November 10, 2006

Former DCI Bob Gates - New Secretary of Defense

The probable next Secretary of Defense brings a unique background to the table that may have the unintended consequence of healing the rift between current Secretary Donald Rumsfeld and the recently created Director of National Intelligence (DNI) John Negroponte.

Robert Gates began his government service as a United States Air Force intelligence officer, followed by a career as an analyst with the Central Intelligence Agency. He rose to the position of Deputy Director for Intelligence in 1982, then deputy director in 1986. There was a break in CIA service when he served on the National Security Council. Although he was nominated to be the Director of Central Intelligence (DCI) in 1987, he withdrew his name because of controversy over his role in the Iran-Contra affair. Gates served as the deputy National Security Adviser for President George H.W. Bush from 1989 to 1991, after which he was named the DCI.

Gates served in the senior Bush White House with Brent Scowcroft, James Baker and Colin Powell, all three now against the current policy in Iraq. Gates himself has been somewhat critical of the conduct of the war - not the war itself, but the execution of it.

Besides being a perceived breath of fresh air at the Pentagon, Gates may be able to lessen the tension between the Department of Defense and the DNI. After the creation of the DNI, Secretary Rumsfeld directed that all intelligence matters in the Defense Department be coordinated by the Undersecretary of Defense for Intelligence, and that office to be the primary point of contact between the department and the DNI.

In essence, it was Rumsfeld's way of maintaining Defense control over the majority of the country's intelligence assets. Gates, with his intelligence background, may be able to come up with a better arrangement and improve the ailing intelligence system.