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A Profile of Proposed Secretary of Defense Robert Gates


Robert Gates, President Bush's nominee to become the new U.S. Defense Secretary, is a former CIA Director with decades of experience in the national security field. He has also served as the president of a major university in Mr. Bush's home state of Texas.

Robert Gates began his career with the Central Intelligence Agency in 1966 as an entry-level employee. In the next 25 years, Gates served under six presidents, both Republican and Democrat, eventually working his way up to become CIA director under President George H.W. Bush, the current president's father.

Following his tenure as CIA director from 1991 to 1993, he left the government to work at Texas A&M University, the seventh largest university in the U.S. He began as dean of the George Bush School of Government, and later rose to university president.

In announcing his nomination, President Bush praised his managerial skills, and his ability to work in a bi-partisan manner. "He's a man of integrity, candor and sound judgment. He knows that the challenge of protecting our country is larger than any political party. And he has a record of working with leaders on both sides of the aisle to strengthen our national security.

Gates said he had not anticipated returning to public life, until the president called on him. "Because our long-term strategic interests and our national and homeland security are at risk, because so many of American's sons and daughters in our armed forces are in harm's way, I did not hesitate when the President asked me to return to duty."

President Bush nominated Gates shortly after announcing the resignation of current Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld.

House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi, who is expected to become Speaker of the House, welcomed the change. "I think it will give a fresh start to finding a solution to Iraq rather than staying the course."

During his time as Defense Secretary, Rumsfeld was seen by some as pugnacious, and confrontational. Gates, on the other hand, is "totally different," according to Professor Anna Nelson, Distinguished Historian in Residence at American University. "Anyone who runs the CIA, spends his career in the CIA, is discreet."

Mr. Bush is not the first President to change his Defense Secretary in wartime. In the 1960s, President Lyndon Johnson replaced Robert MacNamara with Clark Clifford, to help him deal with the Vietnam War.

"I think it's not an uncommon thing,” says Professor Nelson, “for the President to seek out someone they can trust, someone whose loyalty they can be assured of, and who will in fact, help change direction."

Gates may be in a position to help the president change direction. He has been serving on the Iraq Study Group, a bipartisan panel headed by former Secretary of State James Baker, and has publicly disagreed with President Bush on his policies in Iran.

Gates' nomination must still be confirmed by the U.S. Senate. Confirmation hearings are scheduled to begin December 4th.