Running on the AP for the last few hours:
President-elect Barack Obama will keep Defense Secretary Robert Gates in that job for at least a year, according to an official familiar the two men’s discussions. . . Retaining Gates provides stability for a stretched military fighting two wars during the turbulent changeover in administrations.
Keeping Gates in position for about a year or so is a prudent move. Continuity in the Defense Department provides the new Administration some breathing space; with two wars underway, a looming showdown with Iran, (and don’t forget about the pirates) President-Elect Obama’s National Security Council already has its hands full; a stable DOD enables the administration to get its national security council apparatus established and start setting objectives, while reducing the angle somewhat on the learning curve. Anyone fearing that the new administration’s agenda will be supplanted by the former regime can relax; the rest of the NSC will be new administration appointees, so there is little doubt that the President will have a wide range of voices/views to help his decision making.
Having a known quantity on board at Defense also allows Obama to focus on his domestic agenda, which is first and foremost on the minds of most Americans at this point, no?
And if there is a person worthy of holding over into the new administration, it is certainly Bob Gates. In his tenure as the Secretary of Defense, he has presided over a major strategy shift (one initially opposed by the civilian and military leadership within the Pentagon) that dramatically turned the United States’ fortunes around in the Middle East. Gates has fired two service secretaries, the Chief of Staff of the air force, and the head of Walter Reed; the former Central Command Commander, Admiral Fox Fallon, was arguably fired as well. He has held people at the highest levels accountable.
No doubt the decision to keep Gates on board will disappoint some of Obama’s more “progressive” supporters, who view his election as a repudiation of every single minute that has transpired over the past eight years; for those residing in the center of the political spectrum, however, Obama’s nod to keep Gates signals a pragmatic streak within President-Elect Obama, and indicates he is choosing his cabinet to get things done rather than to satisfy any constituency.