Gates Monday also recommended that Gen. Norton Schwartz be nominated to serve as Air Force chief of staff.
The recommendations come after Air Force Secretary Michael Wynne and Chief of Staff Michael Moseley were forced to resign after mishandling incidents in which nuclear weapons were not properly safeguarded, in addition to the recognition of systemic problems in the Air Force, the Defense Department reported.
"I am confident that Mike Donley, Gen. Schwartz and the new Air Force leadership team have the qualifications, skill and commitment to excellence necessary to guide the Air Force through this transition and beyond," Gates said in a statement.
Donley is currently serving as Department of Defense director of administration and management, and Schwartz is serving as the commander of U.S. Transportation Command. Gates recommended the nominations take effect June 21.
Additionally, Gates recommended Gen. Duncan McNabb, current Air Force vice chief of staff, take Schwartz's place and that Lt. Gen. William Fraser fill the Air Force vice chief vacancy.