The National Constitution Center has made an excellent choice in naming Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates the recipient of this year’s Liberty Medal.
Gates, who retires today, is the only Pentagon chief to serve two presidents of different parties. He joined the cabinet of President George W. Bush in December 2006, and was reappointed by President Obama.
During that time he has overseen troop surges in both Iraq and Afghanistan. He has been a strong advocate for soldiers as well as a responsible steward of military resources in tough economic times.
Gates’ service to the nation goes back decades, with senior posts in five administrations. The Kansas native was commissioned as a second lieutenant in the Air Force in 1967, and then went on to a career in the CIA. He was named director in 1991 — the only career officer to rise to the top job at the agency.