Former U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates served the government for more than 30 years in various high-level positions, including at the CIA, the National Security Council, in the White House, and at the Pentagon. He was nominated as defense secretary by President George W. Bush in 2006 and held the position through the remainder of Bush’s term and into the first term of Bush’s successor, Barack Obama. Thus he became the only U.S. defense secretary to serve two presidents in that capacity. Before that he served in the CIA in three stints for a total of 20 years, including as director of central intelligence from 1991 to 1993. Secretary Gates has served under eight presidents, from Lyndon Johnson to Barack Obama (excluding only Bill Clinton during that time).
He was born in 1943 in Wichita, Kansas, and was recruited by the CIA in 1966 during his pursuit of a master’s degree at Indiana University. He later received a doctorate in Russian and Soviet history from Georgetown. He is the only career officer in CIA history to rise from an entry position to the directorship.
During much of the 1990s Mr. Gates pursued an academic career and was appointed president of Texas A&M University. He also served as dean of the George Bush School of Government and Public Service at A&M. He is the author of two noted books: From the Shadows: The Ultimate Insider’s Story of Five Presidents and How They Won the Cold War (1996); and Duty: Memoirs of a Secretary at War (2014).
Secretary Gates has received numerous distinguished awards for his national service, including CIA’s highest award, the Distinguished Intelligence Medal, the National Security Medal, and the Presidential Citizens Medal. After his service as defense secretary, President Obama presented him with the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the country’s highest civilian honor. Obama called Mr. Gates “one of the nation’s finest public servants, who “challenged conventional wisdom” and brought sound fiscal management to the Pentagon.
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