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Robert Gates’ Likely Re-Appointment at the Pentagon Stirs Debate

President-elect Barack Obama will likely ask Defense Secretary Robert Gates to remain as Pentagon Chief when his administration takes over. A retired brigadier general and a former Bush administration official debate the pros and cons of keeping Gates at the helm.

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    The transition that may not be a change at the Pentagon. Ray Suarez has the story.


    Robert Gates says he's been counting the days until he gives up the job of secretary of defense. At least for now, he will have to stop counting.

    The man named by President Bush to replace Donald Rumsfeld two years ago will, by all accounts, be reappointed Pentagon chief by President-elect Obama.

    But the Gates choice has not been greeted with unanimous acclaim, especially among those who backed Mr. Obama's call for a quick exit from Iraq.

    We get two views now of the impending Gates appointment. Retired Brigadier General David McGinnis campaigned for Mr. Obama. He had a 29-year career in the Army and National Guard and served as director of strategic plans and analysis for reserve affairs at the Pentagon.

    Peter Feaver served on the National Security Council staff during the Bush administration. He's now a professor of political science and public policy at Duke University and is the director of the Triangle Institute for Security Studies.

    General McGinnis, what's the message President-elect Obama is sending by asking Secretary of Defense Gates to stay on in his cabinet?

    BRIG. GEN. DAVID MCGINNIS (Ret.), U.S. Army National Guard: I think there's a message he intends to send, which is stability within the defense organization and in dealing with the operational issues overseas.

    However, the other message he's sending, which concerns me, is he's agreeing with a myth that has been around for a long time that Republicans are strong on defense and Democrats are not strong on defense. This myth has been around since the decision to put a Republican in the Clinton administration, with Senator Cohen back in 1997.

    And I think it sends a bad message, because we do have capable individuals in the national security arena who can do that job. And the American people voted for change, and they voted for change across government.

    So the issue is one of management versus perception and stability within the national security arena. And my main concern is about management.