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Senate Confirms Gates as 22nd Defense Secretary

By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Dec. 6, 2006 – The Senate confirmed Robert M. Gates in a 95-2 vote today to be the 22nd U.S. secretary of defense.

Gates will succeed Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld, who will retain the job until Gates’ official swearing-in ceremony. President Bush has not yet announced when that will occur.

As part of his confirmation procedure, Gates testified yesterday before the Senate Armed Services Committee. The war in Iraq dominated the hearing and Gates told the senators he will consider all options in Iraq. Gates said the U.S. is not winning in Iraq, but not losing either. He told committee members the U.S. will need to maintain a presence in Iraq for a long time, but that the presence may not be as heavy in combat troops as it is today.

Gates told the senators he believes he can maintain an independent voice as he runs the Defense Department. “I don’t owe anybody anything,” he said. “I’ve come back here to do the best I can for the men and women in uniform and for the country in terms of these difficult problems that we face.”

Bush nominated Gates to be secretary Nov. 8, the day after the national elections that moved control of both the House and Senate to the Democrats.

“The election has changed many things in Washington, but it has not changed my fundamental responsibility, and that is to protect the American people from attack,” Bush said during a White House press conference that day.

Rumsfeld was serving as defense secretary when terrorists hit the World Trade Center and the Pentagon on Sept. 11, 2001. He personally ran to the courtyard of the Pentagon to help those injured in the attack to safety.

He went on to lead DoD as it began fighting back against terrorism, first in Afghanistan, where a small number of American special operations personnel helped the Northern Alliance overthrow the repressive Taliban regime. Rumsfeld also led the department through Operation Iraqi Freedom when 150,000 U.S. and coalition personnel overthrew Saddam Hussein and liberated 25 million people.

Rumsfeld is slated to speak to the Pentagon workforce at a town hall Dec. 8.

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