tv QA CSPAN February 15, 2016 6:00am-7:01am EST
sure people know what is going on inside the beltway. withncer: coming up, q&a former defense secretary at robert gates. then, the republican presidential primary debate in south carolina at 10:00 a.m. ♪ announcer: this week on "q&a," former secretary of defense and former director of the cia, robert gates. he discusses his book "a passion for leadership: lessons on change and reform from 50 years of public service." brian: robert gates, the council on foreign relations recently had a column which said the next president of the united states ought to read five books on the presidency. yours was at the top on leadership. what would you want the next president to take away from your book on leadership?
sec. gates: i think surrounding himself herself with really strong capable, independent-minded people, empowering them, delegating authority and holding them accountable. if they are successful, reward them in whatever way they can, and if they fail, fire them. i think that this, this too much of thinking about the president, and the reality is, the best presidents, the greatest presidents have been willing to recognize they were not the smartest person in the room and to surround themselves with people they thought were smarter than themselves.
washington and jefferson and hamilton and so on and lincoln and both roosevelts, truman, eisenhower and reagan were all willing to bring strong people into their cabinets, listen to them, integrate their views with their own. they did not mind if that person disagreed with them, and expected candid advice from them. i think that is a really important message for a president. brian: i want you to look up at this screen and it is really your life. it start in wichita, kansas in 1943. what i am looking for as we go through this is for you to tell us at which time you started thinking about leadership. you were born in wichita kansas, got your ba degree at william and mary college, masters degree indiana university. then georgetown. you were nominated but withdrew from cia director in 1987. you were on the national council in 1989 and then you were confirmed and did academic
speaking. you were the interim dean of the george bush school of government and public service at texas and -- texas a&m. president 2002-2006. and defense secretary 2006-2011. where along the way did you learn the different things you have in this book? sec. gates: i write in the last chapter that my first leadership position was a patrol leader, a boy scout troop in wichita. i write that nothing teaches you leadership skills like being in charge of a bunch of 11-year-olds and trying to get them to do what they do not want
to do and you cannot make them do it and you are only a year or two older than they are. at 15-years-old, i had the only formal management leadership training i ever had, at a scout ranch in new mexico. i was 15-years-old. that was my last formal training in leadership, but as i say in the book, i have been learning for 55 years ever since then. i have always had, from my very first days at the cia, i always had a desire, i have always had a feeling of how things could be made better. i do not know if i would have articulated the sort of wanting
to take leadership, but i saw where a good organization could be made better, so i wrote my first essay on how we could improve soviet analysis at the cia when i had been on active duty at the agency for two years. i am sure my superiors were unimpressed, but i felt that way about each organization that i have led, and in the book i have said, i love them all. i have always thought they could be better than they were, so i always was somebody who was pressing for change and to make improvements, really from the earliest days. brian: you tell a story in the book about a confrontation you had with governor rick perry of texas. sec. gates: well, he, this is all secondhand, but i was told when i became the finalist for president of texas a&m, he called me and basically tried to push me to withdraw my candidacy, and i had heard he promised the job to someone else. i heard it was senator phil gramm, but i do not know that for a fact. he had taught at a&m for 10 years, i think. i finally just told rick perry, he said he was going to appoint
all of the regents, and it was not going to pleasant for me if i decided to take the job. i said, i had heard that a lot of aggies did want me to, and i let the board of regents make that decision. i later told my wife what had been actually going to my mind at the time, which was i had been facing off with the deputy director of the kgb when he was first elected to the texas house and he thought he could intimidate me, but he was sadly mistaken. brian: what impact did that have on you for the rest of the time when you were president of a
-- of a&m? sec. gates: he had not counted votes, and six of the nine regions had been appointed by george w. bush at the time. five of those regents voted for me. his three appointees voted against me, and one courageous soul abstained. a&m onecame president of a 3-1 vote. he and i maintained outward stability. i think most people did not know we did not have a great relationship. i will say this, while i was there, he mostly left me alone. at one point he try to force me into hiring a friend of his for vice president of student affairs, but i had already extended an offer to a professional from the university of north carolina. i refused to do it. at the next board of regents meeting, they changed the rules said that the board had to approve any such position in the future. brian: make you leadership -- you make a leadership point
about senator bob byrd and your relationship with him. sec. gates: he was always friendly with me. i remember one story, one time, he was referred to by the washington post and others as the king of pork. he was pretty good about taking money to west virginia. at one point, the post ran an editorial, complaining that the cia had decided to build a billion-dollar logistics facility and the basic thrust -- that bird had forced them had forced them to
build the building in west virginia. i knew for a fact that the cia knew that the only way they could get the money for the facility was if they built that in west virginia and he helped. it was the cia's initiative and not senator byrd's. this story ran and i called him up. i said, mr. chairman, would it be all right if i wrote a letter to the editor as director of central intelligence saying the story was wrong in setting the facts right? i will never forget, there was a long pause and he said, you would do that for me? i said, it is only fair. those are the facts. i wrote the letter and the post published it and i called him the day that it appeared to make sure he saw it, and a senator of oklahoma, who was close to him, told me that after that, anytime my name came up he would say, that mr. gates is an honorable man. brian: what is the lesson? sec. gates: i think the lesson is, people forget, people remember slights and insults, but i think what people do not understand in washington well enough today is they also
remember kindness. they also remember treating people decently, and that people on the receiving end never forget it. i think, and i write about it in the book, too much emphasis is placed on negative relationships when in fact, there are lots of opportunities day to day where you can do the right thing by somebody and it may be a small, small thing, maybe somebody works for you or somebody you work for, and they will not forget it. brian: we started this program in the same format 27 years ago, and here is something i have never seen that you have in this book, i want to put it on the screen, a picture from the book.
we have the word "she," circled. you decide to use this word hundreds of times. why? sec. gates: i tried to balance this book using "she" in places and "he" in places. but first of all, it is 2016, there are a lot of women in leadership positions or who are about to assume leadership positions in companies and local governments, state governments, the national government. i wanted to make it clear, particularly for the young people, young women as well as young man, that these leadership opportunities will be open for everybody, and this will be regardless of your gender. brian: do you have any comment on it since the book has been out? sec. gates: people have noticed, just as you did, that i use the word "she" throughout the book. brian: you tell a story about a sergeant jason in the book. what is that about?
sec. gates: one of the points i made at the beginning of our conversation was the importance of empowering subordinates and giving them responsibility, so the sergeant worked in my outer office in the reception area, and one of my senior military assistance decided they would be value in allowing these young men, mostly men, to participate in my overseas trips, by going
there ahead of me and helping to prepare my visit and so on, including in iraq and afghanistan. he sent the sergeant out to do the advanced work in afghanistan, and the sergeant was meeting with the colonel who had his own ideas. mainly, he wanted me to watch a bunch of powerpoint briefings, and the sergeant knew i wanted to spend most of my time with the troops. so he and the colonel went back-and-forth a little bit. one had a full a eagle on his shoulder and the other one had him stripes, and finally, jason walked over to his desk and he picked up the phone and he said, one of the two of us can call the secretary of defense and have the call taken immediately. and the colonel smiled and he said, i get your point. and did it jason's way. brian: back in 1991, when you are being confirmed for cia director, this is just a clip and after we watch this i want you to tell us what this is about. [video clip] >> what bothered me from the inception bothers me now. it is whether you were leveling with us, whether you are trying
to gild the lily a little bit. you could have read these notes and could have answered our question, but you did not do that. i have difficulty with that. sec. gates: at times, those questions were asking me what i thought mr. north had been referring to when he would write something or another, and that is when i answered, i did not know, that it is far from me to know what was in his mind. brian: story? robert gates: it was a long hearing and i had one exchange with senator metzenbaum and i had been testifying, i think, for 10 straight hours, and a big part of testifying on the hill is not answering questions but figuring out what they are, because so often and never of congress is making a speech. i remember this senator at one
point read a very long and complicated page, and i was just exhausted and i lost the bubble. i could not figure out what the question was. i said, with all due respect, senator, i am tired, what is the question? he did not know what the question was, and one aide kneeled beside him and ended up reading the whole thing over again, and i found the question and there that i thought i could answer. testifying in front of the congress is always an interesting experience.
brian: you spent two years in service and a lot of years in this town. what do you think of congress? sec. gates: the thing that concerns me is it has changed so much since i first came to washington 50 years ago. when i came to washington, i will use the senate as an example, because i remember the names better. our politics has always been polarized. and after all, i came to washington in 1966 and we were in the middle of the vietnam war. within a half dozen years, we would be involved in watergate, so things have never been smooth in washington. there were always, on the hill, a number of people both democrats and republicans, center-left, center-right who would reach across the aisle to get business done. they would pass appropriation bills, passed welfare reform,
passed legislation to move the country forward. i called that body of people the "bridge builders" because they were building bridges across the aisle. the sad thing is, nearly all of those people are gone. the bill bradleys, the jack danforths, the bob doles, the lloyd bentsens, they were probably two dozen or more senators who were in that category, and you could actually get things done. the committee chairs have real authority and when they committed to doing something, it would get done. most of those people are gone. they did not get defeated for the most part, they got frustrated it and fed up and and left on their own accord. a good example of this is a 1994 when i got a call from david boren who had been offered the
presidency of the university of oklahoma, and he was wrestling with whether to leave the senate, and i told him, david, i think it is very easy. when you are daydreaming on a plane or driving, are you daydreaming about what you have accomplished in the u.s. senate or what you could accomplish at ou? he laughed and said, you are right, it is easy and he took the ou job. so i think, this is my concern, that it is not just that politics are polarized, it is that the people who have in the past been able to come together, move things forward, so many of them are gone and so few are left. a good example of this is the absence for years of regular appropriation bills, something as simple as funding the government from year-to-year. out of the last 10 years, in only two years has the defense
department had an enacted appropriation at the beginning of the fiscal year and that was nine and 10 years ago. for the last eight years we have had continuing resolutions or sequestration, but no regular order of business. brian: one of the biggest planes ever built in the united states, the c5-a, and congress did not want to fund this. this is on the screen, a big, big plane. what happened? sec. gates: the air force wants to retire it, because it eats money. they have some of these original
planes and they are so old that they require enormous amounts of money to maintain, and some of them never fly. they will drag them around the tarmac at the air force base so the wheels do not go flat. that is the only time they ever move. because they are part of national guard units, or air national guard units, members of congress in which those bases are located will not let them be decommissioned, no matter how much money they are costing the air force and they cannot perform any service at all. brian: how often has this happened? sec. gates: all of the time. in the recent testimony, you have the leadership in the pentagon telling the congress that they have 24% of the facilities the military has in the united states are excess to need. but the congress will not let the military shut them down to save the overhead. brian: what is the solution to
that? sec. gates: i think the question is if you have one of these long and drawnout processes where you appoint commissions to look at military facilities and then you present the congress with an up-and-down vote on a list of bases, it takes years and it is very expensive and so on. my view is, the congress ought to authorize the secretary of defense to be able to close facilities when the service will testify that there is no longer a need for that facility, or for that weapon system or piece of equipment. when i was secretary in 2009, most of my predecessors canceled, if they were lucky, one or two or three major chairmans. i remember when dick cheney was secretary under the first president bush, he canceled the a12 fighter, and a litigation ended two years ago for that, and the other program he killed was for the marines which is still flying because congress would not let him kill it. the osprey.
in 2009, i cut 36 programs. they would have cost the taxpayer $330 billion. i got 33 of them approved or acquiesced by congress the first year, and i got the remainder the following year. partly, and it really goes to some of the lessons in the book, these were very important programs, most of them. these services had fought for them, but i involved the service leadership in all of these decisions. we had many meetings and the opportunity to make their own suggestions of programs they thought were no longer needed. sometimes they put programs and their budget because they knew if they did not, the congress would, so they preemptively conceded the matter. you do not want to leave it out.
second, and this is just a tactical thing, i publicly announced all of these cuts while congress was out of town. i had two weeks before they came back, and there was a real groundswell of public support for what i had done in the media and elsewhere. the congress, when it arrived back in town, was behind the 8-ball politically. there were so many of these programs, it was hard for members of congress to make deals with each other like they are used to, and i had the threat, strong threat of a veto by president obama if they put things back in that we did not want. there are a lot of tactics on how you can get these things done, but it also involves having relationships with members of congress that ultimately are productive, and i think one of the things about my book "duty" that surprised people on the hill was how negative i was toward congress because i had very productive relationships with them and very cooperative relationships. just like the story about senator byrd. and, i exercised an enormous
amount of self-discipline, and in terms of keeping my real feelings about them hidden the whole time i had the job. i will say in the last two or three months, my discipline began to slip, and that was part of the reason i knew it was time to leave. brian: one of the things you talk about in the book is firing people you have fired generals and secretaries. i want to go back to 2007, this is you announcing the firing and resignation, and your idea of letting them resign instead of being fired. army secretary francis harvey. let's watch this. [video clip] sec. gates: i have two announcements to make. first, earlier today, the secretary of the army offered his resignation. i have accepted the resignation. under secretary of the army, we we will have a new acting secretary until another one is appointed. i thank dr. harvey for his service to the nation. second, the army will name a new commander for the army medical center. this flagship institution must have its new leadership in place as quickly as possible. i am disappointed that some in the army have not adequately appreciated the seriousness of
the situation pertaining to outpatient care at walter reed. some have shown too much defensiveness and not enough focus and digging into and addressing it the problems. brian: as you have ignored, some people think you are cold. explain your process of firing? sec. gates: in improving organizations, i am willing to hold people accountable, and i think that particularly, and even when i was a young cia
officer, whenever there was a problem, it always seemed like the people low down on the totem pole were the ones that got punished. superiors, who should have known about the problem and dealt with the problem, escaped unscathed. i told myself then, back in the 1970's, that if i was ever in a position of authority that was not the way it was going to be. i was not going to go out of my way to find a scapegoat. if i came to the conclusion that the problem had not been taken seriously enough, they would be in fact held accountable. what i have tried to do throughout my career, and i did this at the cia, texas a&m, and the defense department, most of these people are good people and they have given the previous service, so i tried not to humiliate them. i tried to deal with them in a manner that preserved their dignity, so i would always give them the opportunity to resign. i told one person, one vice president, that i had asked to retire at texas a&m, i do not care if you go out there and say i would not work one more minute for that sob gates. i said, i will not counter that at all. you handle that anyway you want but you are going to leave. i think what bothered me for a long time is that people in washington lose their jobs all of the time, but mainly they lose them because of personal misbehavior of one kind or another. what is unusual in washington, too rare in my view, is people losing their jobs because they did not do the job well enough,
sec. gates: but when there is a systemic problem, and when a problem is brought to a senior person's attention and they do not do enough about it to solve it, then i think they ought to be held accountable. brian: how often did you fire someone face-to-face? sec. gates: every person i ever relieved or fired, i did face-to-face with the sole exception of when i fired the chief of staff of the air force over mishaps in our nuclear weapons program, and there i had intended to do it face-to-face, but news of what i was doing was beginning to leak and they were out of town, so i asked the admiral to talk to the chief of staff at the air force, he was joint chief of staff at the time, and my deputy gordon england was going to be in the same place as the secretary of the air force, so i had them do it face-to-face. when i decided that i had to relieve the commander in afghanistan, i flew all the way to afghanistan to sit with him face-to-face and tell him. this is something that always bothered me about the president. i worked for eight presidents, and the best that i know, only two of them i ever heard them fire people face-to-face.
brian: another incident you talk about in the book, i want to know what you would do about this as secretary of defense. here is a general. this is a famous point before the iraq war started where he talks about the number of troops needed in iraq if we went in there, and this would have been back in february of 2003, the war started in march of that year. listen to what he said. [video clip] >> could you give us some ideas to the magnitude of the army's force requirement in the occupation of iraq following to
successful completion of the war? >> i would say what has been mobilized at this point, something on the order of areral hundred soldiers probably a figure that would be a requirement. moste talking about hostilities controlled over a piece of geography that is fairly significant with the kinds of ethnic tensions that could lead to with other problems, so it takes a significant ground force present. >> as i said, i was not there. what he was, was just sidelined. gardens ifhe outer
you will, for the remainder of his term. brian: was he right? gates: one of the things written into law -- not written into law, but it is practiced. before, ishat comes there asked will you give a sure personal professional military and the on any question answer is always, yes. i put what the general did into that category. officers, including the chairman who would got up to the hill and say things that the white house, the president really did not like. it i defended them because thought they had a was toibility and it preserve their integrity, to answer the questions they were
asked, if they were asked for professional,, military judgment they needed to be truthful and offering that opinion. toolly, it is obviously a in the hands of the congress to try to drive a wedge between professional military and the political leadership, whether it it is the secretary or the president. but even being aware of that, i think that sometimes i hold some of the members of congress more responsible for some of these episodes, because they know they are putting the officer in a terrible position. the officersuse of integrity do they know they will get the answer they are looking for. and so i am more inclined to blame the person who is posing the question then the officer who answers honestly. of thingsa number like that. i had both president bush and president obama really chew on parts of me because of some of
that testimony. but i told them that's their responsibility. brian: eight presidents. did you know them all? sec. gates: the only one i did not meet was lyndon johnson, the first one. brian: over those years, who were the most angry with you at a given time and why? sec. gates: i think pretty easily president obama, and it was because we had a difference, i think the issue over which, best of all, he let me honest and push back on him when i disagreed. he never cast me out into the
outer darkness, never shunned me or stopped talking to me or anything. i think he valued the candor, so i have always given him credit for his patience and willingness to hear me out, but i think that probably when he was the angriest with me was over "don't ask don't tell," and it was really over a difference in strategy. on how to implement it, and in particular, he wanted me, as part of getting a federal judge in california, had basically ruled this unconstitutional, and that meant that the law was a goner right then unless we got a stay of that order from the ninth circuit court.
the president was very unwilling to seek the stay. he wanted to go ahead and get rid of don't ask don't tell. i said, you really cannot let this be done by the act of a single judge or your executive order. this needs to be done with the consent and support of the congress. he said, all right, i will seek the stay in the ninth circuit, but you have to suspend the application of the law. i said, mr. president, i cannot do that. there is either law or no law. i said, you are the constitutional lawyer. but i have an obligation, and i took an oath to fulfill and obey the constitution and law, and i cannot do that. he was pretty tense, and he finally said, i will not make you do anything that you do not feel is right. but it was very clear to me he was very angry with me. as it turned out, we did the review, we learned that 2/3 of the military had no objection to changing the law and having gays serve openly. part of that group were people that thought it would lead to an improvement, and i think it paved the way to the smooth
introduction of "don't ask don't tell." again, a lesson in the book. we serve 400,000 troops, 150,000 military spouses, so they felt we at least respected than enough to ask them what problems do you foresee and how do you think about this? everything we knew was all anecdotal, so this was the first time ever that we had taken a survey to try to figure out what they really thought. some members of congress said, you are taking a side. i said no, the military never takes a vote on what we do, but i do want to know what they think and they deserve to have that opportunity. i think one of the consequences has been implemented with virtually no problems.
brian: you like task forces in the book. you talk about trying to reduce $180 billion in deficit at the end of your term as secretary of defense. talk about task forces and how you use them. sec. gates: a lot of people, for a long time i bought into the definition of a committee as a cul-de-sac in which ideas are lured and quietly strangled, but i found in all three of the places i lived, the communication up and down goes pretty well, but communication laterally across an organization is always poor. one part of the organization does not communicate with another part, except at the very top. so my view was, if you get people out of their normal bureaucratic environment and where they are not under the eye of their supervisors or compelled to defend their home turf, that you can actually tap into the creativity and the talent that you have in an organization and get ideas on how to make this place better, how do we move it forward? the key is making sure to appoint the right kind of person to head the task force, someone to move it to a good conclusion and to make sure the consensus and the objective is to present bold proposals to move this forward. if there is disagreement, that is fine. also a person chairing it who can be a defender of the recommendations of the institution, so you want someone respected enough that they have clout within the organization. then, perhaps the most important thing, or two most important
things, very short deadlines. and then, disband them. as i write in the book, unconstrained task forces are a danger. brian: $180 billion. was that over 10 years? sec. gates: 5 to 10 years. it was over multi-years. part of it was a budget exercise which was unique. i told the services, of the $180 billion we cut $80 billion from the department of defense more broadly and we returned that to the treasury. the other $100 billion, i said it was a sign to the services to find those cuts, to tighten up. what i told the services was, we need to do better at cutting overhead so we can use the money to strengthen our military capabilities. we are wasting money on overhead, headquarters, too big of staff, too many contractors and things like that. here's the deal, if you cut x dollars out of your overhead, and you make a good case on how you can use that money to strengthen military capability, i will give you the money back. they did. they cut the overhead and we used that money to buy more aircrafts, fund more ships and do more things in terms of military capability.
the answer is no. the department has been working for years to get itself in a position of where it knows where all of the money has gone and has that documented and can present it in a formal, accounting practice. do we know where the money goes? yes. do huge amounts of money just sort of disappear into the ether and no one knows where it went? no. gao and other organizations are always looking at us. the inspector general and the department, the congress, so i think, the lack of having a gap practice on auditing, does not mean that the department's spending or records are out of control or useless, but it does mean that in a formal accounting sense, we have fallen short and the services have been making a big effort to try to get that right. brian: i wrote a bunch of things down from the book, and you say you became an ardent advocate for greater transparency. too much is being kept secret in the government. the department of defense leaks like a sieve. i cannot even read my own writing. the point you are making is, when the government tries to stamp out leakers, it comes to a
open on what we did and why we did it and even to the extent of how we did it to help the american people better understand why intelligence was important to the government and to presidents, and why the presidents valued it. i committed to release, declassify all of the estimates the cia had ever done on the soviet union. i committed to declassify details on covert operations that had taken place in the 1950's to make them more available to the press and the hill. i felt the same way in the department of defense. sometimes the transparency is not to the public, but it is internal. there are a lot of bosses who say, if you only knew what i knew you would understand why i decided that. i think most of the time, that betrays someone who is very arrogant or someone who is very insecure. i found in being very transparent about what i was trying to do as director of central intelligence and secretary of defense, inside the building, so there were no secrets in terms of my agenda and where i was headed, that it was a strength. when i had all of these task forces at the cia, when those task forces gave me those reports, i made them widely available in the cia and intelligence community, and when i drafted a decision memo i would make that available. because it seemed to me, i am
sitting up there on the second floor, and if some gf-13 is going to have to implement it, he or she may have a better idea on how to do this more effectively than i have. i want to hear about that. if they find a way to reframe this decision memo to make it better to accomplish my goal, i want to know that. in the defense department when we were cutting programs or fighting two wars, if people had ideas that they wanted to share, i wanted to hear it and i wanted them to know what i was trying to do at the same time. my experience, both as director of central intelligence and secretary of defense, and this is also true at texas a&m. i remember my first staff meeting on the budget, and i invited the speaker of the faculty senate and the president of the student body in and said, this is not the cia, we do not have any secrets and we need input from everybody. my experience from all three places was that transparency, first of all built trust. it reassured people, and it made people feel they were a part of the process.
brian: which of the presidents, and i do not want to say who is the best, but which one did you enjoy on a day-to-day basis? sec. gates: i would have to say george h.w. bush. i was the national security advisor from january of 1989 until november of 1991, and he is an amazing human being, good humor, open. eager to hear people's views and willing to have a debate, but it was also an amazing time. i joined the cia to do my bit in the cold war against the soviet union. and so i go to the white house with him in 1989 and we have the liberation of eastern europe, the reunification of germany,
the victory in the cold war and the collapse of the soviet union. i was spending 2, 3, 4 hours of the day with the president, travelling domestically. it was an amazing time. we knew we were making history every single day. he was so good at it and he managed it so well, so that every day was exciting and he made it all so fun. brian: i want to run a clip, about a minute long. it is about a man who was for 28 years a staff member of the budget committee at the hill, and he looked at your book "duty" and analyzed it here after 2014.
lofgren.is mike i want you to see this. [via clip] >> what is a republican today and what is a democrat? >> i think to dispose of gates, he is an ideological operative of the permanent regime that exists, whether you are a democrat or a republican in the oval office. these people pose as technocrats and experts on national security, or for that matter, like larry summers and some others, they pose as nonpartisan experts on economics and fiscal policy, but in reality, they are all deeply ideological. they believe in military force abroad. they believe in the washington consensus or neoliberalism or
free market style, crony capitalism at home. brian: he used to work for john kasich. before he went on the budget committee, when he was chairman of the budget committee. what do you think of his analysis of you? sec. gates: i guess i would have to say i disagree. i think that, first of all, when he lumped in with people saying, we were for the use of military force abroad, he clearly did not read the last chapter of "duty" where i expressed the view that american presidents had become too willing to use force to resolve international problems and the use of force had become too easy for presidents. it is in writing that i have a very different view than he just described. in terms of crony capitalism, i do not know what that means for
someone who has been in the national security arena. i do not know what his philosophical bent is, but i do not recognize the person he describes, and i do not think that people who work with me would think of me as that. brian: this piece is a little bit dated, but said that there were 30 generals who were on the boards of the top 10 defense contractors, ex-generals. what you think of that trend? sec. gates: i think it is a concern. for example, i have been offered the opportunity to serve on the board of defense contractors and i have turned it down. the only board of directors i serve on is starbucks, and i think the people have to be more sensitive to the appearances of things. i think you can take it too far. for example, we have reached a
point where the ethics rules for people coming into the government are so strict that it makes it very difficult, and let's just take defense industries as an example. if you have worked in this industry and know how defense contracts works, if you know how the contractors play the game and you have worked for one of them, chances are you are not going to be allowed to become a senior official in the department of defense under the current ethics rules.
what you end up with, and who you end up with in the senior positions, academics or staffers or people who have no real world experience in defense contracting. and it seems to me through transparency or blind trust, there ought to be a way for people who actually know what toy are doing in this arena be able to come to work for the government without people thinking they are just feathering their nest for the future. and i think to a degree, you can reverse that. i think for a defense industry, having a general officer who has real-world experience on how those products are used, brings real value to a corporate board. i think that retired officers just need to think about appearances, because -- what i am trying to say is, i do not think it is one-size-fits-all.
there should be a butket prohibition on this, i do think people need to be to whethero this, there is the appearance of a vicious circle of people moving in and out of the government, into defense industries, back into the government and so on. brian: your book "duty," do you know how many you sold? sec. gates: close to half a million. brian: what surprised you about that experience and what was the reaction that you did not expect? sec. gates: i think that the thing that surprised me the most was how well it was received by current and former members of the military, and that it gave them insight into the decisions that affected their lives. and to be honest, made them, reassured them that the person
who had been in charge of the department really cared about them as individuals and the well-being of their families. i was prepared for the usual washington hubbub when it first came out, but i think i was struck by the fact that the obama white house never said a negative thing about the book. brian: did you get any reaction from the president? sec. gates: no. i sent a copy to president bush, so i think most people thought it was pretty fair. brian: what was more interesting to write and how much of it did you write yourself? sec. gates: i wrote both of them entirely myself. i did not even have a research assistant. that is something i was proud of.
i did it all myself, and none of the reviews or anybody to this point has pointed out a factual error. so, i feel pretty good about that. i guess i have to thank google and wikipedia for that. but i wrote them both myself. , "duty" was more an integration of information and documents and there was a lot of things to pull together and put together a coherent story. this new book "a passion for leadership," was based on experiences i had 50 years ago. brian: are you going to do another book? sec. gates: publishers have been talking to me. i am not sure i am ready to have another baby. brian: what subject would you write it about? sec. gates: i would take on more of a policy subject.
brian: our guest has been robert m. gates. the book is "a passion for leadership, lessons on change and reform from 50 years of public service." thank you very much. sec. gates: thank you for having me. ♪ >> for free transcripts or to give us your comment about this program, visit us at q&a.org. these programs are also available as c-span podcasts. ♪ announcer: if you liked this week's "q&a" interview, here are some others you may enjoy. former congressional staff member mike lofgren talks about his book on the two-party system in his op-ed on secretary gate's former memoir. the first female four-star
officer in the navy, michelle howard talks about her role as vice chief of naval operations. you can watch these interviews and others online at c-span.org. announcer: here on c-span, washington journal is next with your calls and a look at today's headlines. that is followed by saturday's between the republican presidential candidates. women andllowed by technology discussion. i had, we look at the role of latino voters in nevada and other states. directorthe executive of the league of democratic citizens.
ian swanson talks about how the white house has changed from the election of ronald reagan until today. and, an inside look at key moments of the obama presidency. ♪ host: good monday morning to you. it is president's day. we are talking about the supreme court and the epic battle about the seat left vacant over the death of justice antonin scalia over the weekend. ted cruzial candidates and marco rubio says the senate to block anyone the president nominates and present obama is making us pay in the next few thes from this could shape supreme court for decades to come to . we should hear your thoughts. republicans can start dialing and