Exchange Fellowships, the Hoover Institution at Stanford University, and the National Park Foundation. He was also a member of the U.S./Russia Business Forum and Chairman of the Congressional Leadership's National Security Advisory Group.
In 1977, Mr. Rumsfeld was awarded the nation's highest civilian award, the Presidential Medal of Freedom.
Source: U.S. Department of Defense