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Gates: Federal Experience Offered Valued Leadership Lessons

By Donna Miles
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Dec. 5, 2006 – President Bush’s nominee to be the next defense secretary told Congress today that if confirmed, he’ll bring important lessons to the job: the importance of working collaboratively with other federal partners and of tapping into the expertise of the professionals who carry out the mission, among them.

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Robert M. Gates, defense secretary nominee, responds to questions during a Senate Armed Services Commitee hearing regarding his confirmation, Dec. 5. Photo by Cherie A. Thurlby

(Click photo for screen-resolution image);high-resolution image available.

Speaking to the Senate Armed Services Committee during his confirmation hearing, Robert M. Gates said his experience at the Central Intelligence Agency and in other capacities “has given me an appreciation of how all the different parts of the government need to work together to get anything done.”

Gates recalled the early days of the Iraq Study Group he served on, with some federal agencies and organizations running into difficulties working with one another. “So one of the most significant lessons I’ve learned is the importance of the entire government pulling together as a team,” he said.

It’s important for these entities “to remember that we all work for the same boss,” Gates told the committee. “And that boss, ultimately, is the people of the United States.”

Gates called personal relationships critical to accomplishing what’s necessary to serve the American people. He joked that the political science professors at Texas A&M University, where he serves as president, don’t allow him in their classrooms “because I tell them to throw away the organization charts (and) that personal relationships matter.”

His experience working with Congress reinforced “the importance of consultations, the importance of (a) lack of surprises (and) the importance of treating other people’s views with respect,” Gates told the committee.

Gates credited former CIA director William Webster, for whom Gates served as deputy, with demonstrating the importance of seeking the counsel of professionals within the organization. Webster “taught me a lot about how to get things done in a big organization,” particularly in setting a vision for the organization and relying on professionals there to get things done, Gates said.

“When you treat the professionals in an organization who … perform the mission of the organization with respect and you listen to them and pay attention to them, I think that everybody is better served,” he said. “They were there before you, and they will be there after you leave. And if you don’t make them part of the solution, they will become part of the problem.”

Gates told committee members during his opening statement that he will seek counsel from military leaders and combatant commanders in the field and “will give most serious consideration to the views of those who lead our men and women in uniform.”

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Robert M. Gates

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