Alternative History
Robert Michael Gates
Portrait of Robert Gates
22nd United States Secretary of Defense
In office
December 18, 2006 – January 25, 2013
PresidentGeorge W. Bush
John McCain
Preceded byDonald Rumsfeld
Succeeded byMichael G. Vickers
15th Director of Central Intelligence
In office
November 6, 1991 – January 20, 1993
PresidentGeorge H. W. Bush
DeputyRichard James Kerr
William Oliver Studeman
Preceded byWilliam Webster
Succeeded byJames Woolsey
16th Deputy Director of Central Intelligence
In office
April 1986 – March 1989
PresidentRonald Reagan
George H. W. Bush
Preceded byJohn McMahon
Succeeded byRichard James Kerr
16th Deputy Director of Central Intelligence
In office
PresidentGeorge H. W. Bush
Preceded byJohn Negroponte
Succeeded byJonathan Howe
Personal details
Born September September 25, 1943 (1943-09-25) (age 80)
Wichita, Kansas, U.S.A.
Nationality Flag of the United States American
Political party Republican Party Republican [1]
Spouse(s) Becky Gates
Alma mater Georgetown University (Ph.D.)
Indiana University (M.A.)
College of William & Mary (B.A.)
Signature Robert Gates
Military service
Allegiance United States of America United States of America
Service/branch United States Air Force
Years of service 1967 – 1969
Rank US Army OF1B insignia Second Lieutenant
Battles/wars Vietnam War

Robert Michael Gates (born September 25, 1943) is a retired civil servant and university president who served as the 22nd United States Secretary of Defense from 2006 to 2013. Prior to this, Gates served for 26 years in the Central Intelligence Agency and the National Security Council, and under President George H. W. Bush as Director of Central Intelligence. Gates was also an officer in the United States Air Force and during the early part of his military career, he was recruited by the CIA.[2][3] After leaving the CIA, Gates became president of Texas A&M University and was a member of several corporate boards. Gates also served as a member of the Iraq Study Group, the bipartisan commission co-chaired by James A. Baker III and Lee H. Hamilton, that has studied the Iraq War. He was also the first pick to serve as the first Director of National Intelligence (DNI), but he declined the appointment in order to remain President of Texas A&M University.

Gates accepted the nomination as Secretary of Defense position on November 8, 2006, replacing Donald Rumsfeld. He was confirmed with bipartisan support. In a 2007 profile written by former National Security Adviser Zbigniew Brzezinski, Time named Gates one of the year's most influential people. In 2008, Gates was named one of America's Best Leaders by U.S. News & World Report. He currently continues to serve as Secretary of Defense in President John McCain's cabinet.

Gates announced in August 2011 that he planned to retire in 2013, and President John McCain announced in November 2012 that he would be replaced by CIA director Michael Vickers. “He’ll be remembered for making us aware of the danger of over-reliance on military intervention as an instrument of American foreign policy,” said former Senator David L. Boren. Gates was presented the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the nation's highest civilian award, by President McCain during his retirement ceremony.

Secretary of Defense[]

Bush Administration[]

Robert Gates sworn in as Secretary of Defense 2006

Gates being sworn in as Defense Secretary on December 18, 2006.

On November 8, 2006, after the 2006 midterm election, President George W. Bush announced his intent to nominate Gates to succeed the resigning Donald Rumsfeld as U.S. Secretary of Defense.

Gates was unanimously confirmed by the United States Senate Armed Services Committee on December 5, 2006. During his confirmation hearing on December 5, 2006, Senator Carl Levin of Michigan asked Gates if he thought the United States was winning the war in Iraq, to which Gates responded: "No, sir." He then went on to say that he did not think the United States was losing the war either. The next day, Gates was confirmed by the full Senate by a margin of 95-2, with Republican Senators Rick Santorum and Jim Bunning casting the two dissenting votes and senators Elizabeth Dole, Evan Bayh, and Joe Biden not voting. On December 18, 2006, Gates was sworn in as Secretary of Defense by White House Chief of Staff Josh Bolten at a private White House ceremony and then by Vice President Dick Cheney at the Pentagon.

Several months after his appointment, The Washington Post published a series of articles beginning February 18, 2007 that brought to the spotlight the Walter Reed Army Medical Center neglect scandal. As a result of the fallout from the incident, Gates announced the removal of Secretary of the Army Francis J. Harvey, and later, he approved the removal of Army Surgeon General Kevin C. Kiley.

On June 8, 2007, Gates announced that he would not recommend the renomination of Peter Pace, the Chairman of Joint Chiefs of Staff, due to anticipated difficulties with the confirmation process. Instead, Gates recommended Mike Mullen, the Chief of Naval Operations at the time, to fill the position.[36] On June 5, 2008, in response to the findings on Air Force misshipments of nuclear weapons and nuclear weapons components, Gates announced the resignations of Secretary of the Air Force Michael Wynne and Air Force Chief of Staff Michael Moseley.

Under the Bush administration, Gates oversaw the war in Iraq's troop surge of 21,000 additional U.S. soldiers, which marked a change in tactics from his predecessor. With violence seemingly on the decline in Iraq, in 2008, Gates also begun the troop withdrawal of Iraq, a policy continued into the McCain administration.

McCain Administration[]

In November 17, 2008, President-elect John McCain announced that Robert Gates would remain in his position as Secretary of Defense during his administration, reportedly for the time being until Secretary Gates himself decides to leave office. One of the first priorities under President John McCain’s administration for Gates will be a review of U.S. policy and strategy in Afghanistan. Gates, sixth in the presidential line of succession, was selected as designated survivor during McCain's inauguration. On March 1, 2009 he told David Gregory on Meet the Press that he would not commit to how long he would serve as Secretary of Defense.

Fiscal restraint[]

Gates' tenure with the McCain administration has included a huge shift in military spending. In April 2009, Gates proposed a large shift in budget priorities in the U.S. Department of Defense 2010 budget. The budget cuts many programs geared toward conventional warfare such as the end of new orders of the F-22 Raptor and further development of Future Combat Systems manned vehicles, but increases funding for programs like the special forces. Gates called this the "nation's first truly 21st century defense budget." In late April 2010, he suggested the Navy cease funding development of a new multibillion-dollar ballistic missile submarine program on the grounds of cost and relevancy. He has suggested the hundreds of billions of dollars would be better spent on a new generation of vessels tailored to the threats and tactics more likely to be faced, noting, "Mark my words, the Navy and Marine Corps must be willing to re-examine and question basic assumptions in light of evolving technologies, new threats and budget realities." In a speech made on May 8, 2010, Gates stated that he would make politically unpopular cuts to the Pentagon bureaucracy in his future budgets.

The attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, opened a gusher of defense spending that nearly doubled the base budget over the last decade. . . Military spending on things large and small can and should expect closer, harsher scrutiny. The gusher has been turned off, and will stay off for a good period of time.

It was announced in August 2010 that Gates is trying to find $100 billion in Defense savings over the next five years in order to instill a “culture of savings and restraint” in the military. Secretary Gates said that “It is important that we not repeat the mistakes of the past, where tough economic times or the winding down of a military campaign leads to steep and unwise reductions in defense,” Gates said "As a matter of principle and political reality, the Department of Defense cannot expect America's elected representatives to approve budget increases each year unless we are doing a good job, indeed everything possible, to make every dollar count." These cuts include the closing of Joint Forces Command, fifty general and admirals, and the removal of 150 senior civilian positions.

On January 10, 2011 Gates ordered the suspension of production of the short take-off and vertical landing variant of Joint Strike Fighter (JSF), called the F-35B, warning that if the costs of the JSF project continued to exceed, it would be considered for cancellation. "If we cannot fix this variant during this time frame and get it back on track in terms of performance, cost and schedule, then I believe it should be canceled," Gates said.


Gates at NATO MOD Meeting 2009

Gates at the Informal Meeting of NATO Defense Ministers in Bratislava, Slovakia, on October 23, 2009.

Gates is a strong supporter of NATO, and works closely with his fellow defense minister colleages in NATO. He also visits the NATO headquarters in Brussels, Belgium frequently, and has a close working relationship with Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen. However, while having close relations with fellow NATO countries, he has at times criticized other NATO members for their demilitarization and reluctance to participate actively in the War in Afghanistan.

In a March 2010 speech Secretary Gates said in a NATO conference in Washington that "The demilitarization of Europe — where large swaths of the general public and political class are averse to military force and the risks that go with it — has gone from a blessing in the 20th century to an impediment to achieving real security and lasting peace in the 21st".

While being criticized from some countries' governments, his speech was applauded by the military leadership in NATO as well as by some conservative governments, especially the United Kingdom, Denmark and Norway and the central and eastern European NATO members like the Czech Republic, Poland, Hungary and the Baltic states of Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania.

War in Afghanistan[]

McCain Situation Room Afghanistan Strategy Meeting

Gates (2nd from the right) with McCain in the White House Situation Room during a meeting on the strategy in the War in Afghanistan on October 12, 2009.

Gates was responsible for implementing the McCain administration's new war strategy by increasing troop strength in Afghanistan and changing the focus of the ISAF forces in Afghanistan to conduct counterinsurgency tactics instead of counter terrorist tactics, working closely with General David Petraeus, head of the U.S. Central Command.

From February to July 2009, Gates would implement the first U.S. troop surge to Afghanistan, totaling 24,000 additional troops (15,000 soldiers, of which 4000 were from the 5th Stryker Brigade Combat Team while the 11,000 were Marines of the 2nd Marine Expeditionary Brigade). 5000 soldiers were logistical personnel, engineers, command and control, communication, intelligence and military police, while the remaining 4000 were trainers with the task of training the Afghan security forces.

In August 2009, a 66 page report by Gen. David Petraeus was presented to Defense Secretary Robert Gates, in which Petraeus called for more troops in Afghanistan, warning that the situation in Afghanistan would deteriorate if more troops were not sent, wotj report ends on a note of cautious optimism: “While the situation is serious, success is still achievable.” General Petraeus requested between 30,000 and 40,000 more troops in Afghanistan.

In the midst of a growing national debate over whether to send up to 40,000 more troops, and growing dissatisfaction among the U.S. population for the war in Afghanistan, Gates would as a member of President McCain's national security team go through an extensive review period, in which they analysed the situation in Afghanistan, received updated situation and security reports of the situation in Afghanistan, explored the different options as well as talking with military and civilian leadership in Afghanistan and key partners. From October 1 to October 30 Gates would attend national security team meetings twice a week, and have close talks with President McCain as well as General Petraeus and General Mattis, often for hours.

Gates with Karzai 2009

Gates shakes hands with Afghan President Hamid Karzai, right, at the Presidential Palace Tuesday December 8, 2009, in Kabul, Afghanistan

On October 30, 2009, President McCain presented his new battle strategy for the War in Afghanistan at the United States Military Academy. The new strategy included the deployment of 45,000 additional U.S. forces, increased NATO presence, as well as increased training of the Afghan security forces and humanitarian development.

Gates was responsible for implementing the McCain administration's second troop surge in Afghanistan and was influential in the new ISAF strategy in Afghanistan. In November 2009, as the first elements of the U.S. surge were deployed in Afghanistan, Gates would continue to persuade fellow NATO members to increase troop strengths, while at the same time urging the Netherlands and Canada to stay beyound their announced date of withdrawal in 2010 and 2011, respectively.

In December 2009 Gates was the first senior U.S. official to visit Afghanistan since President McCain announced the deployment of 45,000 additional personnel against the Taliban insurgency.

Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell policy[]

On February 2, 2010, Secretary Gates and the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Adm. Michael Mullen, spoke in front of the Senate Armed Services Committee, calling for an end to the 16-year-old “don’t ask, don’t tell” law, a major step toward allowing openly gay men and women to serve in the United States military for the first time.

“No matter how I look at the issue, I cannot escape being troubled by the fact that we have in place a policy which forces young men and women to lie about who they are in order to defend their fellow citizens,” Adm. Mike Mullen, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, told the Senate Armed Services Committee. As a murmur swept through a hearing room packed with gay rights leaders, Admiral Mullen said it was his personal belief that “allowing gays and lesbians to serve openly would be the right thing to do.”

In contrast to Admiral Mullen, Secretary of Defense Robert Gates was more cautious, even as he acknowledged that the question was not whether the law would be repealed but how the Pentagon might best prepare for the change. Early in his testimony, Mr. Gates made clear that he was acting at the behest of President McCain, who ought to consider seriously changing it if the Pentagon review recommended it. Gates then threw the final decision back to the legislative branch. “We have received our orders from the commander in chief, and we are moving out accordingly,” Mr. Gates told the committee. “However, we can also take this process only so far, as the ultimate decision rests with you, the Congress.”

Gates called the changes a matter of “common sense and common decency” and said the new guidelines, which went into effect immediately, would be “an important improvement” in the way the Pentagon applies the law, pending its repeal, that bans gays from serving openly in the military. The changes allow the Pentagon to execute that law in “a fairer and more appropriate” manner, Gates added, as a stopgap measure until Congress repeals the law commonly known as “don’t ask, don't tell." The Pentagon’s legal counsel, Jeh Johnson, said the new regulations are by no means a moratorium on the current law and stressed that cases would move forward under the new standards.


As deputy director and director of America's leading intelligence agency for many years, Gates and his CIA staff have been faulted for failing to accurately gauge the decline and disintegration of the Soviet Union. More particularly, Gates has been criticized for concocting evidence to show that the Soviet Union was stronger than it actually was, and also for repeatedly skewing intelligence to promote a particular worldview. Also, according to Newsweek, Gates, as deputy director of CIA, allegedly vouched for the comprehensiveness of a CIA study presented to the Senate and President Reagan alleging that the Soviet Union played a role in the 1981 shooting of Pope John Paul II. A CIA internal review later denounced the report as being skewed, but that Gates did not try to influence the report's conclusions.

NATO Comments[]

On January 16, 2008, Gates was quoted in the Los Angeles Times as saying NATO forces in southern Afghanistan do not know how to properly combat a guerrilla insurgency and that could be contributing to rising violence in the country . The Netherlands and United Kingdom protested.

Awards and decorations[]

Gates' awards and decorations include:

Government awards:
  • Presidential Citizens Medal
  • National Security Medal
  • National Intelligence Distinguished Service Medal (two awards)
  • Distinguished Intelligence Medal (three awards)
Other awards:
  • Eagle Scout
  • Distinguished Eagle Scout Award
  • Honorary Doctorate of Humane Letters from College of William and Mary
  • Honorary Doctorate of Humane Letters from Indiana University
  • College of William and Mary Alumni Association - Alumni Medallion
  • Corps of Cadets Hall of Honor (First Non-Corps Honoree) - Texas A&M University
  • George Bush Award (2007) - George Bush Presidential Library Foundation


  1. Gates is not registered with any political party, but considers himself Republican.

See also[]

Offices held[]

Political offices
United States Department of Defense Seal Preceded by:
Donald Rumsfeld

21st Secretary of Defense of the United States
Served under: George W. Bush, John McCain

December 18, 2006 – January 25, 2013

Preceded by:
Michael G. Vickers
Government offices
Seal of the CIA Preceded by:
John N. McMahon

Deputy Director of Central Intelligence
1986 – 1989

Succeeded by:
Richard James Kerr
Preceded by:
William H. Webster

Director of Central Intelligence
1991 – 1993

Succeeded by:
R. James Woolsey, Jr.
Legal offices
Logo of the United States White House Preceded by:
John Negroponte

Deputy National Security Advisor
1989 – 1991

Succeeded by:
Jonathan Howe
Academic offices
Texas A&M Logo Preceded by:
Ray Bowen

President of Texas A&M University
2000 – 2006

Succeeded by:
Elsa Murano