Robert Gates Plans to Step Down as US Defense Secretary
US Defense Secretary Robert Gates 'to Step Down in 2011'
US Secretary of Defense Robert Gates has announced that he plans to step down in 2011. Pentagon press secretary Geoff Morrell downplayed the announcement, saying, "This is not Bob Gates announcing he is stepping down. This is somebody who has been a failure at retirement, musing about when it would make sense to try again".
The announcement comes as the US mission in Afghanistan reaches a crossroads, and as the Pentagon faces budget cuts. Should he make himself a lame duck by actually giving a departure date, Gates would end up hindering progress on his own proposals, which include downsizing within the Pentagon's ranks as well as reducing the number of outside contractors .
The defence secretary, who will be 67 next month, was appointed by Bush in December 2006 to replace Donald Rumsfeld and was asked to remain by Obama, who wanted to demonstrate that he was not politically partisan in making appointments. White House insiders, such as the chief of staff Rahm Emanuel, have said that Obama trusts his judgment.