Washington (CNN) – In a wide-ranging interview with CNN, Defense Secretary Robert Gates said the relationship between the U.S. and Pakistan is much improved. And Gates said, in his opinion, the international community needs to move swiftly to pass a United Nations resolution backing sanctions on Iran.
Using a scale of one to ten, Gates said he rates the relationship with Pakistan at a "six or a seven" now. The Pentagon head also told CNN Chief National Correspondent John King that the relationship was worse – a three on a scale of ten – just two years ago.
The Pakistanis "are very sensitive to the size of the American footprint, the number of Americans on the ground in a training capacity or whatever," Gates said in an interview that aired on CNN's John King, USA. "They're also extremely sensitive about their sovereignty. And we have to respect those things.
"So I think those are things that we're working our way through, but frankly, as I've just indicated, I think the relationship has been improving significantly, and I expect that to continue," Gates said.
On the Obama administration's little acknowledged but widely reported use of remotely-piloted "drone" plane attacks in Pakistani territory, Gates gave few details.
"I would just say we are doing what we need to do," the Defense secretary told King.
On Iran, Gates said the international community should not be fooled by the relative calm that has followed Tehran's efforts to crack down on protests after last year's disputed presidential election results.
Washington (CNN) – Defense Secretary Robert Gates is pushing back against liberal criticism that he trying to slow walk the repeal of the military’s "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" policy. Rather, Gates told CNN the change needs to be done in a way that does not disrupt the armed services.
The Defense Department is currently conducting an internal review of the policy, which will eventually lead to allowing gays and lesbians to openly serve in the military. Late last month, Gates sent a letter to a leading Democrat on Capitol Hill where he urged Congress not to get out in front on the Pentagon on this issue.
"I know there's some that are suspicious out there that this is some kind of effort to slow roll this process," Gates says in an interview set to air Monday on CNN's John King, USA. "But as I said in that testimony, I've led several huge public institutions and I've led change in every one of them and there's a smart way to do change, and there's a stupid way to do change. This one has to be done smart.
"And I think it's only fair as we get ready to make this change that we give our force the opportunity to tell us how they feel about it, for us to find out their concerns, for us to identify the challenges we're going to face if Congress does change the law, and how we will go about doing that, and how we will mitigate negative consequences by what we hear from the force. And so I've said this is not about whether, but about how, and that continues to be our position."
(CNN) - The Pentagon must hold down its spending and make choices that will anger "powerful people" in an era of economic strain, Defense Secretary Robert Gates said in a weekend speech in Kansas.
Increasing health care costs, a top-heavy uniformed and civilian management force, and big-ticket weapons systems are swelling the military's budget at an "unsustainable" rate, Gates said. In response, Gates said, he has ordered the Defense Department's military and civilian leaders to find savings of 2 to 3 percent - more than $10 billion of the Pentagon's roughly $550 billion base budget - and shift spending toward war-fighting costs.
"These savings must stem from root-and-branch changes that can be sustained and added to over time," he told an audience Saturday at the Eisenhower Presidential Library in Abilene. "Simply taking a few percent off the top of everything on a onetime basis will not do."
Fort Riley, Kansas (CNN) - A wartime defense secretary, it seems, has to learn a lot about classroom size, health care co-pays, and squashing rumors.
Of course, there are more traditional questions, like: When will the United States military be out of Iraq and Afghanistan?
For an hour or so Saturday at Fort Riley, Secretary Robert Gates patiently fielded questions, and a few complaints, from military spouses.
He made a little news that made the locals happy: announcing he was asking Congress next week for authority to transfer some Pentagon funds to the education budget to help alleviate overcrowded classrooms at the post by building a new elementary school and renovating existing schools.
He also promised to look into an array of concerns and complaints about the military health care system, including a lack of mental health counselors and specialists.
And he said alternative treatments like acupuncture and aromatherapy were proving successful in helping troops deal with post traumatic stress, and perhaps should be covered in health plans for spouses.
Washington (CNN) – Former Chairman of the Democratic National Committee Howard Dean has penned an open letter to President Obama asking for immediate action on the controversial "don't ask, don't tell" policy that prohibits gays from serving openly in the military.
The letter, released Saturday, expresses concern that the Department of Defense could, "indefinitely delay the possibility of moving forward with the repeal of DADT until the Pentagon completes a review of the policy."
President Obama called for a repeal of the policy during his January State of the Union address. But some activists have grown impatient with the review process, a sentiment echoed by Dean.
"While I understand the need to research how repealing DADT will affect members of the military, the law can still be repealed with an implementation timeline this year," Dean writes.
In February, Secretary of Defense Robert Gates said that laying the groundwork for a repeal of the policy would take more than a year. In the interim, however, the Defense Department was to start enforcing the policy "in a fairer manner," he told members of the Senate Armed Services Committee.
Congress will ultimately make the decision on whether to repeal the policy, a fact Gates has acknowledged. But Dean calls for immediate legislative action.
Washington (CNN) - The secretary of defense is warning Congress not to change the rules about gays in the military until the Pentagon has reviewed the impact of repealing the laws on the force.
In a letter sent to the House Armed Services Committee's chairman on Friday, Gates wrote he is "strongly opposed" to any changes to the "don't ask, don't tell" legislation before the military review is completed.
"I hope Congress will not do so, as it would send a very damaging message to our men and women in uniform that in essence their views, concerns, and perspectives do not matter on an issue with such a direct impact and consequence for them and their families," Gates wrote in the letter, which was obtained by CNN.
(CNN) - Does Iran have the know-how to build a nuclear weapon? Secretary of State Hillary Clinton wouldn't say on Sunday, while Defense Secretary Robert Gates declared the answer was "no."
Appearing with Gates in a pre-recorded interview on the NBC program "Meet the Press," Clinton defended the Obama Administration policy of seeking a unified international response to Iran's nuclear ambitions, including stronger United Nations sanctions.
Republicans criticize the policy as too weak, citing Iran's continuing snub of international regulations governing nuclear energy and nuclear weapons programs.
Clinton said President Barack Obama's decision to break with his predecessor's policies and seek negotiations with Iran has exposed the Tehran government's intransigence.
Washington (CNN) – Defense Secretary Robert Gates is expected to announce changes Thursday easing the Defense Department's controversial "don't ask don't tell" policy prohibiting homosexuals from serving openly in the military, a senior Defense Department official has confirmed to CNN.
The official said one of the changes will be that outings by third parties may no longer be automatic grounds for initiating separation proceedings, especially if it is proven that the person making the allegation has a grudge against the military member.
Gates' announcement will focus on regulatory changes that can be made at the Pentagon without the approval of Congress, which has been debating whether to change the law. President Barack Obama has asked for a repeal of the controversial measure.
Kabul, Afghanistan (CNN) - U.S. Secretary of Defense Robert Gates arrived in Afghanistan on Monday morning on an unannounced visit, as NATO-led coalition forces are pressing an offensive in the nation's south.
Gates was scheduled to meet with Afghan President Hamid Karzai and Gen. Stanley McChrystal, the U.S. commander in Afghanistan.
Coalition forces are battling Taliban fighters around the town of Marjah in southern Helmand province.
Dubbed Operation Moshtarak, the offensive was launched in February by an international coalition of 15,000 troops, including Afghans, Americans, Britons, Canadians, Danes and Estonians.
Gates told reporters that he was going to Afghanistan to "get an update on the campaign, not only in Marjah but the next steps as we look to spring, summer and fall."