Personality Spotlight: Robert Gates

Dec. 1, 2008 at 12:16 PM   |   Comments

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CHICAGO, Dec. 1 (UPI) -- U.S. President-elect Barack Obama's choice of Robert Gates to lead the Pentagon means Gates will have held security roles under presidents of two parties.

U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates, who has been defense secretary since 2006, would provide continuity in U.S. national security matters when Obama takes office in January, observers said.

The appointment Monday makes Gates one of the few people to hold a Cabinet-level position under two presidents of different parties, Wikipedia said.

Gates became the 22nd U.S. Defense secretary Dec. 18, 2006. Before accepting that post, he served for 26 years in the Central Intelligence Agency and the National Security Council, and under former President George H.W. Bush as the spy agency's director. Before joining the CIA, Gates was in the U.S. Air Force.

After leaving the CIA, Gates was president of Texas A&M University and was a member of several corporate boards.

Gates also was a member of the Iraq Study Group, the bipartisan commission co-chaired by James A. Baker III and Lee Hamilton, that studied the Iraq War. When asked to become the nation's first secretary of homeland security after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, Gates declined, deciding to remain president of Texas A&M, the online encyclopedia said.

When Gates replaced Donald Rumsfeld as defense secretary, he was confirmed with bipartisan support. In 2007, Time magazine named Gates as one of the year's most influential people. The following year, U.S. News & World Report named Gates one of America's Best Leaders.

Because of his CIA status, Gates was close to many figures having significant roles in the Iran-Contra Affair and was in position to have known of their activities, Wikipedia said. However, evidence developed by an independent counsel did not warrant an indictment of Gates.

The Defense Department recently came under fire on several fronts, including the method by which it put contracts out for bid and the misshipment of nuclear materials and components, among other things. Responding to criticism about the misshipments, Gates in June announced the resignations of Secretary of the Air Force Michael Wynne and Air Force Chief of Staff Michael Moseley.

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