Meet Obama’s Cabinet: 7 Things to Know About Defense Secretary Robert Gates


His bio :  “Gates was a member of the bipartisan Iraq Study Group and is widely respected by Democrats in Congress, but he retains strong Republican lineage.  The 65-year-old climbed the CIA bureaucracy from an entry-level position to become director under President George H.W. Bush. He also served on his National Security Council, as he had for Presidents Jimmy Carter and Ronald Reagan.  Gates helped lead U.S. efforts to drive the Soviets out of Afghanistan in the 1980s while at the CIA and was deputy national security adviser during Operation Desert Storm, the first U.S.-led invasion of Iraq.  Gates is a close friend of the Bush family. He was interim dean of the George Bush School of Government and Public Service at Texas A&M and became the university’s president in 2002. The school is home to the elder Bush’s presidential library.  When the younger Bush called, Gates reluctantly left his university post two years ago to take over the Pentagon from the rancorous Donald H. Rumsfeld.” (AP)


He is cleaning house:  “Although President-elect Barack Obama’s decision to keep Robert M. Gates at the helm of the Pentagon will provide a measure of continuity for a military fighting two wars, many of Gates’s top deputies are expected to depart their jobs… The anticipated turnover of many key positions suggests that although Gates will help provide some continuity, the status quo will not necessarily endure at the Pentagon. Continuity is likely to come in the form of Gates and military commanders leading the war effort in Iraq and Afghanistan, while a new deputy and team of undersecretaries would manage the Pentagon and focus on longer-range issues such as ‘the budget, the Quadrennial Defense Review, missile defense, relations with allies and preparation for the next crisis,’ said Michael O’Hanlon, a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution.” (Washington Post)


He believes in “soft power:”   “With its wry realism and emphasis on the American military’s ‘soft power,’ a speech by Defense Secretary Robert Gates at the National Defense University this fall offered a crystallizing snapshot of his tenure and, Pentagon officials point out, its ultimate departure from that of his predecessor, Donald Rumsfeld.  In the speech, Gates told officers that in 42 years of service, he had learned two big things: a sense of humility and an appreciation of limits. ‘Not every outrage, every act of aggression, every crisis can or should elicit an American military response,’ he said, advising them to ‘be modest about what military force can accomplish and what technology can accomplish’…A constructive capability, Gates noted, is essential for the Pentagon to attain its political objectives: ‘The U.S. military’s ability to kick down the door must be matched by our ability to clean up the mess and even rebuild the house afterward.'”  (U.S. News & World Report)


Nuclear modernization vs. disarmament: “Among the most urgent national security challenges facing President-elect Obama is what to do about America’s stockpile of aging nuclear weapons. No less an authority than Secretary of Defense Robert Gates calls the situation bleak and is urging immediate modernization.  On the campaign trail, Mr. Gates’ new boss appeared to take a different view. Candidate Obama said he seeks a world without nuclear weapons and vowed to make the goal of eliminating all nuclear weapons a central element in our nuclear policy…We’re told Mr. Gates’s alarm will be echoed soon in a report by the Congressionally mandated commission charged with reviewing the role of nuclear weapons and the overall U.S. strategic posture…The report’s central finding is that the U.S. will need a nuclear deterrent for the indefinite future. A deterrent is credible, the report further notes, only if enemies believe it will work. That means modernization.” (Wall Street Journal)


His views on the future of U.S. weaponry:  “His first test will come in early February, when he submits the Defense Department’s budget for fiscal year 2010.”   He argues “that, given limited resources, the military services need to shift their priorities away from baroque high-tech weapons designed for threats of the distant future (or left over from Cold War premises) and toward low-cost weapons that are effective for the wars we’re fighting now and will likely fight in the foreseeable future.” (Slate)


He’s not afraid to hold people accountable: “Gates has held senior leaders at the Pentagon to high standards.  He fired the Army’s top civilian last year due to a scandal over the treatment of wounded troops and this year he took the unprecedented step of sacking the top uniformed and civilian officials in the Air Force over nuclear-related blunders.  Members of both parties have praised Gates, a former CIA director, for being candid and courteous with the U.S. Congress.  Asked at his confirmation hearing in 2006 whether the United States was winning the Iraq war, he replied, No, sir.’  Gates has sometimes lashed out at the Pentagon bureaucracy. He has accused some military officers and defense industry executives of next-war-it is’ for fixating on possible future conflicts with nation-states instead of concentrating on the current irregular warfare in Iraq and Afghanistan.” (Reuters)


His biggest worry:  “Asked what worries him most, he unhesitatingly answers with one word: Pakistan.’  That nation’s western region seethes with threats to the regime, and there are groups that hope terrorist attacks such as those in Mumbai can, like the assassination in Sarajevo in 1914, spark a conflagration.” (Seattle Post Intelligencer)


Posted by: Mariela



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