Doin Thangs

The announcement of the senior subcabinet Pentagon leadership that I sort-of-but-not-really broke — and yeah, you don’t need to lecture me that it’s lame for me to quibble about this, or even care; whatever — kind of stepped on the toes of a piece I was hoping to put out tomorrow. But, the game being what it is, I scrambled this afternoon and published it just now. The gist is this: Bob Gates’ tenure in the Bush administration was just a prelude. His real tenure begins now. Read it in the Washington Independent:

The official noted that Gates does not see himself as a benchwarmer secretary who remains in office to get the military comfortable with Obama so that the president-elect can then appoint a Democrat to the position. “There’s not a hard and fast date” to Gates’ retention at the agency, the official said, although Gates’ coterie of aides is operating on the prudential assumption that he’ll stay in the job for about a year at least.

Gates is likely to use that time to make his mark on the Pentagon, the official said. During the last two years of the Bush administration, Gates’ tenure overwhelmingly focused on Iraq, and his aides carried special watches to remind themselves that they had a limited time in office. But now that he is remaining in the Obama administration, the official said, he is likely to focus as well on the tasks he has envisioned in his public statements and writings, such as refitting the Pentagon to focus on “institutionalizing counterinsurgency skills and the ability to conduct stability and support operations,” rather than focusing just on traditional combat, as he recently wrote in a Foreign Affairs article.

Democratic officials close to the Pentagon transition team who would not speak for either attribution or quotation indicated that they felt Gates was a more natural fit for the Obama administration than he was for the Bush administration. His well-received efforts at crafting a more realistic defense posture; emphasizing the civilian and not the military aspects of foreign policy and defense; and repeated emphasis on counterinsurgency and irregular warfare have been championed by several defense experts in the Obama transition’s orbit. Flournoy’s arrival as policy chief reflects that congruence.

 If you thought he was a caretaker secretary, think again. You might say he’s DOIN THANGS.

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Spencer Ackerman

Spencer Ackerman