Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Why Would Defense Secretary Robert Gates Want to Retire?

Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Why Would Defense Secretary Robert Gates Want to Retire?

Article excerpt

Robert Gates indicated in an interview published Monday that he plans to leave his job next year. Here are three things that might be factors in his decision.

Why would Secretary of Defense Robert Gates want to retire?

After all, he is on track to become one of the most influential Defense secretaries of the past 50 years, as he continues to push to reshape the post-cold-war military. His presence provides stability of leadership at a time when America is still involved in two wars. A Republican and a holdover from the Bush administration, Secretary Gates by all accounts has become a favored insider in the Obama White House.

"He has been an excellent secretary of Defense. He has been a credit to the administration and done good things overall," says Todd Harrison, a senior fellow in defense budget studies at the Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments (CSBA).

Yet in an interview published Monday, Gates indicated that he plans to leave his job next year and retire to his lakeside home in the state of Washington.

"If I stay until January 2011, I will have been in the job longer than all but four of my predecessors," Gates said in an interview with Fred Kaplan for Foreign Policy magazine.

(Those four, in chronological order, are Charles E. Wilson, Robert McNamara, Caspar Weinberger, and Donald Rumsfeld.)

Gates told Mr. Kaplan that he wants to give President Obama the opportunity to appoint a new defense chief without the looming pressure of a presidential election. Good candidates might not be interested in the position unless they are assured of serving more than a few months.

"I think that it would be mistake to wait until January 2012," Gates told Kaplan.

But there may be other, unstated reasons Gates says he's planning his own exit strategy. Here are a few things that might, possibly, be factors in his decision:

His work here is done. Gates arguably has done more to reshape the modern military than most of his predecessors. As the Foreign Policy article notes, he has killed or drastically downsized 33 weapons systems, including the Air Force's cherished F-22 Raptor and the Army's ambitious Future Combat System. …

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