January 1, 2009  

Enduring SecDef

To Defense Secretary Robert Gates, holder of the title First SecDef to Stay on After the Presidency Shifted to a Different Political Party. It is testimony to Gates’ character and achievements over the past two years that regardless of who was elected president, Gates was rumored to be on the list of potential picks to run the Pentagon. So while few were surprised when President-elect Barack Obama confirmed Gates’ extended service, it’s still worth noting why it was smart to keep Gates. Aside from Obama’s observation that he brings a “level of realism” to the job, Gates has restored accountability at the Pentagon, removing the Army secretary over the Walter Reed scandal and the Air Force secretary and chief of staff over the nuclear weapons debacle. Gates also shares credit for the turnaround in Iraq that now permits serious discussions about when American troops can leave. He is the right man to lead the Pentagon through that transition.