President Bush has chosen a former CIA director Robert Gates to replace Donald Rumsfeld as Secretary of Defense. Among his numerous previous functions, Gates served on a congressional panel set up to review the conduct of the Iraq war. VOA's Greg Flakus has this report on Robert Gates and what he may bring to the job.
Appearing with President Bush and Secretary Rumsfeld Wednesday, shortly after his appointment had been announced, Robert Gates said this was not a job he had sought.
"I had not anticipated returning to government service and have never enjoyed any position more than being president of Texas A&M University," he said. "However, the United States is at war in Iraq and Afghanistan. We are fighting against terrorism worldwide and we face other serious challenges to peace and our security."
Robert Gates served as director of the Central Intelligence Agency from 1991 to 1993 after serving more than 20 years in the spy agency in various positions in which he worked with six presidents. He has served as president of Texas A&M University, the nation's seventh largest university, for the past four years. The university is only a two-hour drive from President Bush's ranch near Crawford, Texas, where they met over the weekend, according to the president.
"I had a good talk with him Sunday, in Crawford," he said. "I found him to be of like mind. He understands we are in a global war against these terrorists. He understands that defeat is not an option in Iraq."
Gates is one of the key figures from the first Bush administration, and he recently served on the Iraq Study Group, a bipartisan panel established by Congress earlier this year and headed by former Secretary of State James Baker.
Some analysts believe Robert Gates will represent the views of some of the former president Bush's advisers, many of whom have been critical of current U.S. policy in Iraq. There is also the possibility that he will work to implement some of the recommendations of the Iraq Study Group.
Georgetown University professor Paul Pillar, a former senior career intelligence officer, says Gates is also a shrewd political player with a knack for handling bureaucracies.
"I think it is a mistake to think of Mr. Gates primarily in terms of his intelligence background, although he did come initially out of the intelligence community and out of CIA, he did not rise through the ranks, but was kind of catapulted over most of the ranks and made his mark more as a high-level bureaucratic operator, not just in the intelligence community, but also as deputy national security adviser in the first Bush administration," he said.
Pillar says Gates will likely initiate many changes in the Defense Department in addition to providing a fresh approach to the war in Iraq.
"He likes to think of himself as someone who shakes things up," he said. "I am sure, if he is confirmed as secretary of defense, over the first several weeks and months of his tenure, there will be news stories coming out about [that] he has appointed 50 different task forces to look at new ways of doing things and then issuing various directives to the department to change this and change that."
Gates will not assume office until he has been confirmed by the U.S. Senate. That, says the current chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, Senator John Warner of Virginia, could happen "in the coming weeks."
Democrats, who made large gains in Tuesday's midterm election, are not likely to hold up his approval, since leading Democrats have been calling for Secretary Rumsfeld to be replaced for some time and, as President Bush made clear in his introduction of Robert Gates Wednesday, Donald Rumsfeld will remain in place as secretary of defense until the Senate approves Gates for the job.