During his confirmation hearing Tuesday before the Senate Armed Services Committee, Gates said the United States is not winning the war in Iraq.
He made the assertion twice when asked by Democratic and Republican members of the committee his opinion of progress in Iraq.
In his opening remarks, Gates said if confirmed, he would be "open to a wide range of ideas and proposals" in Iraq, the Washington Post reported.
Gates, 63, was nominated Nov. 8 to replace Rumsfeld.
Late last month, in a written response to Senate questions, Gates strayed from the administration's position, saying talks should be fostered among Iraq and its neighbors, Iran and Syria, to help stem Iraq's sectarian violence.
Gates served as national security adviser and CIA director during the administration of U.S. President George H.W. Bush, and is now the president of Texas A&M University.