Robert Gates Says He’ll Retire Next Year: ‘Mistake’ To Stick Around Until 2012

Defense Secretary Robert Gates is waxing poetic about historical tenure serving at the Pentagon, and told Foreign Policy magazine he will retire sometime next year.

“I think that it would be a mistake to wait until January 2012,” Gates, who has served under both President Obama and former president George W. Bush, told Foreign Policy. “This is not the kind of job you want to fill in the spring of an election year.”

Foreign Policy reports that Gates noted that if he lasts until January, he “will have been in the job longer than all but four of my predecessors.” They are Robert McNamara, Don Rumsfeld, Cap Weinberger, and Charles E. Wilson.

Obama has lost several top economic officials this year, and it’s not unusual for major transitions out of the administration in its third and fourth years, especially as the campaign heats up.Gates, who had been the popular president of Texas A&M University, took the defense post under Bush in December 2006. Early in his presidential transition in 2008, Obama asked Gates to stay on the job.

“At a time when we face an unprecedented transition amidst two wars, I have asked Robert Gates to continue as Secretary of Defense, and I’m pleased that he’s accepted,” Obama said in December 2008, lauding Gates for having “restored accountability” at the Pentagon and winning the confidence of commanders.

Gates has been integral to Obama’s new strategy with the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.