Rumsfeld, one of the long-serving and hawkish Pentagon chief, died of myeloma, said his ex-chief of staff and spokesman Keith Urbahn.
Born in Chicago, Illinois, he died in Taos, New Mexico, where Rumsfeld’s family has long maintained a ranch and other properties.
Ex-president George W. Bush, who named Rumsfeld his second secretary of defense in 2001, said: “All his life, he was good-humored and big-hearted, and he treasured his family above all else.”
As he headed the Department of Defense, US forces allegedly tortured and violated the rights of detainees in the Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq and Guantanamo Bay in Cuba.
The architect of the unpopular wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, the ex-secretary is survived by his wife had three children and seven grandchildren.
With a long career in government under four presidents, was surrounded by relatives in Taos at the time of his death, Rumsfeld’s family said.
Following his retirement in 2008, he led the Rumsfeld Foundation to promote public service and work with charities that provide support for military families and wounded veterans.
He was only two-time Pentagon chief, with his first assignment coming in 1975-77. He was the youngest ever to hold that position. His was handed the job for a second time in 2001-06.
Bush hailed him as a faithful steward of our armed forces. He insisted the United States was safer and better off as a result of Rumsfeld service.
According to AFP, he was in the Pentagon on September 11, 2001 when airliners commandeered by Al-Qaeda hijackers flew into the World Trade Center and then the Pentagon.
Weeks later, US forces launched the war against Al-Qaeda and ousted the Taliban from power in Afghanistan in December 2001.