In a recorded interview aired Sunday on CBS News' "Face the Nation," Gates cited the testimony of former Pentagon officials and said "frankly had I been in the job at the time, I think my decisions would have been just as theirs were."
U.S. Ambassador Christopher Stevens and three other Americans were killed in a terrorist attack on the consulate in Benghazi, Libya, Sept. 11, 2012. U.S. House committees are investigating the Obama administration response, and whether there was a coverup about the source of the attack.
"We don't have a ready force stand by in the Middle East, despite all the turmoil that's going on with planes on strip alert, troops ready to deploy at a moment's notice," Gates said. "And so getting somebody there in a timely way would have been very difficult, if not impossible.
"Frankly, I have heard why didn't you just fly a fighter jet over and try to scare them with the noise or something. Well, given the number of surface-to-air missiles that have disappeared from Gadhafi's arsenals, I would not have approved sending an aircraft, a single aircraft over Benghazi under those circumstances. ...
"And to send some small number of special forces or other troops in without knowing what the environment is, without knowing what the threat is, without having any intelligence in terms of what is actually going on, on the ground," he added. "I think would have been very dangerous and, personally, I would not have approved that because we just don't -- it's sort of a cartoonish impression of military capabilities and military forces. The one thing that our forces are noted for is planning and preparation before we send people in harm's way, and there just wasn't time to do that."