Gates not planning to stay through end of Obama first term

Defense Secretary Robert Gates has no plans to stay on at the Pentagon through the end of President Obama’s first term in office.

Gates, whose service now spans one Republican and one Democratic administration, told reporters at the Pentagon on Thursday that he has already made up his mind about his departure date, but refused to disclose any more details.

Gates told Foreign Policy magazine earlier this year that the logical point for his departure would be in 2011 to give the president enough time to pick the appropriate successor before the 2012 reelection season starts in earnest.

“Having a confirmation process in the early spring of 2012 in the middle of a presidential election year is probably not the wisest thing either,” Gates said at the Pentagon press briefing.

When asked whether he would consider extending his tenure through the end of Obama’s first term in 2012, Gates said: “Not in my thinking.”

Gates has been the Pentagon chief since December 18, 2006.

Gates also dodged the question of whether he plans to stay through July 2011—a key marker in the administration’s Afghanistan strategy. July 2011 is the date when some U.S. troops will start withdrawing from Afghanistan depending on conditions on the ground at that time.