Retirement is on Defense secretary's radar

Robert Gates plans to step down in 2011

Defense Secretary Robert Gates says he may retire next year after five years at the helm of the Pentagon.

“I think sometime in 2011 sounds pretty good to me,” Gates said in Aug. 16 comments he made to Foreign Policy magazine. “It would be a mistake to wait until January 2012,” when such a move would force President Barack Obama to choose a new defense secretary during a bid for re-election. “This is not the kind of job you want to fill in the spring of an election year,” Gates added.

Gates, 66, is a former director of the Central Intelligence Agency and the only Defense secretary to be kept onboard by a newly elected president. He has served under eight presidents, and was chosen by former president George W. Bush in 2006 to succeed Donald Rumsfeld as Defense secretary.

Gates’ tenure as the 22nd Defense secretary has most recently been distinguished by his calls to pull out of Afghanistan by July 2011 and his lifting of the military’s “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy on homosexuality. He has also taken on major plans to shave defense spending by $100 billion over the next three years.

He leaves behind at least three major hurdles for his successor: the unfinished withdrawal of troops from Southwest Asia, a major overhaul of the U.S. health care system that includes medical care for servicemembers and their families, and the massive Pentagon financial restructuring.


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Gates’ press secretary, Geoff Morrell, interjected that no one should be holding their breath waiting for Gates to step down.

“This is a guy who just bit off a huge bite,” Morrell said. “This is a guy musing about when it makes sense for him to retire. This is not a guy announcing his retirement.”

Despite the comments to Foreign Policy, Gates himself also has avoided concrete plans so far. “As far as I’m concerned, all I will say is that I’m going to be here longer than either I or others thought,” he said at an Aug. 9 press conference – weeks after his Foreign Policy interview.

 

About the Author

Amber Corrin is a former staff writer for FCW and Defense Systems.

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