Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates has agreed to stay on under President-elect Obama, according to officials in both parties. Obama plans to announce a national-security team early next week that includes Gates at the Pentagon and Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton (D-N.Y.) as secretary of State, officials said.
Retired Marine Gen. James L. Jones, former Marine commandant and commander of U.S. and NATO forces in Europe, will be named national security adviser, the officials said.
The national security adviser heads the National Security Council, which is the part of the White House structure that deals with foreign policy, and varies in influence from presidency to presidency. Jones insisted on – and got – a commanding role, the sources said.
Democrats familiar with the national-security event early next week said they also expect James B. Steinberg, who was deputy national security adviser in the Clinton administration, to be named deputy secretary of State; Susan Rice, Obama’s senior foreign policy adviser on the campaign, to be named U.S. ambassador to the United Nations; and retired Navy Admiral Dennis C. Blair, the former commander-in-chief of the U.S. Pacific Command and a veteran of the NSC, Central Intelligence Agency and Joint Chiefs of Staff, to be named the director of national intelligence.
Tom Donilon, an assistant secretary of state for public affairs and chief of staff at the U.S. Department of State during the Clinton administration, is a leading candidate to be Jones’ deputy at the NSC, officials said.
The team gives Obama experience in the bureaucracy and credibility with the military, although it could lead to criticism from his party’s left wing that the lineup is more hawkish and less revolutionary than his supporters expected.
David Axelrod, the incoming White House senior adviser, said Sunday on ABC’s “This Week”: “The president-elect was clear throughout the campaign that when he became president, that he was going to give the secretary of defense a new mission, and that mission was going to be to wind down our involvement. Nothing has changed.”
Axelrod said Obama enjoys and invites strong opinions and there will be no “potted plants” in his Cabinet.
Gates has been negotiating with Obama emissaries over his deputies — some will be retained, and some new — and how the Pentagon will be run.
The selection of a member of President Bush’s inner circle allows Obama to deliver on his promise of a bipartisan Cabinet, even though Gates has an intelligence background and has not been an active Republican.
The appointment has substantial advantages for Obama, who now can keep his pledge of drawing down troops in Iraq with the aid of an architect of the Bush administration’s successful troop "surge" strategy.
The presence of Gates also will help finesse Obama’s relationship with Gen. David Petraeus, the former U.S. commander in Iraq and now the head of the U.S. Central Command, which includes Iraq and Afghanistan.
The Gates nomination was first reported as a “done deal” by ABC News.