The secretary has decreed that all promotions to three-star and four-star rank must go through his office, which is being perceived as a blunt message that only officers who fully agree with his vision will reach the top. He has criticized the Army as wedded to old defense concepts focusing on large, heavy forces; he undercut his first Army chief of staff, Gen. Eric Shinseki, by naming a replacement 14 months ahead of schedule.
In the search for a new Army chief, two generals turned Rumsfeld down, and he bypassed several others to reactivate a retiree, Gen. Peter J. Schoomaker, who made his career in special operations -- the light, swift soldiering that Rumsfeld likes most.
In a final signal, he fired his first secretary of the Army, Thomas White, a retired Army general, and replaced him with Air Force Secretary James Roche -- making the Army's top leadership all Rumsfeld picks.
The relentless drive for change has left many officers feeling bruised.
"He has the military terrified," said a retired officer who has worked as a consultant in Rumsfeld's office.
Asked whether he likes Rumsfeld, a senior Army officer paused and said, finally: " 'Like' is such a strong word."
"If you have a thin skin, don't work here," said Roche, who then cited, from memory, one of Rumsfeld's Rules: "You have to be prepared to say goodbye every day."
Rumsfeld, in a speech to business executives in June, acknowledged that the job of transformation is largely undone. "Big institutions
But he said his changes at the top are having some effect. "It's like dropping a pebble in a pond and watching the ripples go out," he said.
Congress has been a tough target as well.
In this year's Defense Authorization Bill, Rumsfeld sought a long list of changes to give him more flexibility in running the department, including new hiring and firing rules, a system for giving raises based on performance more than seniority, the right to suspend employees' collective bargaining rights, and easing the "buy American" rule that requires most defense equipment to be U.S.-made.
The House bill gave Rumsfeld most of what he wanted on the personnel front; Rep. Duncan Hunter (R-El Cajon), chairman of the House Armed Services Committee, said the secretary had earned the right to remake the bureaucracy through his victory in Iraq. But instead of easing the "buy American" rule, Hunter proposed toughening it. Rumsfeld replied with a warning that he will ask Bush to veto the entire bill if that provision stays.
But a Senate bill written by Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine) scaled back Rumsfeld's proposals significantly, denying him the right to waive collective bargaining and preserving more elements of the current civil service system. The two houses will try to reconcile the bills in a conference this fall.
And for three years in a row, Rumsfeld has sought to pare down the number of reports that Pentagon officials are required to write to Congress. Every year, Congress has largely ignored his requests.
Rumsfeld has not said how long he wants to remain as secretary of Defense, or whether he would stay another four years if a reelected Bush were to ask.
His main objectives -- stabilizing Iraq, pressing institutional reforms -- will take longer to achieve than the year and a half remaining in this term.
Illinois Republican leaders sounded out Rumsfeld on running for the U.S. Senate seat being vacated this year by Republican Peter Fitzgerald, but he wasn't interested.
On domestic issues, friends say, Rumsfeld is a closet moderate, reflecting his roots as a traditional Republican from Chicago's affluent North Shore.
As a member of the House of Representatives, he voted for the landmark Civil Rights Bill of 1964. He drew protests from social conservatives in 2001 when he hired a prominent gay Republican as a consultant on personnel issues.
His Chicago friends include Democrats like William Daley, who was secretary of Commerce under President Clinton, and Newton N. Minow, a former aide to President Kennedy. "He believes in civil liberties and civil rights," Minow said. "He gets on with people who don't agree with him."
Rumsfeld rebuffed a request for an interview for this article. An aide said the secretary was willing to talk about Iraq but not an assessment of his overall record. One aide, noting that Rumsfeld's tenure could run out in only 19 months at the end of the presidential term, said the secretary wanted to avoid putting himself in a "straitjacket" by being explicit about his remaining goals.
Aides and friends scoff at the notion that Rumsfeld is thinking about his legacy or worried about the history books. But they acknowledge that they -- and he -- know that this is his final lap.
"This is his last job, and that's an important factor," Adelman said. "He is no longer on the make. That helps.... My feeling is there is nothing else in life he'd rather be doing."
(BEGIN TEXT OF INFOBOX)
Donald H. Rumsfeld
* Age: 71
* Born: July 9, 1932, in Chicago