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Gates still eying 2011 retirement

From NBC's Jim Miklaszewski
The only member of President Barack Obama’s cabinet to have also served under President George W. Bush continues to eye retirement next year.

In an interview with Foreign Policy magazine, Defense Secretary Robert Gates said that he hopes to retire next year. He aims to step down before January 2012, he told the magazine, pointing out that “this is not the kind of job you want to fill in the spring of an election year.”

It’s no secret that Gates has been planning to leave the job. He and his staff have repeatedly said Gates would likely retire in 2011 assuming that two conditions are met: the Afghanistan “surge” strategy must be set and underway, and the stage must be set to control Pentagon spending.

Gates also wants to be directly involved in the selection of senior military officers who will replace a number of 3-and-4 star generals and admirals in key positions over much of the next year.

By next year, Gates said in the interview, “we'll have completed the surge. We'll have done the assessment in December. And it seems like somewhere there in 2011 is a logical opportunity to hand off."

Gates, who has served in the post for almost four years, will turn 67 in September.

One Pentagon official predicts that if Gates actually does retire in 2011, it may be later rather than earlier. "His sense of responsibility for the job may trump his desire to retire," said the official.