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- from Weekend Edition Saturday, May 18, 2002
Robert M. Gates, President Bush's choice to replace Donald Rumsfeld as defense secretary, is an old ally of the president's father and a veteran of Capitol Hill political wars.
Now president of Texas A&M University, Gates served as CIA chief under President George H.W. Bush from 1991 to 1993, during the first Iraq war. After one of the most contentious confirmation processes on record, Gates' nomination was passed by a 64-to-31 vote.
Even so, experts say Gates is well regarded in Washington intelligence and military circles. He is also known as a longtime friend of the Bush family.
This is at least the second attempt by to bring Gates into the current Bush administration. Gates was said to be the first choice for the new position of national intelligence director. He turned it down.
Gates, 63, is also a member of the Iraq Working Group headed by former Secretary of State James Baker, another Bush family loyalist, and former U.S. Rep. Lee Hamilton (R-IN). President Bush appointed the bipartisan group to make recommendations on Iraq strategy.
William Webster, former head of the CIA and FBI, says Gates is a "consensus builder."
"He's been there before, but he comes without any context on the issues that have been debated in the election. That's a good thing," Webster says.
He also notes that as a member of the Baker panel, Gates will bring perspective on the issues facing the administration on Iraq.
Retired Maj. Gen. Mike Davidson, former assistant to the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, notes that Gates is respected among military officers. Gates served in the Air Force during the Vietnam era, but does not have extensive military experience.
Davidson says Gates' priority will be to provide a channel for the recommendations of the Baker panel.
"You needed a new set of eyes to come in and look at the strategy. Gates is the new set of eyes," Davidson says.
Webster, the former CIA head, says of Gates: "I know him as a man of exceptional character, someone who headed the Eagle Scouts nationally. He's an educator, bright, with a lot of qualities that will help carry us forward, including the ability to attract consensus and get information."
A native of Kansas, Gates spent nearly 27 years with the Central Intelligence Agency, which he joined in 1966. He is the only career officer in the agency's history to rise from entry-level employee to director.
Prior to taking the top spot at the CIA, Gates served as the agency's deputy director and as deputy to Brent Scowcroft, national security adviser to President H.W. Bush.
Gates has served six presidents, of both parties, and spent nearly nine years at the National Security Council.
Author of the 1996 memoir From the Shadows, Gates is a graduate of the College of William and Mary. He received his master's degree in history from Indiana University and his doctorate in Russian and Soviet history from Georgetown University.
Since leaving the CIA, Gates has often weighed in on U.S. policy and security. Excerpts from some of his speeches and articles are below: