February 1, 2005 9:03 AM
passes on intelligence czar post
By BRETT NAUMAN
Eagle Staff Writer
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 firstname.lastname@example.org.