Don Rumsfeld Staying on as Defense Secretary

Rumsfeld to stay on as defense secretary (Newsday – AP)

Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld, whose future has been in doubt amid spreading violence and U.S. deaths in Iraq, was asked by President Bush on Friday to remain at the Pentagon in the administration’s second term, a senior official said. Bush and Rumsfeld decided on the secretary’s future during an Oval Office meeting. Whether or not Rumsfeld would remain had been the last big question mark about Bush’s Cabinet for his second term. Rumsfeld’s tenure has been marked by unanticipated postwar violence in Iraq and more than 1,250 U.S. deaths, as well as enormous increases in spending on the military after the 9-11 attacks. Describing Bush’s decision, the administration official said the president believed Rumsfeld was “the right person at this moment in our history in fighting the war on terror to lead our armed forces.”

The secretary’s future had been the subject of much speculation, after revelations about abuses at Abu Ghraib and other U.S.-run prisons in Iraq. Though Bush steadfastly backed his defense chief — one of the more hawkish members of his administration — the acerbic-tongued 72-year-old had many detractors in Congress and the military. It had been widely believed at the Pentagon that Rumsfeld wanted to stay on, at least for a time, in order to oversee the continuing transition in Iraq and shepherd his plan for a fundamental transformation and modernization of the U.S. military.

Rumsfeld is the oldest person to serve as secretary of defense. He also was the youngest, having served during the Ford administration in the mid-1970s. He has a longtime government relationship with Vice President Dick Cheney, dating back to the Ford years.

It’s unclear to me who it was that doubted Bush’s confidence in Rumsfeld. It has been rather obvious that the two have an excellent working relationship. Further, the fact that Colin Powell, the outlyer in the Bush foreign policy team, is the one not staying on for the second term should have been a clarion signal.

That Rumsfeld was both the youngest and now the oldest SecDef is an interesting fact, indeed. If you didn’t know that before, you can now add that to your list of known knowns.

FILED UNDER: Military Affairs
James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College and a nonresident senior fellow at the Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.


  1. Kappiy says:

    I think the folks suggesting the Bush’s confidence in Rumsfeld was waning are those distraught military brass who are having to implement his radical policies.

    It was clear that Rumsfeld’s departure would have been interpreted by many as a recognition that the Iraq quagmire has been a failure. Bush, of course, rarely lets the stubborn facts of reality impede his own delusional lofty notion of one the most tragic examples of ideologically-driven ineptitude the world has seen in the past half-century.

  2. Attila Girl says:

    Bush, of course, rarely lets the stubborn facts of reality impede his own delusional lofty notion of one the most tragic examples of ideologically-driven ineptitude the world has seen in the past half-century.

  3. SFC Ski says:

    Rumsfeld is a mixed blessing for the military. ONe one hand it DOES take a strong tenacious SecDef with a vision and will to transform the hidebound bureacracy that is the Pentagon; one the other hand, Rumsfeld and his cronies may know management and buiness models but they do not know warfighting, and that is the downside of Rumsfeld and his supporters involvement as Secretary of Defense. He was wrong not wrong on the strategy of fighting the Iraq War, but he was wrong in using his (and his advisor’s) assessment of post-war IRaq, and the actions he took by following that assessment have hampered the warfighters on the ground.
    IN short, Rumsfeld is right to oppose the generals when they want to continue to prepare to fight the Cold War over and over again in the future, but he is wrong to ignore their advice when it comes to fighting a conflict here and now.