November 17th, 2008
04:20 PM ET

Transition at the Pentagon, too

[cnn-photo-caption image=http://i2.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2008/WORLD/asiapcf/07/23/afghan.troops/art.gates.afp.gi.jpg caption="Defense Secretary Robert Gates"]
Barbara Starr
CNN Pentagon Correspondent

1. The question of whether Defense Secretary Robert Gates would stay on the job, if asked by President–elect Barack Obama is a matter of “minute by minute” speculation around the Pentagon according to a senior defense official who said only Gates knows what is really going on at this point. The official said many senior department officials continue to internally discuss the possibility, but he noted Gates staying on “would be difficult in a practical sense,” because so many of the existing senior staff members are political appointees from the Bush Administration.

For example, two of the most influential senior staff members: Robert Rangel, chief of staff and Jim O’Bierne, chief of White House liaison are deep Bush political loyalists—who would have to be replaced—even though Gates has relied on them since the day he got here. Also all the undersecretaries and assistant secretaries would have to leave as a practical political matter, this official said. The bottom line is…do you really ask Bush loyalists to stay?

Nobody knows the answer. This person who is close to Gates but pretty even handed…says his read is Gates hasn’t been formally asked yet. He believes Gates is playing it very close to the vest, to see what the offer looks like, and what those critical staff arrangements would be. He acknowledges the current rumour of the morning is Gates staying, and Richard Danzig as deputy-and moving up. but who knows? Anything still possible…but if Gates stays the details will be awfully interesting.

Some Obama transition people were in the Pentagon on Friday. Top transition official Michelle Flournoy comes to the building today for courtesy calls.

2. Re Obama saying on 60 Minutes last nite he will close Gitmo. This same senior defense official who is a position to know says the Pentagon has long looked at two options. The brig at Charleston , and fed prisons. In addition to legal questions he says members of congress in those areas have been adamantly opposed. He says the estimate is there are currently about 80 detainees considered still to be such a threat they could not likely be released.

Filed under: Barbara Starr • Pentagon • Raw Politics
soundoff (3 Responses)
  1. Heather,ca

    I would love to see Gates stay, but I know in the end that its his own decision to make. Unlike many I know alot about him and I only wish he had been in his current position from day one. He is a good and decent person who has been witness to world history from behind the scenes. He is not a Bush loyalist. He is smart and a modest person. Watch the History channel and you learn things that you would never otherwise be aware of. Gates is not a politician. He deserves more than being put in with the rest. I know he has done more for the military than Rumsfeld ever did. He cares and they know. He put principles and standards above politics. Whatever he decides to do,I will miss knowing he is there. If he retires I hope he writes a book. For someone like him it would interesting to read. If not I wish him well and another job well done. Maybe you could get an interview. Who knows

    November 17, 2008 at 9:12 pm |
  2. angel

    Everyone in Bush's cabinet must go!!! out out out!!!!

    If I were Obama, I would be deeply concerned if I kept any Bush loyalists as I would fear they would sabotage my mission.

    Bush and his pals cant leave fast enough for me. In fact, in my head
    and most other americans, Bush is gone. All that's left now is the clean up. $$$$

    November 17, 2008 at 7:53 pm |
  3. earle,florida

    Oh boy, Gates a long time Bush#41 pal,and loyalist, which poppy begged to come out of academic's in Texas (nice cushion job) to get junior #43 out of the ramsacked,"China Closet",he created! Sorry, but all must go, just like in the wild kingdom when the,"lion's Pride" gets a new male leader/defender, it instinctively (mercilessly) kills off all former siblings to insure his supreme domination. Sounds cruel,but human nature and animal behavior are very similar. Just the, RAW" facts folks!

    November 17, 2008 at 6:10 pm |