Robert Steele: Could Robert Gates Create a Smart Nation as Chancellor of the Republic? Review of A Passion for Leadership by Robert M. Gates

5 Star, Intelligence (Government/Secret)

Could Robert Gates Create a Smart Nation as Chancellor of the Republic?

5 stars – Real potential at the intersection of education, intelligence, and research

American Herald Tribune, 3 July 2018

Robert M Gates, A Passion for Leadership: Lessons on Change and Reform From Fifty Years of Public Service (Alfred A. Knopf, 2016), 256 pages, $15:86, ISBN-13 978-0307959492.

This book was not written by the Robert Gates that I remember – sniffing with disdain on the topic of open sources when we spoke together at the French General Staff Conference on Waging War and Peace in the 21st Century in 1995;[1] and this book was certainly not written by the Robert Gates that Mel Goodman and many others have described as deceptive, egoistical, imperial, and toxic.[2] There are however enough self-effacing notes sprinkled across the book to persuade me that the author has learned from his earlier mistakes.[3]

This book was written by the Robert Gates who has evolved – much as Robert McNamara and William Colby evolved after leaving their major leadership roles as Secretary of Defense and Director of Central Intelligence.[4] This book reflects a wealth of pragmatic lessons learned, and a clear mastery of process across four distinct cultures – from the pandering common to the Office of the Presidency to the culture of secrecy at the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) to the cultural and economic disorder associated with politicians using administrators to marginalize faculty at a great university, to the corruption, dysfunctionality, and waste inherent in the Department of Defense (DoD).

Learning that Robert Gates is the current Chancellor of the college of William and Mary[5] and upon further investigation, that George Washington was the first American Chancellor and Sandra Day O’Connor and Colin Powell the immediate predecessors,[6] crystalized my appreciation for this man and this book at the intersection of education, intelligence, and research. While the Chancellorship is an honorary position without staff or office or salary, that was for me a grace note of deep relevance  I put the book down knowing how deeply ignorant and unskilled I am at the process of making things happen in large bureaucracies, and with a very strong feeling that Robert Gates might be ideally suited to help President Donald Trump get a grip on presidential communications, education, information-sharing, intelligence (decision-support), and research – including the elimination of all national security lock-downs on over 6,000 patents including patents for free energy[7] and the application of Open Source Everything Engineering (OSEE) to all of the President’s infrastructure and manufacturing goals.[8]

As Chancellor of the Republic, reporting directly to the President, it appears to me that Gates could be charged with creating the task forces and advisory groups he appears to excel at using to cross all boundaries. With the Department of Education being folded into the Department of Labor; with the secret intelligence community irrelevant to 96% of what the President and the Cabinet and Congress and Governors and the public require in the way of decision-support, and with research being at least 50% waste and perhaps another 25% abuse and fraud (the author is careful to distinguish among the three), I see real potential here for finally having a champion – a czar – for the creation of a Smart Nation that leverages OSEE to create a world brain – a noosphere – dedicated to peace and prosperity for all.[9]

QUOTE (21): Reform is not a luxury but a necessity. Failure to fix our institutions, and to do so urgently, can have catastrophic consequences on our way of life, our financial security, our national security, our freedoms, and, at times, our very lives.

QUOTE (58-59): If a leader wants real change, he must realize the main target is how people do their work, not where.

QUOTE (206): The first and continuing responsibility of the leader is to understand the implications of a changing environment for his organization, to anticipate new needs, and to keep developing fresh strategies.

I led the effort in 1992 to get the US intelligence community to change the National Intelligence Topics (NIT) from an obsessive focus on the Soviet Union and China to a more balanced focus on emerging threats and gap-driven coverage of the Third World instead of repetitive priority-driven coverage of five “hard targets.”[10] Gates was very slow to understand what I understood in 1988-1995,[11] but I believe him when he articulates a new-found appreciation for holistic analytics and I believe he will eventually understand the need for compare and contrast true cost economics as well as OSEE.

The structure of the book is sensible and superb – from vision to strategy to implementation and people to money and obstacles to reform.  This is a serious book with no fluff.

Buried within the book is a call to service for young people – a call to public service – and the book concludes with the uplifting thought that our senior executives and political appointees and politicians are – should be (citing Walter Lippmann) – the “custodians of a nation’s ideals, of the believes it cherishes, of its permanent hopes, of the faith which makes a nation out of a mere aggregation of individuals.” This is not the culture of the government we have today, where most federal employees feel a sense of entitlement from absolute job security, and more often than not are simply going through the motions of working. It is however a righteous objective for President Donald Trump and those who serve him directly, and it was this concluding observation that solidified my view that Robert Gates has one more big job he can do, perhaps with the assistance of Howard Schultz (former Chief Executive Officer of Starbucks) and David Petraeus as his respective deputies for private sector and national security information. Someone like Mike Huckabee might be ideal as a deputy for state and local information-sharing. My own hope, naturally, is that President Donald Trump will at the same time commission an Open Source Agency (OSA) which could be the administrative host for the Chancellor of the Republic.[12]

The chapter on why bureaucracies fail us is a classic, well-worth inclusion in any required reading list for a degree in public administration. Ten specific causes of failure, ending with the absence of any economic incentive to reform (in a system that borrows without limit), make this chapter most valuable.

There are a number of gems worthy of inclusion in this summary review, in their order of appearance:

35-36. Governor Rick Perry tried to pressure Gates to withdraw his candidacy as President of Texas Agricultural and Mechanical College (Texas A&M) because Perry wanted to give the job to retiring Senator Phil Gramm.

46. As President of Texas A&M Gates voided 3,000 parking tickets given on one day as freshmen moved in, showing in one sentence the size of the freshman class, the poor judgment of the campus police, and the common sense of the new president.

55. As Secretary of Defense Gates found that the military service chiefs were disengaged from both the wars we were fighting in Afghanistan and Iraq, and instead spending all their time on future budget-building and acquisition planning and programming.

67. As Director of Central Intelligence (DCI) in 1991 Gates commissioned a number of task forces including one on better managing all Human Intelligence (HUMINT) collection both covert and overt – this was evidently not at all successful, as I outlined in my 2010 monograph on HUMINT after being interviewed for the position of Defense Intelligence Senior Leader (DISL) for HUMINT.[13] I am impressed that he tried and not at all surprised that he failed, the Directorate of Operations (DO) which I served for nine years will never accept the fact that eleven of the fifteen slices of HUMINT are overt, or that multi-lingual HUMINT and Open Source Intelligence (OSINT) will never be mastered by US born and educated and easily cleared citizens.

74-75. As Secretary of Defense Gates forced the bureaucracy to reduce the evacuation time for most casualties from two hours to one hour, thereby creating the Golden Hour that changed the survival rate so radically that he ended up with a disaster at Walter Reed. My understanding is that the traditional killed – wounded ratio has generally been 1:6, this decision and investment changed it to 1:16 but also delivered over 75,000 amputees who might otherwise have bled to death on the battlefield. I was deeply impressed by this one decision. It eclipses all negatives on all fronts with respect to Secretary Gates.

80. Secrecy is an obstacle to reform.[14]

85. QUOTE: Leaders who exclude others from decision-making run a high risk of failure. This is coincident with the findings of others pioneering collective intelligence, who have established that minority opinions and dissident opinions are vital to ensuring holistic true cost analytics supporting decisions that are sustainable culturally, economically, and politically.[15]

93. Micro-knowledge is essential, micro-management is not. Micro-knowledge keeps the staffs honest, the leader must do their homework, read the briefs, and be attentive to inconsistencies and omissions.

118. QUOTE: Leaders who think they don’t need frank, critical advice every day are usually doomed. I worry that Gates is cooking up a 2020 presidential run by Howard Schultz (one of two viable Democratic challengers, the other being Colorado Governor John Hickenlooper). From where I sit, Gates 2.0 is vastly more likely to be successful at driving evidence-based reform across commerce, education, governance, intelligence, and public-private research under President Donald Trump. In my view 2024 will see the election of an Independent ticket with a coalition cabinet and balanced budget announced in advance of Election Day, something neither the Republican nor Democratic Parties will ever be capable of doing.

162. QUOTE: There are far too few leaders today publicly noted for their personal integrity and who carry the mantle of moral authority.

164. QUOTE: For most at or near the top of the bureaucratic heap, it is not the great crime that undermines integrity but the little things that erode it. I am reminded of the Admiral in charge of the Joint National Intelligence Development Staff (JNIDS) who in 1989 over-turned a Marine Corps win proposing a standard all-source analysis workstation, with the words “We are a Navy shop, we will do a Navy problem.”[16] No one challenged his lack of integrity – a common disease among flag officers amd their staffs.

175-176. Lean staffs avoid make-work. A personal staff of three works well.

197-198. Abuse, fraud, and waste should not be lumped together.  Each is quite distinct and demands distinct leadership approaches to reduce.

199. Military leaders themselves agree that 25% of our bases could be closed, it is Congressional political pressure that forces the military to keep those wasteful bases in operation.

Although I might quibble with bits of the book here and there, there is only one statement of fact that I must contest. On page 180 Gates recounts aspects of the Bin Laden raid that helped re-elect Obama, as if a real Bin Laden was finally killed. My understanding is that Bin Laden died in 2001 – his obituary appeared in Arabic newspapers – and CIA then rolled out a series of fake Bin Ladens to help the Global War on Terror (GWOT) narrative. According to two different sources, one of them a retired Pakistani military officer, the final Bin Laden was a fake provided by the Pakistani military, and it is my view that we sacrificed a number of Special Operations Forces (SOF) lives for re-election theatrics.[17] What is not known is the degree to which CIA leaders and Pentagon leaders, including Leon Panetta, knew of the falsity of this entire operation beforehand. As with 9/11, which I am satisfied was allowed to happen and made to happen with Vice President Dick Cheney as the grand conductor of a Zionist-conceived, Saudi-assisted false flag attack,[18] we are long over-due for properly investigating such events, and informing the public about the Deep State that President Donald Trump knows well (while Mike Pompeo denies its existence).[19] My integrity demands that I end this review with this paragraph. The question is, will Gates sniff again, as he did in Paris in 1995, or will he open his mind to the possibility that any future Chancellor of the Republic must be committed to the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth?

IMAGE CREDIT: Collage created by Robert Steele; graphic original to Robert Steele.


[1] Robert Steele, “Waging War and Peace in the 21st Century,” Paris, FR: Secretariat General de la Defense National, Flag Conference on Information Strategy, December 15, 1995.

[2] Bill Theobald, “Donald Trump returns fire from former defense secretary Robert Gates,” USA Today, 17 September 2016; Mel Goodman, “More Lies from the Spies: the Tall Tales of Robert Gates,” CounterPunch, 4 February 2016; Jonathan Alter, “The Wars Robert Gates Got Wrong,” The New Yorker, 3 February 2014; Sarah Chayes, “Robert Gates’ failure of duty,” Los Angeles Times, 12 January 2014; Melvin Goodman, “Robert Gates’ Narcissistic Notions of ‘Duty’,” Huffington Post, 9 January 2014; Danile Schulman with Melvin Goodman, “CIA Veteran: How Robert Gates Cooked the Intelligence,” Mother Jones, 4 December 2006.

[3] I firmly believe that where you stand depends on where you sit; that Gates played the game by the prevailing rules; and that despite his somewhat sordid past at multiple levels, he has indeed accomplished some important things, has a diversity of experience and unique gifts, and deserves another chance to serve the Republic. I read his book, Robert Gates, From the Shadows: The Ultimate Insider’s Story of Five Presidents and How They Won the Cold War (Simon & Schuster, 1997) with great care and gave the book a generally favorable review that is free online.

[4] Cf. Robert S. McNamara, DVD: The Fog of War (An Erol Morris Film, 2004), a summary review is free online; and

Robert S. McNamara, Wilson’s Ghost: Reducing the Risk of Conflict, Killing, and Catastrophe in the 21st Century (Public Affairs, 2001), a summary review is free online. On William Colby, whom I was privileged to know when he accepted my invitation to speak to my international conference in 1995” see Editors, “Keynote: The Honorable William Colby,” Conference Executive Summary (PDF, 9 pages), OSS ’95, Conference Proceedings, Fourth International Symposium on Global Security & Global Competitiveness: Open Source Solutions, 7-9 November 1995. See also William Colby, “From Secret Intelligence to Public Intelligence,” Phi Beta Iota Public Intelligence Blog, 25 April 2013; and William Colby, “Security in an Open Society: Address on Secrecy Given at NSA in 1973,” Phi Beta Iota Public Intelligence Blog, 26 October 2014. McNamara rejected war and Colby rejected secrecy. That is the moral and intellectual transformation I am looking for in Robert Gates.

[5]Robert M. Gates ’65, Chancellor,” William & Mary, undated, accessed 1 July 2018.

[6]Duties and History,” William & Mary, undated, accessed 1 July 2018.

[7] Arvind Dilawar, “The U.S. Government’s Secret Inventions,” Slate, 9 May 2018; Steven Aftergood, “Invention Secrecy Increased in 2016,” Secrecy News, 31 October 2016; and G. W. Schulz, “Government Secrecy Orders on Patents Have Stifled More Than 5,000 Inventions,” Wired, 16 April 2013.

[8] Where Gates and Steele might meet is with respect to an Open Source Agency (OSA) as a catalyst for creating a Smart Nation and re-booting the “eight tribes” of information: academia, civil society, commerce, government, law enforcement, media, military, and non-government/non-profit. Applicable references are on the landing page of

[9] Robert Steele. “SPECIAL FEATURE: Creating a Smart Nation–Strategy, Policy, Intelligence, and Information,”  Government Information Quarterly, pp. 159-173. Gates never got a grip on information technology, which according to Jim Clapper consumes as much as 25% of the secret intelligence budget, see my summary review, Robert Steele, “Grand Theft, Mass Murder and Legalized Lies – Book Review as Epitaph,” American Herald Tribune, 19 June 2018. As early as 1989 it was clearly known at CIA that an all-source analytic workstation was needed, and we still do not have one. Cf. Diane Webb, Computer Aided Tools for the Analysis of Science & Technology (CIA, 1989) and more recently, Robert Steele, “Foreword,” in Stephen E. Arnold, CyberOSINT: Next Generation Information Access, Harrods Creek, KY: Arnold Information Technology, 2015.

[10] Robert Steele, “USMC 1991 National Intelligence Topics,” Phi Beta Iota Public Intelligence Blog, 7 May 1991; and Robert Steele, “Reference: USMC Proposed Alternative National Intelligence Topics (NIT) (1991),” Phi Beta Iota Public Intelligence Blog, 15 May 1991.

[11] Cf. Al Gray (Ghost-Written by Robert Steele), “Global Intelligence Challenges in the 1990’s,” American Intelligence Journal, Winter 1989-1990, pp. 37-41; Robert Steele, “Intelligence in the 1990’s: Recasting National Security in a Changing World,” American Intelligence Journal, Summer/Fall 1990, pp. 29-36; Robert Steele, “Applying the ‘New Paradigm’: How to Avoid Strategic Intelligence Failures in the Future,” American Intelligence Journal, Autumn 1991, pp. 43-46; Robert Steele, “E3i: Ethics, Ecology, Evolution, & Intelligence,” Whole Earth Review, Fall 1992, pp. 74-79; Robert Steele, “Information Concepts & Doctrine for the Future,” McLean, VA: Proceedings of the First International Symposium on National Security & National Competitiveness: Open Source Solutions, 1 December 1992; Robert Steele, “National Intelligence and Open Source: From School House to White House,” American Intelligence Journal, Spring/Summer 1993, pp. 29-32; Robert.  “Private Enterprise Intelligence – Its Potential Contribution to National Security,” Intelligence and National Security, 10/4, October 1995, pp. 212-228; and Robert Steele, “Reinventer Le Renseignement: Vision et Strategie / Reinventing Intelligence: The Vision and the Strategy,” International Defense & Technologies, December 1995.

[12] A national open source capability has been discussed five times at the national level: in the National Security Act of 1992 (not enacted); by the Aspin-Brown Commission (recommending it be a top priority for funding); by the 9/11 Commission (recommending a separate Open Source Agency), and with senior staff of the Office of Management and Budget (OMB), in 2000 and 2010. Virulent opposition from the CIA particularly has always triumphed. Among hundreds of references in favor of Open Source Intelligence (OSINT) see Robert Steele, “The National Security Act of 1992,” American Intelligence Journal, Winter 1992, pp. 32-37; Robert Steele, “Reference: Open Source Burundi Exercise,” Phi Beta Iota Public Intelligence Blog, 20 September 2000; and “Reference: 9-11 Commission Pages 23 and 413 Providing for a Separate Open Source Agency (OSA) C-Equal to and Independent From the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA),” Phi  Beta Iota Public Intelligence Blog, 22 July 2004. Written testimony includes Robert Steele, Letter to Secretary-General of the United Nations Antonio Guterres, “Subject: Achieving the Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) with Open Source Everything Engineering (OSEE),” January 2, 2017 and

Robert Steele, For the President of the United States of America Donald Trump: Subject: Eradicating Fake News and False Intelligence with an Open Source Agency That Also Supports Defense, Diplomacy, Development, & Commerce (D3C) Innovation to Stabilize World. Earth Intelligence Network, 2017. Big picture articles include Robert Steele, “Healing the Self & Healing the World: The Open Source Way,” Phi Beta Iota Public Intelligence Blog, 2 September 2017; Robert Steele, “Augmented Intelligence with Human-Machine Integrity: Future-Oriented Hybrid Governance Integrating Holistic Analytics, True Cost Economics, and Open Source Everything Engineering (OSEE),” forthcoming in Daniel Araya. Augmented Intelligence: Smart Systems and the Future of Work and Learning. Bern, CH: Peter Lang Publishing; Robert Steele, “The Ultimate Hack – Resilient Villages, Smart Cities, Prosperous Nations at Peace — and Unlimited Clean Water,” Potomac, Maryland: Reserved, March 6, 2016; Robert Steele, “Open Source Everything Engineering (OSEE) — a Nordic Manifesto,” Phi Beta Iota Public Intelligence Blog, 15 April 2016; and Robert Steele, “Open Source Everything Engineering (OSEE) – Creating the Academy, Economy, Government, and Society of the Future,” Phi Beta Iota Public Intelligence Blog, 5 April 2016; Robert Steele, “The Evolving Craft of Intelligence,” in Robert Dover, Michael Goodman, and Claudia Hillebrand (eds.). Routledge Companion to Intelligence Studies, Oxford, UK: Routledge, July 31, 2013; and Robert Steele, “The Ultimate Hack: Re-Inventing Intelligence to Re-Engineer Earth,” in U. K. Wiil (ed.), Counterterrorism and Open-Source Intelligence, Lecture Notes in Social Networks 2, Springer-Verlag/Wien, 2011.

[13] Robert Steele, Human Intelligence: All Humans, All Minds, All the Time, Carlisle, PA: Strategic Studies Institute, U.S. Army War College Press, June 3, 2010.

[14] In my own experience secrecy is used to enabling lying to the White House and Congress, not to protect sources and methods well-known to our adversaries. I testified to this effect to Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan (D-NY) and others: Robert Steele, “Talking Points ‘Secrecy and Accountability in U.S. Intelligence’,” Washington, DC: Center for International Policy, October 9, 1996; Robert Steele, “SOURCES AND METHODS: A PRIMER FOR CONGRESSIONAL INQUIRY,” Washington, DC: US Senate, The Moynihan Commission on Protecting and Reducing Secrecy, March 16, 1996; and Robert Steele, “Testimony to Presidential Inter-Agency Task Force on National Security Information,” Washington, DC: Department of Justice, June 9, 1993. My one structured attempt to communicate with a DCI is shown at Robert Steele, “1993 Talking Points for the Director of Central Intelligence,” Phi Beta Iota Public Intelligence Blog, 23 July 1993.

[15] Cf. Tom Atlee, “Finding Our Way Together: Minority Opinions Matter,” Phi Beta Iota Public Intelligence Blog, 30 June 2018. See also Mark Tovey (ed.), COLLECTIVE INTELLIGENCE: Creating a Prosperous World at Peace (Earth Intelligence Network, 2010); and “Reference: Spanda Journal on Collective Intelligence,” Phi Beta Iota Public Intelligence Blog, 22 January 2015.

[16] Robert Steele, “Graphic: 1989 USMC JNIDS VI Workup,” Phi Beta Iota Public Intelligence Blog, 16 July 1989; and Robert Steele, “Reference: 1989 USMC Work-Up for JNIDS VI All-Source Fusion Analytic Workstation,” Phi Beta Iota Public Intelligence Blog, 16 July 1989.

[17] Robert Steele, “Bin Laden Show: Entries 00-99 1 April 2016,” Phi Beta Iota Public Intelligence Blog, 15 January 2012 updated through 2 April 2016; Chuck Spinney, “Trevor Timm on Media, Hersh, & Bin Laden PLUS Phi Beta Iota: Did Patsy – and SEALS – Die to Re-Elect Obama?Phi Beta Iota Public Intelligence Blog, 17 May 2015; James Fetzer, “’Zero Dark Thirty’: The deeper, darker truths,” James Fetzer Blog, 26 January 2013; Paul Craig Roberts, “For the Record: Bin Laden’s 2001 Obituary Notice,” Phi Beta Iota Public Intelligence Blog, 21 November 2013; Nicholas Kollerstrom, “Osama Bin Laden, 1957-2001,” James Fetzer Blog, 6 May 2011; Robert Steele, “Bin Laden Show 24: Abbottabad Resident Says Bin Laden Operations a Hoax,” Phi Beta Iota Public Intelligence Blog, 1 May 2011; Editors, “Bin Laden Show 14: Dr. Dr. Steve Pieczenik Nails It – Bin Laden Died in 2001 – Reiterates (Has Proof) 9/11 Was a Cheney-Led Stand-Down False Flag Operation. Indictment?Phi Beta Iota Public Intelligence Blog, 1 May 2011.

[18] A decade of collected posts with links are assembled at 9/11 @ Phi Beta Iota.

[19] Robert Steele, “CIA and the Deep State: Mike Pompeo is Totally Wrong – and Politico Totally Worthless,” American Herald Tribune, 2 June 2018. Also published as Robert Steele, “CIA and the Deep State: Mike Pompeo is Totally Wrong – and Politico Totally Worthless,” Russian International Affairs Council, 4 June 2018.

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