Name: Richard Bruce Cheney
Birth date: January 30, 1941
Education: Bachelor's degree, University of Wyoming, 1965; master's degree, University of Wyoming, 1969
Military Service: None
Career: Congressional fellow, 1968; joins Office of Economic Opportunity in Nixon administration, 1969; deputy to then-White House Counselor Donald Rumsfeld, 1970; assistant director for operations with Cost of Living Council, 1971; vice president at a Washington, D.C., investment firm, 1973; deputy assistant to President Ford, 1974; chief of staff to President Ford, 1975; defense secretary under President George H. W. Bush, 1989-1993; chairman and CEO of Halliburton, 1995-2000.
Elected office: U.S. congressman from Wyoming, 1978-1989; U.S. vice president, 2001-present.
Family: Wife, Lynne, two daughters
Quote: "This has been a period in history defined by serious challenges and the need for decisive action. And the greatest responsibility of our government is clear: We must protect the safety and the security of the American people."
By Sean Loughlin
CNN Washington Bureau
WASHINGTON (CNN) -- In one respect, Dick Cheney can be viewed as the accidental vice president.
Cheney was not supposed to have the job -- at least not initially. Asked in 2000 by then-Gov. George W. Bush to come up with a list of potential running mates, Cheney was supposed to be the confidant who would vet candidates and offer recommendations. But he wound up as Bush's pick for the No. 2 spot.
"I gradually realized that the person who was best qualified ... was working by my side," Bush said in 2000 as he announced his choice of Cheney.
As vice president, Cheney, 63, has clearly enjoyed the confidence and support of his boss.
Unlike the administration of the first President Bush when Dan Quayle was vice president, there has been little speculation that this vice president would be replaced.
Despite some concerns about Cheney's health, the president has never wavered in his support for Cheney.
"Should I decide to run, Vice President Cheney will be my running mate," Bush told reporters at a November 2002 news conference, after the midterm congressional elections.
With his low-key manner, solid conservative credentials and experience in the political and business worlds, Cheney is a favorite of the Republican conservative base.
"Dick Cheney is an enormous asset to the president," said Michael Franc, vice president for government relations at the Heritage Foundation, a conservative think tank.
GOP enthusiasm for Cheney is matched by Democratic criticism of the vice president.
Democrats have repeatedly questioned his ties to the oil-services giant Halliburton -- which he headed before joining the 2000 presidential ticket -- and criticized how he helped develop the administration's energy policies.
Citing the need for the executive branch to hear candid and private advice, Cheney is fighting two public interest groups seeking the public release of records about his energy task force and its meetings, a case that was recently heard by the U.S. Supreme Court.
Cheney's role as one of the administration's most forceful advocates for waging war against Iraq to topple the regime of Saddam Hussein has also generated some unflattering commentary.
More recently, Cheney has emerged as the administration's front man for criticizing Sen. John Kerry, especially on the presumptive Democratic presidential nominee's voting record in the Senate on defense and national security.
"Attack dog-in-chief," griped Terry McAuliffe, the Democratic National Committee chairman, in a speech last month.
Cheney is no stranger to the rough-and-tumble of the political arena, a veteran of both Congress and three prior presidential administrations.
A child of the West, Cheney grew up in Wyoming and married his high school sweetheart, the former Lynne Vincent.
His political career started in 1969 when he joined the Nixon administration. He served in a number of positions, including a stint at the Office of Economic Opportunity.
At age 34, he was tapped to serve as chief of staff to President Ford and was the youngest man to serve in that position.
Congress was next. After Ford's defeat, Cheney returned to his home state of Wyoming in 1977 and was elected to six terms in Congress as the state's sole representative.
In Congress, Cheney established a solid conservative voting record, with votes cast against abortion and gun control.
His voting record also showed an aversion to most domestic federal spending, including a host of education and environmental programs. But he was a proponent of a boosting the budget for the Pentagon.
Cheney returned to White House service in 1989 as defense secretary for the first President Bush. He held that post during the first Persian Gulf War.
He later returned to the private sector, serving as the chief executive office for the Texas-based Halliburton.
Cheney's health was something of an issue early in the administration. Cheney, who has had four heart attacks, had a pacemaker implanted in June 2001. A checkup in May detected no irregular heartbeat and Cheney was pronounced fit.
Cheney and his wife -- a former chairwoman of the National Endowment for the Humanities -- have two grown daughters and several grandchildren.