Clements Center
Clements Center

The Hon. Robert Gates

Former Secretary of Defense

Robert M. Gates retired as Defense Secretary in June 2011. Mr. Gates was given the Medal of Freedom, the nation's highest civilian honor, by President Obama. Originally appointed by President George W. Bush, Gates took office on December 18, 2006, replacing Donald Rumsfeld. Gates is the fourteenth Cabinet member in history to serve under two presidents of different political parties.

Before taking over as Sec. of Defense, Gates put in 26 years at the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) and National Security Council. During his years with the CIA, Gates was awarded the National Security Medal, the Presidential Citizens Medal, twice received the National Intelligence Distinguished Service Medal, and three times received the CIA's highest award, the Distinguished Intelligence Medal. He then served as Director of the CIA under President George W. Bush. President Bush also appointed Gates to the Iraq Study Group, a bipartisan commission assigned to study strategies and possible outcomes of the Iraq war.

Following his service at the CIA, Gates became president of Texas A&M University and served on the boards of directors of several corporations. Following the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks, President Bush offered Gates a post at the first Secretary of the newly created Department of Homeland Security. Being a good Aggie, Gates declined, choosing instead to continue his presidency at Texas A&M.

Gates was born on September 25, 1943, in Wichita, Kansas, where he charted his course of public service early-on as a distinguished Eagle Scout. After graduating from high school in Wichita, Gates was awarded a scholarship to William and Mary College, graduating with a B.A. in history in 1965. Gates then went on to earn a Master's degree in history from Indiana University in 1966, and while working at the CIA, a Ph.D. in Russian and Soviet history from Georgetown University in 1974.