Could You be Secretary of Defense?

(From “Rumsfeld’s Rules for White House Chiefs of Staff, and senior staff,” originally published in 1974 when Rumsfeld was a Nixon staffer.)

Complete the following aphorisms from the choices available to find out if you qualify to be the next Secretary of Defense. (Answers at end.)

1. Normal management techniques may not work …

a. unless they’re accompanied by bombs.
b. in the Defense Department.
c. without reminding subordinates that they can always be fired.
d. on the battlefield.

2. Public servants are paid to …

a. bomb people.
b. increase themselves.
c. make the President look good.
d. serve the American people.

3. The winner is not always the swiftest, surest or smartest. It’s the one…

a. who bombs.
b. willing to get up at 5:00 a.m.
c. with the most money.
d. who has the most friends on the Supreme Court.

4. With the press there is no …

a. bomb big enough.
b. way they can get the story straight.
c. “off the record.”
d. pleasing them.

5. The most underestimated risk for a politician is …

a. accidentally bombing a major US city.
b. ill-considered blurts to the press.
c. overexposure.
d. a cover-up.

6. Look for …

a. someone to bomb.
b. the union label.
c. the obvious.
d. what’s missing.

7. When asked for your views, by the press or others, remember that what
they really want to know is …

a. if bombing will work.
b. the facts.
c. anything but the real answer.
d. the President’s views.

8. The [ — blank — ] is mightier than the sword.

a. bomb.
b. oil can.
c. pen.
d. White House.

9. No plan survives …

a. bombs.
b. contact with the enemy.
c. my review.
d. without logistics support.

10. You and the White House staff must be and be seen to be…

a. capable of dropping bombs on anyone at any time.
b. truthful.
c. powerful.
d. above suspicion.

11. Reduce the number of …

a. bombs.
b. Frenchmen.
c. lawyers.
d. bureaucrats.

12. If in doubt …

a. bomb.
b. don’t.
c. check.
d. slow down.

13. The amount of criticism you receive may correlate somewhat to …

a. the number of bombs you drop.
b. the number of mistakes you make.
c. the amount of publicity you receive.
d. the amount of money you make.

14. Beware when any idea is promoted primarily because it …

a. involves bombs.
b. is cheap, quick and perfect.
c. is politically expedient.
d. is bold, exciting, innovative, and new.

15. Don’t automatically …

a. bomb another country unless you have first tried to get UN approval.
b. tell a lie.
c. obey Presidential directives.
d. shoot off your mouth.

16. Be able to …

a. bomb.
b. resign.
c. lie.
d. laugh.

17. You may find that no path …

a. is free of bombs.
b. is perfect.
c. has no potholes.
d. can get you there.

18. Don’t …

a. bomb unless you have plenty of them.
b. over control.
c. hold your breath.
d. get involved in something you can’t get out of.

19. Test ideas …

a. before you bomb.
b. in the field.
c. not people.
d. in the marketplace.

20. Don’t do or say things you would not like to see …

a. on the bomb with your name on it.
b. on the front page of the Washington Post.
c. on your retirement plaque.
d. on Fox TV.

21. The Secretary of Defense is not …

a. a bomber pilot.
b. a super general or admiral.
c. the President.
d. the cleverest guy in the world.

22. Too often management recommends plans that …

a. bomb.
b. have a fatal flaw.
c. look like Bob Hope’s nose.
d. are stupid.

23. If you develop rules …

a. make sure they include bombing.
b. never have more than ten.
c. be prepared to break them.
d. don’t implement them without public hearings.

(Answers: 1-b 2-d 3-b 4-c 5-c 6-d 7-d 8-b 9-b 10-d 11-c 12-b 13-c 14-d 15-c 16-b 17-d 18-b 19-d 20-b 21-b 22-c 23-b)

MARK SCARAMELLA is the managing editor of the Anderson Valley Advertiser. He can be reached at:


MARK SCARAMELLA is the Managing Editor of the Anderson Valley Advertiser in Mendocino County, California. ( He can be reached at