Robert Michael Gates was the only career officer in the history of the CIA to rise from entry-level employee to Director. He was born on September 25, 1943 in Wichita, Kansas and studied at the College of William and Mary where he was an active member in the Young Republicans. He graduated in 1965 and obtained his degree in history at the Indiana University in 1966. He later obtained his PhD in Russian and Soviet history from Georgetown University.
Gates joined the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) while studying at the university but prior to his post at the agency he spent two years in the United States Air Force commissioned as a Second Lieutenant including a tour in Vietnam. He worked for the CIA afterwards as an intelligence analyst.
In 1974, Gates joined the National Security Council (NSC) staff and worked under the administration of President Jimmy Carter and left his post in 1979 and rejoined the CIA as an executive assistant to the CIA director, Stansfield Turner.
During the 1980 presidential campaign, Ronald Reagan was given the information that current President Jimmy Carter was trying to negotiate a deal with Iran for the release of the American hostages. It is said that it was Gates who leaked this information to Reagan which led to Reagan’s victory in the election.
When Iraq invaded Iran on September 22, 1980, the Iranian government was desperate in acquiring spare parts and equipment for its armed forces. Jimmy Carter proposed the US will be willing to hand over the supplies in return for the hostages.
Again, the CIA leaked this information to Ronald Reagan and to George H.W. Bush. A few days before the election, Barry Goldwater reported that he has information about two Air Force C-5 transports being loaded with spare parts for Iran. This information was false however, the publicity made it impossible for Carter not to do the deal. On the other hand, Ronald Reagan promised the Iranian government that he will arrange for the all the arms they need in exchange of the hostages that won him the elections. It was said that CIA agents had persuaded Khomeini not to release the American hostages until Reagan was sworn. The hostages were released twenty minutes after Reagan’s inaugural address.
Gates was appointed Deputy Director for Intelligence in 1982 and was promoted to Deputy Director of the Central Intelligence four years after under William J. Casey.
In 1987, President Reagan nominated Gates who was the acting director of the CIA after Casey lost his ability to speak to become the CIA Director. When the president learned that his nomination of Gates is going to be rejected by the Senate he was forced to withdraw his nomination. This was because most members believed that Gates lied about his involvement in the Iran-Contra Scandal and he was also suspected of passing intelligence to Iraq during the Iran – Iraq War.
The Iran-Contra scandal involves Reagan administration officials who facilitated the sale of arms to Iran in which portions of the proceeds from the weapons sales was diverted to fund anti – Sadinista and anti-communist rebels known as the Contras in Nicaragua.
Robert Gates remained as Deputy Director of Central Intelligence until March 20, 1989 and became Deputy Assistant to the President for National Security Affairs in March 1989 to August 1989. He also became Assistant to the President and Deputy National Security Adviser from August 1989 to November 1991.
When George H.W. Bush won the presidency he nominated Gates as Director of Central Intelligence on May 14, 1991 were three of his colleagues in the CIA testified against him. However, it is said that Walter Pincus called for the Senate to approve Bush’s nomination of Gates as director of the CIA. Gates was confirmed but had attracted 31 negative votes. This is more than all the votes against all of the CIA directors in history. He served as Director of the CIA until 1993.
Gates worked as an academic and lecturer after retiring from the CIA and served as president of the Texas A&M University and later joined the Iraq Study group on March 2006.
President George W. Bush nominated Gates as Defense Secretary on November 8, 2006 to replace Donald Rumsfeld. He was confirmed as defense secretary with bipartisan support and took office on December 18, 2006 and was named as one of the most influential people in 2007.
During his early stint as defense secretary for the Bush Administration Gates was commended for his support on the new surge strategy of General David Petraeus. He was also commended for his openness to the Secretary of State’s Condoleezza Rice’s new approach on North Korea as well as his handling of the Walter Reed medical scandal. He was well complimented for circumventing an attack by President Vladimir Putin when he lambasted the United States in a security meeting in Europe.
Four months after he took the job as defense secretary he supported the increase of troops of the U.S. ground forces even if it was too small and too late to help in Iraq. His earlier public support in negotiation with Iran may had help motivate the Bush administration in sending representatives during the Baghdad regional security conference were Iranian officials were present.
Gates is the welcome contrast to Donald Rumsfeld. He may either be proved right or at least acknowledged a failed policy and is willing to try something new.
Gates was named one of America’s Best Leaders and continued to serve as President Barack Obama’s Secretary of Defense in 2008.
Gates directed the surge in the Iraq war and made significant changes in tactics and began the withdrawal of troops in 2008 when violence had declined in Iraq under the Bush administration and continued this policy in the Obama administration.
In response to the finding of Air Force misshipments of nuclear weapons and nuclear weapons components in June 5, 2008, he announced the resignation of Michael Wynne, Air Force Secretary and Air Force Chief of Staff Michael Moseley.
President – elect Obama announce that Gates will remain as Secretary of Defense and was the only cabinet member in history to serve under two presidents of different parties and was the first to so as Defense Secretary.
As he continues the withdrawal of troops in Iraq under the Bush administration, he implemented a quick limited surge of troops in Afghanistan in 2009 resulting to the removal of General David D. McKiernan which was a very rare decision during wartime.
On February 2010 he announced the lifting of the ban on women serving on submarines and started preparing the armed forces for the repeal of the don’t ask, don’t tell policy. Later in March 2010 he announced the approval of the new regulations that will make it harder for the military to kick out gays.
During his tenure as Secretary of Defense in the Obama administration he included a big shift in military spending and propose huge shift in budget priorities in April 2009 in the U.S. Department of Defense 2010 budget. Budget cuts affected many programs that were geared towards traditional warfare like the end of the new orders of the F-22 Raptor and the development of the Future Combat Systems manned vehicles. Instead he increased fund for programs such as the Special Forces and called it the “nation’s first truly 21st century defense budget.” He also suggested a stop on the funding of a new multi-billion dollar ballistic missile submarine in the Navy on the grounds of cost and relevancy on April 2010. He suggested that these funds are better off spent on new generation vessels that will be appropriate to the threats and tactics the United States will be facing in the future.
As Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates prepares to depart the government for the second time, he said that the human costs of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan made him more cautious in unleashing the strength of the United States armed forces.
He took the job as defense secretary when the United States was fighting two difficult and costly wars. Gates said that he will always be a supporter in terms of wars of necessity and is more cautious on wars of choice. This includes the war in Libya in which he expressed major reservations about American intervention that prevented the country from another costly war in the future. It is also said that Gates prevented further adventures in relation to Iran that could have led to another military intervention and another war.
Robert Gates successfully accomplish his role by leaps and bounds in improving the country’s defense department as Secretary of Defense from the Bush administration to the Obama administration by leading and supporting surge in Iraq and Afghanistan, approval and changes on the guidelines of the don’t ask, don’t tell policy to allow gays to serve in the military and more meaningful and useful budget cuts in the military. He might be the most controversial man in the CIA who is allegedly accused of leaking information and curbing intelligence and might have been involved in the Iran-Contra affair. But the man stood tall and remains strong as a public figure.
Gates looks forward to his retirement and can’t wait to drive himself to Burger King as one of his first activities following his retirement without a big security entourage following him.