January 16th, 2014
08:34 PM ET

Gates on Iran sanctions, Biden and biggest mistakes as defense secretary

By Dana Davidsen

Former Defense Secretary Robert Gates is defending his criticism of Vice President Joe Biden's record on national security.

Gates writes in his new book, "Duty: Memoirs of a Secretary at War," that Biden was "wrong on nearly every major foreign policy and national security issue over the past four decades."

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Filed under: Biden • Gates • Iran
January 12th, 2014
02:00 PM ET

Gates defends controversial book

By Ashley Killough

Bob Gates defended his new book Sunday, after some pundits blasted the former defense secretary for criticizing a sitting president and an administration in which he recently served.

In an interview with CBS’s “Sunday Morning,” Gates said the partisan culture of Washington was quick to focus on the negative statements in the book, but less interested in the positive marks he gave President Barack Obama.

But he stood by everything he wrote.

"The way people are looking at the book reflects the polarization of our political process at this point," he said. "A lot of people – not everybody – (are) going to look at this book in terms of how does it advance (their) particular political agenda, or how does it damage (their) political agenda.”

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Filed under: Gates
February 10th, 2013
11:27 AM ET

Gates: Drone program, while useful, would benefit from more oversight

By CNN's Kevin Liptak

The number of innocent victims of drone strikes remains "extremely small" and doesn't outweigh the benefits of using drones to take out al Qaeda operatives, former Defense Secretary Robert Gates argued Sunday.

But the former Pentagon chief said a better system of checks and balances could be constructive when the unmanned aerial devices are used to target Americans, aligning himself with lawmakers concerned about unfettered power in the hands of the president.

Gates served under George W. Bush during the beginnings of the drone program and later under President Barack Obama as the use of drones spiked. Recently lawmakers, both Democrats and Republicans, have forcefully questioned the use and oversight of the lethal devices.


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Filed under: drones • Gates
Gates says defense secretary role was his life's 'highest calling'
Defense Secretary Leon Panetta (right) and his predecessor Robert Gates share a laugh during the unveiling ceremony.
October 29th, 2012
08:30 PM ET

Gates says defense secretary role was his life's 'highest calling'

By Jennifer Rizzo

Former Defense Secretary Robert Gates evoked laughter during the unveiling of his official portrait Monday, but said his time heading up the military was the most important job in a long career in Washington.

“As America's Secretary of Defense during two wars was the singular honor and highest calling of my professional life,” Gates said at the Pentagon

Sending troops to war weighed on him every day, he said, so much so that he worried his devotion to protect them was clouding his judgment.

“Towards the end of my time in office, I could barely speak to the troops or about them without becoming over, without being overcome with emotion,” Gates said.

These feelings he says played a role in his decision to retire.

Gates began his role as Defense Secretary in 2006 under President George W. Bush. When President Barack Obama was elected in 2008 Gates stayed on in his role, despite plans of retiring—something he jokingly said he had current Defense Secretary Leon Panetta to thank for.

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Filed under: Gates • Military • Panetta • Panetta • Pentagon • Secretary of Defense
Biden dishes on bin Laden decision
January 27th, 2012
04:56 PM ET

Biden dishes on bin Laden decision

By Adam Levine, CNN

The mission to get Osama bin Laden seems to be the raid that keeps on giving for the Obama White House.  Whether it is a mention at the top and bottom of the State of the Union address or a highlight in a campaign speech, the president frequently refers to the mission as evidence of his leadership and foreign policy strength.

Vice President Joe Biden jumped on the Obama leadership bandwagon Friday when he revealed that he cautioned the president against signing off on the raid on bin Laden's hideaway. Despite his reservations, Biden said the president made the decision all alone.

Speaking to a meeting of congressional Democrats in Maryland, Biden shared a few new details about the tense decision-making process preceding the president's approval for the daring Pakistan raid by special operations forces.

Biden said that for a four-to-six week period in early 2011 only six people knew that bin Laden might be hiding in the military town of Abbottabad, Pakistan. When enough information finally surfaced, the president convened his national security staff on April 28. FULL POST

Filed under: Al Qaeda • CIA • Gates • Military • Most Wanted • Osama bin Laden • Panetta • Terrorism
Commanders view of Afghan drawdown not as simple as Huntsman and Romney say
November 22nd, 2011
10:44 PM ET

Commanders view of Afghan drawdown not as simple as Huntsman and Romney say

By CNN Pentagon Producer Larry Shaughnessy

GOP candidates Mitt Romney and Jon Huntsman offered differing views Tuesday nighton how a president should reach decisions about matters such as U.S. troops in Afghanistan.

Romney made it clear he believes a president should listen to his commanders on the ground when making such a decision. "The commander-in-chief makes that decision based upon the input of people closest to the ground," Romney said during Tuesday night's CNN Republican presidential debate.

Huntsman said just listening to the commanders on the ground would be a mistake for a president.

"I also remember when people listened to the generals in 1967 and we heard a certain course of action in South Asia that didn't serve our interests very well. The president is the commander-in-chief and ought to be informed by a lot of different voices, including of those of his generals on the ground."

While they differed on how much influence the generals on the ground should have, they both implied that the president's military advisers speak with one voice on these matters. That's not always the case.

In December of 2009, President Barack Obama was mulling over how many "surge" troops to send to Afghanistan. Shortly before he made his decision, CNN sources said Gen. Stanley McChrystal, then U.S. commander in Afghanistan, was recommending 40,000 more troops. Obama decided to send 30,000.

Last summer when Obama was trying to decide how many U.S. troops to pull out of Afghanistan, then-Gen. David Patraeus, McChrystal's replacement in Afghanistan, was recommending, according to sources, pulling out 5,000 troops. Then-Defense Secretary Robert Gates was looking at a 10,000-troop pullout. Obama decided to pullout 33,000 by the end of next summer.

After the president's announcement, Petraeus admitted the number was higher than he thought should be removed. "The ultimate decision was a more aggressive formulation, if you will, in terms of the timeline than what we had recommended," Petraeus said last June.

Even Adm. Michael Mullen, then chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, thought the president's withdrawal plans were more bold than he wanted to see. "What I can tell you is, the president's decisions are more aggressive and incur more risk than I was originally prepared to accept," Mullen said.

Had President Obama listened to just his commanders in Afghanistan, as Romney seemed to indicate, the nature of the war in Afghanistan could have looked very different over then next year.

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Filed under: 10 years of war • Afghanistan • debate • Gates • Huntsman • Military • Obama • Petraeus • Romney
McChrystal returning to Afghanistan
October 27th, 2011
10:45 AM ET

McChrystal returning to Afghanistan

By Nick Paton Walsh reporting from Kabul, Afghanistan

More than a year after remarks he made in a controversial Rolling Stone article cost him his job, retired Gen. Stanley McChrystal is heading back to Afghanistan - at the invitation of the country's presidential palace.

A U.S. Embassy spokesman said Thursday that McChrystal, the former commander of the NATO mission in Afghanistan, would soon visit Kabul.

"Ambassador (Ryan) Crocker was consulted about Gen. McChrystal's visit and he had no problem with it. (McChrystal and his wife) are traveling as private citizens and they are not carrying any particular message," embassy spokesman Gavin Sundwall said.

McChrystal was removed from his post in June 2010 after the general and top aides were quoted in the Rolling Stone article disparaging top administration officials.

At the time, U.S. President Barack Obama praised McChrystal's service record but said the general exhibited poor judgment.

Afghanistan's presidential palace has not released additional information about the visit.

Filed under: Afghanistan • Gates • ISAF • Kabul • Karzai • Military • Pentagon • Petraeus • Secretary of Defense
Army to reduce deployment time in warzone to nine months
US Army soldiers on patrol in Afghanistan. Beginning in 2012, soldiers' deployments in Afghanistan will be reduced to 9 months. (US Army Photo)
August 5th, 2011
02:10 PM ET

Army to reduce deployment time in warzone to nine months

By Larry Shaughnessy
CNN Pentagon Producer

WASHINGTON (CNN) – The Army announced Friday that it will reduce the typical soldier’s deployment time in Afghanistan from one year to nine months. It’s a move that could help soldiers better deal with stress and help reduce family problems at home.

“The reduced deployment length will improve soldier and family quality of life while continuing to meet operational requirements and is an important step in sustaining the all-volunteer-force,” Army Secretary John McHugh said in a statement released Friday afternoon.

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Filed under: Afghanistan • Gates • Military • Secretary of Defense
Panetta vows to fight to protect DoD from damaging cuts
Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta addresses the media during his first Pentagon news conference. Getty Photo
August 4th, 2011
05:33 PM ET

Panetta vows to fight to protect DoD from damaging cuts

WASHINGTON (CNN) - Vowing that he "came into this job to fight," Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta said he intends to make sure "some common sense prevails" as Congress works to find more ways to reduce the national debt.

Panetta, just a little over one month on the job since replacing Robert Gates, held his first Pentagon news conference Thursday.

Most of the briefing centered on questions about the debt deal hammered out last weekend and signed into law Tuesday by President Barack Obama.

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Filed under: Congress • Gates • Military • Panetta • Secretary of Defense • Security Brief
Army prepares to cut thousands of civilian jobs
US Army is planning to cut 8,000 civilian jobs, on top of 27,000 troop cuts already in the works
August 3rd, 2011
05:50 PM ET

Army prepares to cut thousands of civilian jobs

WASHINGTON (CNN) – The US Army, already looking to shrink its force by 27,000 soldiers, is now also trying to cut more than 8,000 civilian jobs.

The plans call for the civilian jobs to be eliminated between now and October 2012, according to an Army official and a memo obtained by CNN.

The memo from Army Secretary John McHugh reads in part, "It is imperative that these reductions be accomplished as rapidly as possible, but no later than the end of FY 2012."

The cuts are part of the Army's plan to comply with the Secretary of Defense's instructions to return to Fiscal Year 2010 budget levels and keeping in line with the larger national federal budget reduction efforts that have been underway since before the most recent national debt battle.

The Army, according to its website, has approximately 350,000 civilian employees.

The cuts would come through voluntary early separation or early retirement, attrition and if necessary, layoffs.

Then Secretary of Defense Robert Gates said in January that the Army would cut its active duty force by 27,000 soldiers as part of what Gates called "efficiency savings".

That reduction will take place beginning in 2015.

The Army's civilian job cuts may just be the beginning for the Pentagon. A senior defense official said Wednesday that in the wake of the cuts spelled out in the debt reduction bill signed this week by President Obama, thousands of civilians throughout the defense department may lose their jobs.

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