Rumsfeld Worked to Transform Defense Department During Tenure

By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Nov. 8, 2006 - Donald H. Rumsfeld, who resigned today as the longest-serving defense secretary in U.S. history, took office with a mandate from President Bush to transform the Defense Department.

This took on even more urgency when al Qaeda attacked the United States on Sept. 11, 2001.

That day, Rumsfeld felt the shock of the aircraft hitting the Pentagon and went into the courtyard. He helped triage the wounded in the courtyard before heading back to the National Military Command Center to start fighting back.

Rumsfeld helped craft the strategy that struck back at the Taliban in Afghanistan. He pushed for a flexible, mobile military response to Al Qaeda. U.S. special operations forces worked with Afghans from the Northern Alliance and from Pashtuns affiliated with Hamid Karzai to topple the Taliban regime. The secretary loved to show off a photo of an Army Special Forces soldier on horseback calling in smart bombs to strike Taliban targets.

Rumsfeld often said that picture showed new thinking that is key to the transition of the U.S. military to confront the threats of the future. He believed capabilities are more important than manpower in this new transformational military.

Rumsfeld took other steps, as well. He helped stand up U.S. Northern Command, amalgamated U.S. Space Command and U.S. Strategic Command into one joint command, and gave more responsibility to the Special Operations Command. Under Rumsfeld's leadership, U.S. Joint Forces Command grew and realized its potential as the laboratory for joint doctrine.

A combined, joint force rolled into Baghdad in April 2003, and Rumsfeld visited soon after the capital fell. He saw the conditions on the ground and understood that Iraq is a battleground in the overall war on terror.

Rumsfeld has stressed that America is at war and has often said that the enemy wants to destroy the American way of life.

Rumsfeld's news conferences in the Pentagon became "must-see TV" as he engaged in repartee with the Pentagon press corps during nearly six years in office.

Rumsfeld is 74 and first served as defense secretary during the Ford administration. Rumsfeld graduated from Princeton University in 1954. Following military service as a Navy aviator, he was elected to Congress. He served as a cabinet secretary under President Nixon and as U.S. ambassador to NATO. He served as White House chief of staff under President Ford before becoming defense secretary.

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