Donald Rumsfeld served as the 13th Secretary of Defense from 1975 to 1977 under President Gerald Ford, and as the 21st Secretary of Defense from 2001 to 2006 under President George W. Bush. He is both the youngest and the oldest person to have served as Secretary of Defense. Rumsfeld was a four-term U.S. Congressman from Illinois (1962–1969), Director of the Office of Economic Opportunity (1969–1970), Counsellor to the President (1969–1973), the United States Permanent Representative to NATO (1973–1974), and White House Chief of Staff (1974–1975). His bestselling memoir, Known and Unknown, is now out in paperback.
Donald Rumsfeld: People in the military end up having a set of skills and characteristics often that are not well understood in the private sector. I've served in the private sector in corporations as well as in the government and as well as in the military, and these young men and women who leave the military come out having served, number one they have initiative. They're the ones who volunteered. They self-selected. No one forced them to do it, so we know right off the bat that they're the kind of an individual, male or female, who said, “I want to serve and I'm willing to go do that. And I know it's hard, but I'm willing to do that.”
Second, in the military they are given a lot of responsibility at very young ages. The equipment is complicated. The risks are there. The problem of, at each level, leading people who are at a lower level and then moving up to the next level gives them a sense of responsibility and a set of experiences and maturity that most people, young people their ages, simply do not have. And they gain that experience not in a benign environment, but often in a dangerous environment, whether in combat zones or whether in training.
Third and much more obvious, they come out with a set of technical skills. These people know how to do things that they learn in the military. It might be very technical things or computer skills or aviation skills, engineering skills. And so they bring something very important that a lot of people who haven't served really haven't had a chance to develop and experience themselves.
One of the problems however is that the value of these people and what they can bring to the private sector isn’t well understood because the people in the private sector haven't had that experience often. The other problem is the people in the military talk often in acronyms, in jargon, and you look at their resumes and they're almost unintelligible to a civilian. I've had so many people in the military come to me and say, “I'm making this transition. I'm leaving the military and I'm going to go into the private sector. What advice do you have? You've done this yourself.” And I'll sit down, “Well, show me your background sheet,” and I'll look at it, and even I having been secretary of defense and in the military can't understand what it is they've done. So we have to first get them to rewrite that in a way that it's intelligible to the average citizen.
But it is a thrill to work with them. It's an honor to work with them, and I know that people in the private sector will do themselves proud by bringing them onboard and bringing into their private institutions and organizations and businesses people with those skill sets.
Directed / Produced by
Jonathan Fowler & Elizabeth Rodd
During my time in the Department of Defense we had to and did in fact give military commanders enormous freedom and flexibility.