Entries in Robert Gates (14)


Robert Gates Official Portrait Ceremony Goes on Despite Hurricane Sandy

DOD photo by U.S. Navy Petty Officer 1st Class Chad J. McNeeley(WASHINGTON) -- While most of official Washington came to a standstill Monday because of Hurricane Sandy, a small room of VIP’s gathered at the Pentagon to honor former Defense Secretary Robert Gates.

Making his first visit back to the Pentagon since he departed his post last summer, Gates was on hand for the unveiling of his official portrait.  Like those of his predecessors, Gates’ portrait will hang in the hallway outside his old Pentagon office.

The approaching hurricane led to the closure of the federal government on Monday, and the Pentagon was no exception. But that didn’t stop current Defense Secretary Leon Panetta and other VIPs from continuing on with Monday’s planned unveiling.

“It’s not every day you have to brave a hurricane in order to come to a portrait unveiling," said Panetta, who then joked, “But then again, to those of us who’ve been in this job, it’s like dealing with a hurricane every day, so we’re used to it."

Braving the elements for Monday’s ceremony were National Security Adviser Tom Donilon, Director of National Intelligence James Clapper, Army Chief of Staff Gen. Ray Odierno, Chief of Naval Operations Adm. Jonathan Greenert.  Top staffers from Gates’ years of service in both the Bush and Obama administrations were also on hand for Monday’s event.

Panetta praised Gates for his leadership and dedication to national service, and, perhaps most importantly, his concern for the troops deployed under his command.  Panetta pointed to Gates’ decision to purchase the heavy vehicles known as MRAPs that provided greater protection from roadside bombs in Iraq.

“Hearing from our troops how much they valued that protection is, I think, a lasting legacy of Bob,” Panetta said. “He helped save lives."

“I know that we’re all here to unveil a portrait but, in reality, a portrait is made up of oil and canvas and fades with time,” Panetta added.  “I think the most important portrait of a person is the memory that we hold that person in our hearts and the respect and honor that we have for that individual.  That portrait in all of our hearts for Bob Gates will last forever.”

Gates exhibited the candor and dry humor that marked his tenure as defense secretary. He pointed out that the portrait unveiled Monday was painted by Ray Kinstler, who also painted Gates’ portrait nearly 20 years ago when he served as the director of the Central Intelligence Agency in the early 1990s.

Gates joked, "A sure sign you’ve been in Washington too long is when Ray Kinstler has more than one crack at your portrait a generation apart.”

Between writing his book and preparing for Monday’s event, Gates said, he had time to reflect on the things and people he missed from his tenure.  But he did not miss the meetings, conferences and hearings associated with the post -- or the constant travel and jet lag for meetings with counterparts. For instance, he had required bi-monthly meetings with Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak.

He definitely did not have a fond recollection of what he termed a “less edifying experience of being shaken down by the defense minister of Kyrgyzstan for rent at Manas airbase,” which was a crucial transportation hub for troops and supplies headed into Afghanistan.

But despite what he called his, “grousing about the foibles of Washington” and the “aggravating aspects” of the job, Gates said serving as defense secretary, “was the singular honor and highest calling of my professional life.”

He spoke glowingly of his experiences with the troops under his command who were fighting in Afghanistan and Iraq and said he never took lightly the responsibility of signing their deployment orders.

Gates expressed the hope that scholars studying his tenure would walk away with the recognition, “that I came to work every day with the simple question:  Are we doing everything we can to get the troops everything they need to succeed in their mission, to come home safely and, if wounded, to get the best possible care when they come home?”

Gates’ provided his own assessment on that front: "In some instances, the answer was satisfactory; in others, less so.”

The former defense secretary recalled the words of a predecessor, Gen. George Marshall, whom he said took seriously the obligations that come with sending “our military to war.”

“He said we must do everything we could to convince the soldier that we were all solicitude for his well-being,” said Gates. “You couldn’t be severe in your demands unless he was convinced you were doing everything you could to make matters well for him."

At a time in which the Obama administration is under fire for allegedly not responding to distress calls from Americans in a terror attack that left four dead in Benghazi, Libya, Gates' words were especially moving: “That’s what I hope people will remember when they walk down the E-ring corridor and see my portrait,” said Gates, “that our comfort and safety are borne on the brave and broad shoulders of those young men and women in uniform, and it is our duty -- our sacred obligation, in Marshall’s words -- to make things well for them.”

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Robert Gates to Finish Tenure as Defense Secretary

Charles Dharapak - Pool/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- It's likely that from his office Thursday morning, Defense Secretary Robert Gates could see the military bands and honor guards gathered on a parade field to practice the pomp and circumstance of a departure ceremony to be held in his honor as he leaves the Pentagon for the last time.

On Thursday, Gates will finish out a four and half year tenure as Defense Secretary that began when President George W. Bush asked him to return to government service and replace Donald Rumsfeld.

A member of the Iraq Study Group tasked by Congress to review the then-worsening U.S. military situation in Iraq; Gates said at the outset that as Defense Secretary he would focus on righting the situation  there. A surge of troops was eventually authorized by President Bush that helped turned the tide in Iraq. Gates credited the influx of troops with helping stabilize the country while a nascent Iraqi democractic government found its feet.

Since then, Gates has won praise from many quarters for taking on the Pentagon's bureaucracy, fighting for better care for servicemembers, cutting expensive weapons systems, and overseeing a similar troop surge in Afghanistan.  He will leave his post as one of the most popular Defense Secretaries in recent times.

Gates made history when he became the first Secretary of Defense to work for both a Republican and Democratic president after President Obama asked him to remain in his post for another year.  Two and a half years later, Gates will step down as Defense Secretary and turn the reins over to CIA Director Leon Panetta.

Gates started his long career in government service as a CIA analyst and eventually worked for eight presidents in various posts at the National Security Council and ultimately as CIA Director.  But it is the post as Defense Secretary that he has referred to as the most rewarding job he has had in his career.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Sen. Bob Corker Says War in Afghanistan 'Not Sustainable'

ABC News(WASHINGTON) -- In another sign of growing bipartisan concern about American involvement in Afghanistan, one Republican Senator on the Foreign Relations Committee says the war is "unsustainable."

"I think all of us who have been in Afghanistan on the ground multiple times know that what we're doing there on the ground is just not sustainable," Sen. Bob Corker, R-Tenn., told ABC News.

Outgoing Defense Secretary Robert Gates has suggested the troop withdrawals scheduled to begin this summer should be "modest," but Corker joins others in Congress who are looking for a significant draw down of American involvement in Afghanistan by the end of the year -- including scaling back what he called the U.S. "nation-building effort" in Afghanistan.

"We've got this huge nation-building effort under way [and] I think if our citizens saw our footprint in Afghanistan, saw what was happening there from the stand point of all the things we're investing in in this country, the distortions in its culture -- we've got to change our footprint," Corker said.  "This is not a model that we can replicate in other Middle Eastern countries."

In his interview with ABC News, Corker also weighed in on the debate over raising the debt ceiling.  While it has been raised almost 100 times since it was established in 1917, this time some Republicans are saying it should not be raised again.  But as the nation's debt inches closer to the current limit of $14.3 trillion, Corker says raising it is not a matter of if, but of when.

"The debt ceiling at some point has to be raised," Corker said.  "I don't think there's anybody that questions the fact that if we ended up getting in a situation where the U.S. government was sending out IOUs like the state of California did at one point, that ends up creating quite a brand problem for our country."

Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner has said the $14.3 trillion debt ceiling was exceeded in April, but accounting maneuvers (like halting contributions to pension funds) will finance U.S. financial obligations through Aug. 2.  Like many of his Republican colleagues, Corker questioned Geithner's timing on a debt ceiling breach.

"We don't know what the date is," Corker said. "I mean any smart treasury secretary would not say three months out Aug. 2 is the deadline. I don't know what the date is. It might be Aug. 2, it might be Aug. 15, it might be Sept. 20. Who knows?"

Corker and Sen. Claire McCaskill, D-Mo., recently introduced the Commitment to Prosperity (CAP) Act, legislation that gradually enacts a cap on federal spending.  The proposal would limit federal spending at 20.6 percent of the gross domestic product -- the typical level for the past 40 years.  The current level is 24.7 percent.  According to Corker, that would result in spending reductions of $7.6 trillion over the next decade.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Defense Secretary Robert Gates: Why I'm Ready to Retire

ABC News(KABUL, Afghanistan) -- After five years of service and more than 12,000 casualties among U.S. troops in two wars, outgoing Secretary of Defense Robert Gates told ABC News' Diane Sawyer he believes he has become too cautious for the job.

He became emotional as he said, "I swore when I took the job I would never allow any of these kids to become a statistic for me." He admitted to Sawyer that he no longer has a young man's steel for wars that seem to never end.

He writes a personal note to the family of every soldier who dies under his command. Gates knows exactly how many soldiers he has lost over his tenure, "as of yesterday, 1,255 [killed], and about 11,000 wounded," he told Sawyer.

"I go to the hospitals, I go to Arlington. I see their families, so I feel the human cost. And that's why I told somebody the other day maybe it is time for me to leave because these things have begun to weigh on me in a way that maybe I'm not as useful as I used to be."

When asked if he believed he had become too cautious for the job, he replied, "yeah." It's time, he added, to step down.

Gates has served eight presidents since beginning his career with the CIA in 1966 as a fresh-faced 23-year-old.

"Over years, I would still pinch myself. I came from a family of modest means. My brother and I are the first college graduates in our family's history," Gates told Diane Sawyer.

Secretary Gates has received many awards over his career, including the National Security Medal, the Presidential Citizens Medal, the National Intelligence Distinguished Service Medal - twice, and has three times received CIA's highest award, the Distinguished Intelligence Medal.

Gates is also the only Secretary of Defense in U.S. history to remain in office during the transition from one president to another, from President George W. Bush's tenure into the term of President Barack Obama.

During his time as secretary, Gates has lifted the ban on women serving on submarines, overseen the surge of 30,000 troops in Afghanistan and pushed to trim the Pentagon's massive budget.

CIA Director Leon Panetta will take over the post of secretary of defense after Gates leaves the position.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Gates: Joint Chiefs Selection Was About Team-Building

Scott J. Ferrell/Congressional Quarterly/Getty Images(SINGAPORE) -- In his first public comments about the selection of the new chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Defense Secretary Robert Gates said Gen. Martin Dempsey's nomination to the post was about maintaining the cohesiveness of the Obama administration's national security team.

Traveling to Singapore to attend a security conference, Gates rejected news reports that the one-time front runner for the post, Gen. James Cartwright, was passed over for the job because of his stance during the administration's policy debate over the strategy for Afghanistan.

It was long believed that Cartwright's current job as the vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff put him on the inside track to becoming the president's top military advisor. Bob Woodward's book, Obama's War also described him as President Obama's "favorite general."

However, it was Dempsey, the Army's newly installed Chief of Staff, who was announced Monday to succeed Adm. Mike Mullen in the fall.

Some news reports suggested Cartwright's stance during the Obama administration's 2009 policy debate for a new Afghanistan strategy may have been a factor.

On Thursday, Gates denied that, saying, "I will tell you that some of the negative things that have been reported as influencing the decision, for example the Afghan piece, are completely wrong. It had nothing to do with it whatsoever."

During the policy debate, Cartwright had reportedly favored a counterterror approach that required fewer troops in Afghanistan and focused more on specifically targeting Taliban and al Qaeda operations. That stance was contrary to the counterinsurgency approach, favored by other top military officials that would require more troops and time. Ultimately, President Obama chose a slightly scaled-down version of the counterinsurgency approach that led to the surge of 30,000 more U.S. troops in Afghanistan.

On Thursday, Gates praised Cartwright as "one of the finest officers I have ever worked with, I think he has been an outstanding vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff" and said he considered him a friend.

He said his focus for the past year had been to maintain the cohesiveness of the Obama administration's national security team which he described as "an extraordinary asset for the president and for the country."

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Obama Naming Next Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff

SAUL LOEB/AFP/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- President Obama is expected to name Army Chief of Staff Gen. Martin Dempsey as the next chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff on Monday.

The four-star general will succeed Adm. Mike Mullen, who will retire from the position on Oct. 1.

Dempsey served two combat tours in Iraq where he commanded the 1st Armored Division shortly after the 2003 invasion and later ran the U.S. effort to train Iraqi security forces.  Dempsey also served as the acting commander of U.S. Central Command, which has responsibility for U.S. military affairs in the Middle East.

Prior to assuming the job as Army chief of staff in early April, Dempsey spent two years heading the Army's Training and Doctrine Command.

This latest change of command at the Pentagon comes as part of a broad reshuffling of the president's entire military team.  Defense Secretary Robert Gates, who is also set to retire, will be replaced by CIA director Leon Panetta.  Panetta's position, in turn, will be filled in by the top military commander in Afghanistan, Gen. David Petraeus.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


President Obama’s National Security Staffing Shuffles

The White House(WASHINGTON) -- President Obama will announce Thursday some major staff shuffling in his national security team.

As ABC News has reported:

    * CIA director Leon Panetta will be nominated for Secretary of Defense;
    * International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) Commander Gen. David Petreaus will be nominated to be CIA director;
    * Marine General John Allen will be nominated to replace Petraeus at ISAF in Kabul, Afghanistan; and
    * former U.S. Ambassador to Iraq Ryan Crocker will be nominated to be U.S. Ambassador to Afghanistan.

These moves were several months in the making, the “culmination by a multi-month process of careful consideration by the president,” administration officials said, prompted by the decisions of Defense Secretary Robert Gates and U.S. Ambassador to Afghanistan Gen. Karl Eikenberry (ret.) to exit the jobs they’ve held since 2007 and 2009, respectively.

Panetta was offered the job on Monday; he called President Obama back Monday evening and accepted the offer. Administration officials acknowledge that Panetta did so reluctantly, given his fondness for his current job at the CIA.

Administration officials referenced Panetta’s tenure at the CIA as evidence of the experience needed for his new role.

“Strong leadership, reinvigoration of institutional morale tremendously effective, very solid manager, obviously deep experience in budget and management of the government, has become over the last two plus years a close advisor to the president,” an administration official said, “Seen by the president as a very effective member of the team.”

President Obama met with Petreaus to discuss his potential new role on March 14 and 18. White House officials hope Petraeus, who will retire from the military to become CIA director, can take over at Langley in September, though he will stay in his current role until Allen has been confirmed and is prepared to assume command. 

Deputy CIA director Michael Morrell will serve as interim director.

Allen will serve as a special assistant to Joint Chiefs Chairman Admiral Mike Mullen in order to prepare for his new assignment, which they hope he will be able to assume in September as well.

President Obama met with Crocker on March 30 and offered him the position. Administration officials say they are seeking an early confirmation.

“We have laid this out in a way that we believe will provide for a seamless transition in each of these positions,” administration officials said. “That is no gap, no disruption in continuity in execution of policy.”

Copy 2011 ABC News Radio 


Secretaries Clinton, Gates to Answer Senators' Questions on Libya

Jupiterimages/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) -- For senators seeking answers to their tough questions on the United States' intervention in Libya, Wednesday will be just the day to ask them.

Fresh from her talks in Europe with NATO allies, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, joined by Secretary of Defense Robert Gates, will hold a closed-door, classified session with Senate members who want to know when and how to end the Libyan operation.

Senators said they've been told to bring all their questions and not hold back during the give-and-take with the top Libya policy team.

"I've told my caucus to come loaded with all your questions; ask questions in this classified setting and then if you want to do more legislatively, you're entitled to do that," said Senate Democratic leader Harry Reid.

A similar Q&A on Libya will also be held with House members. 

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


DADT: Pentagon Discharged 250 Service Members in 2010

Win McNamee/Getty Images(WASHINGTON, D.C) -- In the months leading up to Congress’ repeal of “don’t ask, don’t tell” late last year, the Department of Defense discharged 250 service members for violating the ban on openly gay troops, a Pentagon spokeswoman confirmed to ABC News.

The figure, first reported by gay rights group Servicemembers United, covers the period Oct. 1, 2009, to Sept. 30, 2010.  President Obama signed the bill into law on Dec. 22, 2010. While the total number discharged is an all-time annual low, gay advocates said it reflects the continued impact of the policy despite efforts to make its enforcement more humane and the discharge approval process more rigorous.

In March 2010, Defense Secretary Robert Gates imposed new guidelines to raise the bar on who or what could initiate an inquiry into allegations of misconduct by a gay or lesbian service member. In October 2010, Gates went further, issuing a memo that said any discharges under "don't ask, don't tell" must be approved by the civilian secretary of the military service  branch involved in coordination with other top officials.  

“Don’t ask don’t tell” technically remains in effect until 60 days after Gates, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Adm. Mike Mullen and the president certify that it can be safely rescinded. 

In 2010, most of the discharges under "don't ask, don't tell" -- 93 -- came from the Army.   The Air Force discharged 64, the Marine Corps discharged 39, and the Navy discharged 54, according to Servicemembers United, which tracks the data.

Since the policy first took effect in 1993, at least 14,316 service members have been discharged for being openly gay.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Obama Administration to Explain Its Libyan Intervention to Congress

Jupiterimages/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) -- Facing increasing criticism from Capitol Hill to explain its intervention in Libya, top administration officials will hold briefings and hearings to address the situation overseas.

The Obama administration plans to send top level officials to brief members of Congress next week and to appear at several congressional hearings.

Sources also say that Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Defense Secretary Robert Gates will take questions at a members-only classified briefing for all lawmakers.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

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