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Gates to Stay On as US Defense Secretary


Defense Secretary Robert Gates has agreed to stay in his job when President-elect Barack Obama takes office in January. Observers say the appointment would provide continuity with the transition from one administration to another during a time of war. Gates took over the job two years ago, replacing outgoing defense secretary Donald Rumsfeld. VOA's Mil Arcega has more.

Robert Gates already had a distinguished career under three former presidents when President Bush tapped the former CIA director to become Defense Secretary.

"Bob Gates will be a fine secretary of defense," President Bush said on December 5, 2006 when announcing the appointment.

A close friend of the Bush family, the career public servant reluctantly left his job as president of Texas A&M University two years ago to take the top job at the Pentagon.

"He's going to do an excellent job for us," President Bush commented. "Again Bob, I thank you for agreeing to serve."

"Thank you Mr. President," Mr. Gates responded.

Gates helped lead US efforts to drive the Soviets out of Afghanistan in the 1980's and was deputy national security adviser during Operation Desert Storm, the 1991 war to push Iraq out of Kuwait.

Observers say his moderate Republican views and his knowledge of the Middle East made him a natural choice to take over the position vacated by former Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld.

"More than ever I believe that the goal of a secure, stable and democratic Iraq is within reach," Mr. Gates said.

Gates' re-appointment fulfills a pledge by Mr. Obama to include at least one Republican in his Cabinet. It also provides a sense of continuity at a time when the United States is at war in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Alex Burns is a reporter at Politico.com. "This is the first war-time presidential transition we've had in 40 years and to insure continuity of government in a time of war is a tremendous challenge," Burns said.

Officials familiar with the discussions tell news media that Gates will remain in the post for at least a year.

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