When he took over the Defense Department from Donald Rumsfeld during the G.W. Bush administration, I remember thinking what a breath of fresh air he was. What a straight-talking relief. He agreed to stay on in the post into the Obama administration, and I doubt that there was a single American who disagreed with that appointment. For two-and-a-half years, Robert Gates has maintained, with Hillary Rodham Clinton, Secretary of State, a singularly solid alliance between two departments more often at odds, historically, than not. It has been an awesome partnership to behold.
In January, 2009, Robert Gates said that he would remain at DOD until June. How relieved many of us were that he did not mean June 2009. But at the end of this June, two years later than he originally planned to retire from the post, Robert Gates will step down as Secretary of Defense. I liked him all along in that role, but came to appreciate him so much more as I watched the steadfast support he provided for Secretary Clinton and her initiatives.
He provided a model for her, and she grabbed it and ran with it. As a member of the the Senate Armed Services Committee, she had become familiar with his Quadrennial Defense Review, a management model that keeps the Defense Department streamlined according to protocols he developed. Hillary Clinton kept a relatively low profile her first five or six months at the State Department. During that period I used to claim that she was devouring all the briefs, treaties, agreements, MOUs etc. that she could get her hands on. Chewing the paper off the walls at Foggy Bottom was how I phrased it. When she surfaced in a big way not long after shattering her elbow on the job, one of her first big acts was to announce both to the State Department and the USAID personnel a QDDR: Quadrennial Diplomacy and Development Review that she based on Gates’s QDR model. That, among a few other major accomplishments, will be a strong part of her legacy at State.
She unveiled her concept of “smart power” in 2009 and balanced it on three pillars: Defense, Diplomacy, Development … the Three Ds. At every budget hearing, as she begged for appropriations on Capitol Hill, Gates, at her side, defended her requests for diplomatic and developmental funding even volunteering cuts from his own defense budget. He believed in her vision, supported it, and they worked together to achieve a new image of American power.
I will be sad at the end of this month to see Secretary Gates ride on to the next chapter of his phenomenal life. Monday, together, the Gates-Clinton Team will convene the U.S.-Japan Security Consultative Committee Meeting. probably their last official event together. It will be poignant.
I thought I would take the time this quiet Father’s Day Weekend to pay tribute to and thank the man who has stood at Defense through two presidents and been “Dad” to our troops out in the field to whom he bid a tearful farewell recently. The troops will certainly miss him. Maybe no one will miss him as much as the Secretary of State.
Job well done , sir, well above and beyond the call of duty. Thank you for your unswerving service. Godspeed in your future endeavors. Hail and Farewell. You will be missed. Heartfelt thanks from us all.