Robert Michael Gates (born September 25, 1943) is the 22nd and current United States Secretary of Defense. He took office on December 18, 2006. Prior to this, Gates served for 26 years in the Central Intelligence Agency and the National Security Council, and under President George H. W. Bush as Director of Central Intelligence. Immediately after being recruited by the CIA, he served as an officer in the United States Air Force. After leaving the CIA, Gates became president of Texas A&M University and was a member of several corporate boards. Gates also served as a member of the Iraq Study Group, the bipartisan commission co-chaired by James A. Baker III and Lee Hamilton, that has studied the Iraq War. He was also the first pick to serve as the first Director of National Intelligence (DNI), but he declined the appointment in order to remain President of Texas A&M University.
Gates accepted the nomination for Secretary of Defense on November 8, 2006, replacing Donald Rumsfeld. He was confirmed with bipartisan support. In a 2007 profile written by former National Security Advisor Zbigniew Brzezinski, Time named Gates one of the year's most influential people. In 2008, Gates was named one of America's Best Leaders by U.S. News & World Report. He continues to serve as Secretary of Defense in President Barack Obama's cabinet. Gates announced in August 2010 that he plans to retire in 2011.
A native of Wichita, Kansas, Gates attained the rank of Eagle Scout in the Boy Scouts of America (BSA) and received the Distinguished Eagle Scout Award from the BSA as an adult. He graduated from Wichita High School East in 1961, with straight A's. Gates is also a Vigil Honor member within the Order of the Arrow, Scouting's National Honor Society.
Gates then received a scholarship to attend the College of William and Mary, graduating in 1965 with a B.A. in history. At William & Mary, Gates was an active member and president of the Alpha Phi Omega (national service fraternity) chapter and the Young Republicans; he was also the business manager for the William and Mary Review, a literary and art magazine. At his William & Mary graduation ceremony, Gates received the Algernon Sydney Sullivan Award naming him the graduate who "has made the greatest contribution to his fellow man." 
Gates then pursued an M.A. in history from Indiana University in 1966. Finally, he completed his doctorate in Russian and Soviet history from Georgetown University in 1974. The title of his Georgetown doctoral dissertation is "Soviet Sinology: An Untapped Source for Kremlin Views and Disputes Relating to Contemporary Events in China" and is available from University Microfilms International as document number 7421652. He received an L.H.D. (Doctor of Humane Letters) from William & Mary in 1998.
He married his wife Becky on January 7, 1967. They had known each other for three months when he proposed marriage.
While at Indiana University, Gates was recruited by the Central Intelligence Agency and joined the agency in 1966. On January 4, 1967, he was commissioned as a second lieutenant in the United States Air Force. From 1967 to 1969, he was assigned to the Strategic Air Command as an intelligence officer which included a stint at Whiteman Air Force Base in Missouri, where he delivered intelligence briefings to Intercontinental Ballistic Missile crews. After fulfilling his military obligation, he rejoined the CIA.
Gates left the CIA in 1974 to serve on the staff of the National Security Council. He returned to the CIA in late 1979, serving briefly as the director of the Strategic Evaluation Center, Office of Strategic Research. He was named the Director of the DCI/DDCI Executive Staff in 1981, Deputy Director for Intelligence in 1982, and Deputy Director of Central Intelligence from April 18, 1986 to March 20, 1989.
Gates was Deputy Assistant to the President for National Security Affairs from March until August 1989, and was Assistant to the President and Deputy National Security Adviser from August 1989 until November 1991.
Gates was nominated (for the second time, see below) for the position of Director of Central Intelligence by President George H. W. Bush on May 14, 1991, confirmed by the Senate on November 5, and sworn in on November 6, becoming the only career officer in the CIA's history (as of 2005) to rise from entry-level employee to Director.
Deputy Directors during his tenure were Richard J. Kerr (from November 6, 1991 until March 2, 1992) and Adm. William O. Studeman (from April 9, 1992 through the remainder of Dr. Gates' tenure). He served until 1993.
The final report of the Independent Counsel for Iran-Contra Scandal , issued on August 4, 1993, said that Gates "was close to many figures who played significant roles in the Iran/contra affair and was in a position to have known of their activities. The evidence developed by Independent Counsel did not warrant indictment..."
Gates was nominated to become the Director of Central Intelligence (head of the CIA) in early 1987. He withdrew his name after it became clear the Senate would reject the nomination due to controversy about his role in the Iran-Contra affair.