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Updated February 1, 2005 9:03 AM

Gates passes on intelligence czar post

By BRETT NAUMAN
Eagle Staff Writer

Gates

GATES

Texas A&M University President Robert Gates said Monday that he recently turned down an offer to become the nation’s intelligence czar, calling it the most difficult decision of his life.

In an open letter to the university community sent by mass e-mail, the former director of the CIA dispelled rumors that he was poised to serve as Director of National Intelligence. The main message of the letter focused on a proposed tuition increase with the job offer briefly mentioned at the end.

“I was indeed asked to take the position, wrestled with perhaps the most difficult — and close — decision of my life,” Gates wrote. “I was deeply honored to be asked and would have been honored to serve.”

Gates instead chose to continue serving as A&M’s president as least through the summer of 2008. Last week, he told regents he would stay at A&M beyond the five years he originally agreed to the lead the university when he was hired in 2002.

He declined to comment further on his decision Monday.

“The statement speaks for itself,” he said Monday evening shortly before meeting with A&M students about the possible tuition hike set to take effect next fall.

The intelligence czar, a position created by President Bush in response to recommendations made by the Sept. 11 commission, will supervise the nation’s 12-plus intelligence agencies.

A Senate-confirmed czar, appointed by the president, would have the authority to hire and fire top officials in the CIA, FBI, Homeland Security Department and Defense Department. The director will serve as the principal intelligence adviser to the president while overseeing and coordinating the foreign and domestic activities of the intelligence committee.

While White House officials would not confirm Monday that Gates had been offered the job. Erle Nye, vice chairman of the A&M System Board of Regents, said he was aware Gates had been asked to serve in the post.

Nye, who is chairman of TXU, said he believes Gates was offered the job no longer than two weeks ago from an official within the Bush administration.

“He struggled with it,” Nye said of the offer. “If nothing else, he’s a patriotic person who holds his responsibilities to the country at a high level. But at the same time, he realized he would have to give up a lot.”

The ultimate reason Gates was dissuaded from accepting the position was that he didn’t feel he would have the authority in the post to effectively supervise the nation’s intelligence agencies, Nye said.

“A casual observer of governmental operations is going to say that’s going to be a tough job,” Nye said. “But I think if he thought he could do a good job, even if it was against his best interests, he would have taken it.”

Gates had in the past criticized the creation of the Cabinet-level position, saying “we’d have another layer of bureaucracy between those collecting the intelligence and those on the receiving end, like the president.”

Nye said Gates’ affection for A&M also played a role. Gates said last week the reason he wanted to remain president of A&M was to “see through” initiatives he’s started, such as the faculty reinvestment plan.

• Brett Nauman’s e-mail address is brett.nauman@theeagle.com.

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