Washington (CNN) - Just hours before the official end of Operation Iraqi Freedom, Defense Secretary Robert Gates grew emotional when discussing the toll it has taken on American men and women in uniform.
"Today, at the end of Operation Iraqi Freedom, 4,427 American service members have died in Iraq, 3,502 of them killed in action; 34,265 have been wounded or injured," Gates said, appearing to choke up before an audience at the American Legion convention in Milwaukee Tuesday. "We must never forget."
Gates also warned that while the U.S. military can point to many accomplishments there, all is not "well in Iraq."
"The most recent elections have yet to result in a coalition government. Sectarian tensions remain a fact of life. Al Qaeda in Iraq is beaten, but not gone," he said. "This is not a time for premature victory parades or self-congratulation."
Washington (CNN) - Defense Secretary Robert Gates is ordering a number of changes to address problems discovered by a review of the military after the deadly shooting at Fort Hood Army Post last November.
Thirteen people died in the shooting at the sprawling base in central Texas. Army psychiatrist Maj. Nidal Hasan is charged in the case. He has not yet entered a plea.
After the shooting, a number of investigations and reviews were launched. One of the reviews focused on the lessons learned from the incident. In April, after releasing a preliminary report from the review, Gates implemented some two dozen of the recommendations. Friday he released the final "Lessons Learned" review and ordered implementation of most of the other recommendations from that review.
Washington (CNN) - Defense Secretary Robert Gates announced some far-reaching proposals Monday for restructuring the massive budget at his agency, including getting rid of the U.S. Joint Forces Command (Usjfcom).
The cuts could mean a loss of up to 3,000 jobs.
The current Defense Department budget totals more than $530 billion a year, and defense officials believe they need increases of 2 to 3 percent a year to sustain the force structure and meet modernization needs.
However, the recession caused the department to propose a 1 percent budget increase for next year, and the cuts announced Monday were intended to help hold down overall costs.
Washington (CNN) - Gen. David Petraeus was back before the Senate Armed Services Committee on Wednesday and looking well a day after a mid-hearing faint postponed his previous appearance.
Senators were quick to resume their questioning of Petraeus, the chief of U.S. Central Command, over the progress of the war in Afghanistan. But before the questioning began, Petraeus - whose command over sees the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq - joked with the committee about the Tuesday incident, which was heavy replayed on cable television networks and online.
"Thank you for the opportunity for a redo hearing after I demonstrated yesterday the importance of following my first platoon sergeant's order 35 years ago to always stay hydrated," he said. "I'll try to remember that in the future."
Petraeus told reporters Tuesday that he collapsed at the hearing because he was dehydrated. Witnesses at Congressional hearings often try to curtail liquids in order to endure the long sessions, and Armed Services Chairman Carl Levin, D-Michigan, said yesterday that the general had also skipped breakfast.
"I do thank the committee as well for the chocolate chip cookies that were in the anteroom before this session," Petraeus said Wednesday.
Washington (CNN) - It may seem like putting the rooster in charge of the hen house, but the U.S. Departments of Defense and State spend hundreds of millions of dollars a year on contracts for work in the United States and oversees, and then spend some more to have contractors - not government employees - oversee those contracts.
The United States Agency for International Development - the federal agency responsible for administering international aid to civilians through State Department guidelines - also hires contractors to oversee its other contracts.
A new report from the Government Accountability Office points out that such arrangements need improved rules.
"The agencies did not fully address risks related to potential conflicts of interest and oversight for contractors performing contract or grant administration functions," the GAO report concluded.
WASHINGTON (CNN) - Washington is full of seemingly obscure places where history is made. Deep Throat's parking garage, the balcony at Ford's Theater. Now you can add the fire station at Reagan National Airport.
That's where President-elect Barack Obama met secretly with Secretary of Defense Robert Gates to discuss the unprecedented idea of having Gates continue on in the Obama administration.
Reporters traveling with Obama on November 10 knew that he'd gone into the airport fire station after his visit with President Bush at the White House. What they never knew was who he was meeting in the fire station.
Tuesday at a briefing at the Pentagon, Gates spilled the beans.
"We did meet the day he came to Washington to meet with the President. We met when he went back to the airport. We actually met in the fire station at National Airport and they pulled the trucks out so that our cars could go in."