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Friday, 29 December, 2000, 10:06 GMT
Donald Rumsfeld: Republican veteran
Dick Cheney, Donald Rumsfeld and George W Bush
Mr Rumsfeld brings lengthy experience to the Bush administration
By Defence Correspondent Jonathan Marcus

Newly-appointed US Defence Secretary, Donald Rumsfeld, is a veteran Republican official whose government service dates back to the Nixon administration.

In fact, he has already served as defence secretary once before, under President Gerald Ford.

In some ways he was an unexpected choice for defence.

Former Senator Dan Coats had been widely tipped for the job.

But one of the reasons he was chosen was to deal with the complex personal chemistry of the Bush administration's foreign policy team.

Youngest and oldest ever

When Mr Rumsfeld first became defence secretary in 1975, he was the youngest person ever to hold that post.

Today at 68 years of age, he is probably one of, if not, the oldest ever.

During the intervening time, the world has changed out of all recognition, but Mr Rumsfeld has maintained a continuing interest in security issues.

Some two years ago, he headed a commission that reported on the growing missile threat to the United States and he is likely to be a strong supporter of Mr Bush's missile defence plans.

Strong on defence

More recently he criticised the Clinton administration for its failure to block Russian arms sales to Iran.

But quite apart from his policy position, it is his seniority and experience that have made him Mr Bush's choice to head the Pentagon.

The Pentagon
Mr Rumsfeld is the new head the Pentagon

This is an administration with huge security and defence experience.

Vice President Dick Cheney is himself a former defence secretary.

Mr Bush's choice for Secretary of State, Colin Powell, is a former chairman of the joint chiefs of staff, and the National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice is also a former Pentagon official.

Any defence secretary would have a tough job fighting his corner in this company.

There were fears that a less experienced figure could easily be reduced to monitoring the Pentagon's expenditure of paper-clips, while policy decisions were made else where.

Cheney's mentor

But Dick Cheney is something of Mr Rumsfeld's prodigy, serving under him in the Ford administration.

Mr Rumsfeld should be more than able to hold his own.

However, his appointment does highlight the very narrow experience of the Bush foreign policy team, strong on strategic matters, less well versed in other areas of diplomacy.

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28 Dec 00 | Americas
Bush names defence secretary
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