Born in July 1932 in Chicago, Rumsfeld graduated from Princeton University in 1954. He then spent three years in the U.S. Navy as an aviator and flight instructor. Following his naval service, Rumsfeld worked in Washington as an assistant to two different congressmen and then, between 1960 and 1962, at a Chicago investment banking firm.
Elected to the House of Representatives from Illinois in 1962, he served four terms. In 1969 he resigned from Congress to join the Nixon administration as an assistant to the president and director of the Office of Economic Opportunity; later he served as counselor to the president and director of the Cost of Living Council.
In February 1973 he became US ambassador to the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, returning to Washington in August 1974 to head Gerald Ford’s transition team. He then worked as assistant to the president, directing the White House Office of Operations and serving as coordinator of the White House Staff.
Sworn in on November 20, 1975, Rumsfeld became the youngest secretary of defense ever at the age 43. He went on to serve exactly 14 months in the office, until the end of President Ford’s administration.
As secretary, Rumsfeld moved ahead with several proposed weapon systems including the B-1 bomber, the Trident nuclear submarine program, and the MX missile. He personally piloted a test version of the B-1 bomber and authorized the Air Force to execute the initial contracts for its production.
He also served as Presidential Envoy to the Middle East (1983-84), Chairman of the Rand Corporation (1981-86; 1995-96) and as Chairman and CEO of G. D. Searle & Co. (1977-85) and of General Instrument Corporation (1990-93). He received the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 1977.
In 1996, he reentered the political fray serving as Republican Senator Bob Dole’s national campaign chairman.
Most recently, Donald Rumsfeld served as chairman of the Ballistic Missile Threat Commission that found an increasing threat of missile attack on the United States.