The Senate Armed Services Committee today unanimously approved President Bush’s nomination of Robert M. Gates to be the next secretary of defense, replacing Donald H. Rumsfeld, the panel’s chairman announced.
The announcement by Sen. John W. Warner (R-Va.) came after Gates testified before the committee in an open confirmation hearing and a closed session, impressing senators from both the Republican and Democratic parties with what they described as his “candor.”
The nomination now goes to the full Senate for a confirmation vote, which could be held as soon as tomorrow.
Gates told the committee that “all options are on the table” in dealing with the situation in Iraq, and he said he does not believe that U.S. forces currently are winning the war there.
Appearing before the committee after a breakfast meeting with Bush, Gates said in his opening remarks that he is “open to a wide range of ideas and proposals” in Iraq, and he pledged to consult urgently with military leaders, combatant commanders in the field and members of Congress, among others, if confirmed.
He warned that the war in Iraq risks provoking a “regional conflagration” unless a new strategy can arrest the nation’s slide toward chaos. He called the status quo there unacceptable and said Iraq would be his “highest priority.”
Asked by Sen. Carl M. Levin (D-Mich.), the ranking Democrat on the committee, whether “you believe we’re currently winning in Iraq,” Gates answered, “No, sir.” He repeated the assessment when asked the same question by Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.). Continue reading