In 1962, Rumsfeld won election as a congressman from Illinois. He won reelection three times but resigned in 1969 to assume the post of director of the Office of Economic Opportunity in President Richard Nixon's administration. In 1971 Rumsfeld became director of the Economic Stabilization Program. Early in 1973 he was appointed U.S. ambassador to the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO). In August 1974, following President Nixon's resignation, Rumsfeld headed the transition team for President Gerald R. Ford. Rumsfeld then served the Ford administration as White House chief of staff from 1974 to 1975 and then became secretary of defense on 20 November 1975. Rumsfeld was the youngest secretary of defense to that time and held the post until the end of Ford's term in January 1977. During his tenure at the Pentagon, Rumsfeld oversaw the initial production runs of the B-1 bomber, the Trident submarine, the Mark 12A nuclear warhead, and the MX ballistic missile system.
In 1977, Rumsfeld left government for the private sector, serving as chief executive officer (CEO), president, and later chairman of G. D. Searle & Co., where he engineered a financial turnaround during 1977–1985. During 1990–1993 he was CEO of General Instrument Corporation, again taking a troubled company back into profitability.
In 2001, Rumsfeld returned to the public sector as secretary of defense in President George W. Bush's administration. Following the 11 September 2001 terrorist attacks, Rumsfeld became one of the most visible members of the Bush team and lobbied successfully for a significant boost in the defense budget. He occupied center stage in planning the U.S. invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq. His comments condemning what he called "Old Europe" (namely, France and Germany) sparked controversy. He also came under fire for his handling of the war in Iraq, especially his belief that the conflict could be won by a small number of troops and that only a small number of forces would be required for occupation and stabilization purposes. He shrugged off any responsibly for the abuse of Iraqi prisoners at Abu Ghraib. Nonetheless, he enjoyed the full support of President Bush and continued as secretary of defense into the administration's second term. However, Rumsfeld resigned on 8 November 2006. This came a week after President Bush had expressed confidence in his defense secretary and said that Rumsfeld would remain until the end of his term, but it was also one day after the midterm elections in which the Republican Party lost its majorities in both the House of Representatives and the Senate. The election was widely seen as a referendum on the Iraq War and, by extension, Rumsfeld's leadership in it. President Bush named former Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) director Robert Gates to succeed Rumsfeld.
Scarborough, Rowan. Rumsfeld's War: The Untold Story of America's Anti-Terrorist Commander. Washington, DC: Regnery, 2004.