The Hill is reporting that Robert Gates will retain his post as Secretary of Defense, as least for the next year. This decision will mercifully spare us from the rumored alternatives, among them Chuck Hagel and John Kerry. Here's a few of Gates's directives that should absolutely be sustained.
First, continue the sound, pragmatic policies which eschew static military hierarchy. One of Gates' most valuable qualities is his ability to break through miles of Pentagon red tape in order to swiftly deliver combat capability to the average warfighter. Take the C-12 Huron, a cheap, valuable intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance platform that was rapidly developed and fielded -- thanks to Gates' demand that the Air Force (quickly) improve ISR capabilities in Iraq and Afghanistan. It was a platform that the Air Force didn't want, but the infantry badly needed. Gates won, and the Huron has quickly proven itself to be an invaluable wartime support and intelligence asset.
Continue firing leaders who aren't up to snuff. When General George C. Marshall took over as Army Chief of Staff in 1939, he canned a sizable group of military leaders who were more bureaucrat than soldier. Congressmen accused Marshall of "bankrupting the Army of its brains." Six years later, there were no complaints, as the replacements Marshall brought in were men like Patton, Eisenhower, Bradely, and Hap Arnold. Gates, who has a bust of Marshall in his office, has taken a personal interest in picking the right type of leaders for Iraq and Afghanistan, fired the Secretary of the Army over the Walter Reed scandal, and recently decapitated the Air Force's highest ranking officials over two nuclear weapons incidents back in 2007-2008 (or at least that was the official story). Accountability rolls downhill. Gates understands this, and is improving the entire DoD with nothing more than a few key personnel changes.
Increase the assault on bureaucracy and the peacetime mentality. Grunts love Gates because Gates walks, talks, and thinks like he's holding a rifle in his hand. He has all but declared war on the Pentagon's office creep, the influence of the imprudent staff officer, and the military's habit of self-inflicting wounds with overly aggressive regulations and procedures. "Why did we have to bypass existing institutions and procedures to get the capabilities we need to protect our troops and pursue the wars we are in?" Gates asked."For every heroic and resourceful innovation by troops and commanders on the battlefield, there was some institutional shortcoming at the Pentagon they had to overcome."
Two of President Bush's best wartime decisions were the Iraq troop surge and hiring Gates as Secretary of Defense. Credit to President Obama, as two of his best wartime decisions have been the Afghanistan troop surge and retaining Gates as Secretary of Defense.