August 16th, 2010
10:11 AM ET

Pentagon: Defense Secretary Gates wants to retire

Defense Robert Gates is expected to leave his post in the spring of 2011, a senior administration source told CNN on Monday.

A Pentagon spokesman confirmed that Gates wants to retire some time next year. Gates was quoted in an article in the magazine Foreign Policy published Monday saying he wanted to step down before the end of 2011.

Pentagon spokesman Bryan Whitman said references in the article to Gates' desire to retire next year "accurately reflect the secretary's thoughts."

According to the senior administration official, Gates privately promised President Barack Obama he would not leave the Cabinet in 2010 in order to maintain stability at the Pentagon while more U.S. forces are heading to Afghanistan.

In addition, the senior official said, Gates does not want a potentially difficult confirmation battle for his successor to take place in the presidential election year of 2012.

Gates, who became defense secretary in 2006 under former President George W. Bush, stayed in the post when Obama took office in 2009.

He previously spent almost 27 years in the Central Intelligence Agency, including posts at the White House serving four presidents. Gates also was president of Texas A&M University prior to becoming defense secretary.

- From CNN Pentagon Correspondent Chris Lawrence

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Filed under: Military • Security Brief
soundoff (22 Responses)
  1. paul

    gates put policy above politics. he was a greater public servant than anyone in the administrations hes served under

    August 16, 2010 at 10:21 am | Report abuse |
    • bshettel

      I agree with Paul... Secretary Gates personifies the true definition of public servant. I'm a liberal dem, but I'd support him based just on his honesty and dedication, were he to run for public office.

      August 16, 2010 at 10:31 am | Report abuse |
    • wamyers

      You are so wrong Paul. This man was complicit in a war that has needlessly killed hundreds of our sons and daughters, without making the U.S. any safer than it was on 9/10/2001.

      August 16, 2010 at 10:39 am | Report abuse |
    • Rigel54

      Gates is a truly great man, and a true patriot in the old sense of the word. His is more concerned with what is right that what is politic. While I understand his need and right to retire, he may be truly irreplaceable.

      August 16, 2010 at 10:48 am | Report abuse |
    • JIm

      wamyers, you can say the same of every presidential administration since Carter
      From Zbigniew Brzezinski, President -and Nobel Peace Laureate- Carter's National Security advisor: According to the official version of history, CIA aid to the Mujahadeen began during 1980, that is to say, after the Soviet army invaded Afghanistan, 24 Dec 1979. But the reality, secretly guarded until now, is completely otherwise: Indeed, it was July 3, 1979 that President Carter signed the first directive for secret aid to the opponents of the pro-Soviet regime in Kabul. And that very day, I wrote a note to the president in which I explained to him that in my opinion this aid was going to induce a Soviet military intervention.

      August 16, 2010 at 11:01 am | Report abuse |
  2. Ron Peterson

    We will miss this decent, humble and reflective man. An extraordinary contrast to his predecessor who opted for hubris over insight.

    August 16, 2010 at 10:22 am | Report abuse |
  3. Bill

    Someone better get rid of him sooner than that before he destroys the Military and DoD

    August 16, 2010 at 10:27 am | Report abuse |
    • Russ

      Quite the contrary. He is updating it to fight the wars of the 21st century and eliminating waste. We will have a better military as a result of him.

      August 16, 2010 at 10:42 am | Report abuse |
    • Rigel54

      I agree with Russ. Gates has made some hard choices on what is possible, something many Americans do not trouble themselves with. They want low taxes and unlimited military spending (though they may want to cut wastefull items like maintenance of roads, bridges, railways, electrical grid, and such). I absolutely love the hi-tech weaponry, and my company builds parts for the F-22 and F-35, but choices must be made.

      August 16, 2010 at 10:52 am | Report abuse |
  4. Rao Donthineni

    Secretary Gates is the kind of balanced guy US needs to close this war and also trim Pentagan budget. Picking Secretary Gates is one thing that both Bush and Obama agreed on, and it is a great decision. He is very methodical and not sensational. Perfect qualities to be a Defense Secretary. In this partisan political world, Secretary Gates is one of a kind. Hope he will complete his term and get us out this mess.

    August 16, 2010 at 10:29 am | Report abuse |
  5. TA

    What a great public servant – few know more about our efforts and how to execute strategy abroad than Mr. Gates. Too bad good men like him are unwilling to run for President.

    August 16, 2010 at 10:30 am | Report abuse |
  6. Heather

    Another defection from a sinking Afghanistan ship?

    August 16, 2010 at 10:37 am | Report abuse |
    • Rigel54

      No Heather, a great and caring man who has given everything he could to different administrations for many years and just needs a break, and a life.

      August 16, 2010 at 10:54 am | Report abuse |
    • JIm

      Had you paid any attention to the news, you would know that Secretary Gates made it very clear that he would not serve more that a couple of years after President Obama took office.

      August 16, 2010 at 10:55 am | Report abuse |
  7. Russ

    Gates has served a long time. Everyone should be able to enjoy the fruits of their labor at some point. I wish him luck, but I hope he gets everything on track before he goes, and "breaks in the next guy".

    August 16, 2010 at 10:44 am | Report abuse |
  8. Agedsage

    I wish we could "clone" Secretary Gates to fill every post critical to the improvement of our government and Country.
    His leadership and integrity would be such a refreshing change , but of course he does not qualify to be a top level politician because he suffers from "intelligence and honesty"... qualities virtually non-existent in Washington.

    August 16, 2010 at 10:46 am | Report abuse |
  9. Omar J Fakhri

    Secretary Gates, before you go please do something about the DoD hemorrhaging classified information (WikiLeaks). As long as the DoD fails to control Removable Media (RM) then traitors will continue to sneakernet/Air-gap data from DoD systems. Ironically, I invented a system (thanks to the Robert Hannson’s Webster Commission) that would’ve prevented this but I can’t get anyone get a look-in to fund a prototype. No kidding this thing will greatly improve the security of our systems ( We can put a stop to this! Omar Fakhri, Retired USAF Master Sergeant

    August 16, 2010 at 10:47 am | Report abuse |
  10. Charles Chen


    Hardly, considering he'll turn 67 this year. Given the high stress level of his job, the sharp criticism he gets every time he proposes a much needed cut, the politicking he's had to do to negotiate his positioning of the armed forces after the huge budget run-ups under Bush, I'd say the man deserves a break. He'll be 68 when he retires; I'm sure he'd like to spend the rest of his life spending more quality time with his family and/or in a more profitable, cushier job in the private sector. Can't blame him. As a Left-leaning Democrat, I applaud Mr. Gates for doing what needed to be done and stating the plain truth that needed to be stated: America's military and strategic investments need to adjust to a 21st century reality and not remain clouded by Cold War era thinking. The world is a different place now, old enemies are new allies, and the threat has changed dramatically.

    August 16, 2010 at 10:47 am | Report abuse |
  11. David

    A great man who transcended politics. I trust him to do the right thing with the DOD and the war. I wish he'd stay longer but that has to be the most stressful job in the administration. God bless you Sec Gates.

    August 16, 2010 at 10:49 am | Report abuse |
  12. Howard

    Robert Gates is arguably the most capable and effective person to ever serve as the Secretary of Defense. I despair finding anyone even remotely as principled, knowledgeable, and competent. I pity whomever decides to try to fill Gates' shoes. If I were President Obama, I'd be sorely tempted to get down on my knees and beg Gates to remain in his post. BTW, I voted for the President and still support him.

    August 16, 2010 at 11:00 am | Report abuse |
  13. Marc D.

    Maybe he's retiring after his idiotic comments regarding Joint Forces Command in Suffolk, Virginia. His comments/decision, if his own, made him look like a huge fool. If he commented/decided based on others work/words, he's even a bigger idiot for taking their word and not doing a little research himself or getting a second opinion.

    August 16, 2010 at 12:09 pm | Report abuse |
  14. Bubba

    The Military will be better off, when this worhless individual retires. The Military need a strong leader, not a yes man.

    August 16, 2010 at 5:28 pm | Report abuse |