Milwaukee (CNN) – White House spokesman Bill Burton told reporters Monday that President Obama expects Defense Secretary Robert Gates to leave the Cabinet soon and is not surprised by that development because the administration has long known that he would not stay long after agreeing to extend his tour of duty beyond the Bush administration.
"It's not a surprise to see him discussing his plans to move on," Burton told reporters as Obama toured a renewable energy facility here. "The president is thankful for his service. The American people have benefitted" from that service stretching back many years and several administrations.
Burton said Gates has not spoken to the president today but noted that the secretary has said publicly that he was not likely to stay through the president's entire four-year term. Gates had hoped to retire at the end of President George W. Bush's administration but agreed to stay on for the start of the Obama administration after the president-elect convinced him it was important for continuity in the Afghanistan and Iraq wars.
Burton said Gates stayed longer than originally intended and the president is "grateful for that service."