By Rebecca Shabad - 10/30/13 02:06 PM EDT
Robert Gates has been elected national president-elect of the Boy Scouts of America.
The organization's executive board announced in a release Wednesday it had chosen the former secretary of Defense and former CIA director.
"There is no finer program for preparing American boys for citizenship and leadership than the Boy Scouts of America. As an Eagle Scout, I know first hand how impactful this program can be and I believe its mission is more important today than ever before," Gates said in a statement.
"I am honored to take on this role and look forward to working on behalf of the millions of youth and adult members who make Scouting what it is today — an organization providing life-changing opportunities to today's youth."
He is an Eagle Scout and has previously served as the president of the National Eagle Scout Association. The Boy Scouts of America serves 2.6 million youths.
Earlier this year, the organization voted to end its controversial policy banning gay children and teenagers from joining the Boy Scouts. The policy change is slated to take effect Jan. 1.
The policy shift likely sits well with Gates, who backed the successful 2010 repeal of the military’s "Don’t ask, don’t tell" policy, which banned gay and lesbian service members from serving openly.
Gates served as defense secretary for both Presidents George W. Bush and Obama. He was director of the CIA under President George H.W. Bush in the early '90s.