Robert Gates told a confirmation hearing of the U.S. Senate Armed Services Committee Tuesday that the current situation in Iraq is not acceptable and that he is open to new ideas.
Outgoing committee chairman Senator John Warner welcomed the nomination, saying Gates has had a distinguished career of service to the nation.
Senator Carl Levin, a Democrat, said Gates will face what he called a monumental challenge in dealing with broken policies and mistaken priorities of the past few years. Levin is set to become the next chairman of the committee.
Levin said that besides Iraq, Gates will face the challenges posed by Iran, North Korea and the resurgence of the Taleban in Afghanistan.
Earlier, Gates had breakfast at the White House with President Bush. The president called for his quick confirmation.
Mr. Bush nominated Gates to succeed Donald Rumsfeld after last month's sweeping Democratic Party wins in congressional elections.
Rumsfeld was criticized for his handling of the Iraq war. Until his nomination, Gates was a member of a panel known as the Iraq Study Group looking into possible new strategies for the conflict.
The 63-year-old Gates had a long career in the Central Intelligence Agency. He served as CIA director under former President George H.W. Bush.
Some information for this report was provided by AFP, AP.