Gates: No Tensions With Donilon

Posted October 8, 2010 at 2:30pm

Defense Secretary Robert Gates tamped down speculation Friday that he has a thorny relationship with President Barack Obama’s new national security adviser, Tom Donilon.

Gates had said Donilon would be a “disaster” in the post, according to Bob Woodward’s 2010 book, “Obama’s Wars.” The book also describes a scenario in which Donilon’s “strong, spur-of-the-moment opinions” angered Gates so much during an Oval Office meeting that he nearly stormed out.

But the Defense secretary said Friday that his relationship with Donilon, whom Obama tapped to replace his outgoing national security adviser, Gen. Jim Jones, is just fine.

“I have, and have had, a very productive and very good working relationship with Tom Donilon, contrary to what you may have read,” Gates said, presumably in reference to Woodward’s book, during a news conference. “I look forward to … working with him.”

A senior Defense official said the characterization in Woodward’s book is “way outdated” and does not reflect the current state of their relationship.

“They did have some issues in the past, but they mainly concerned the [Afghanistan-Pakistan policy] review,” the official said. “Those issues have long since been addressed and overcome. They have enjoyed a good working relationship for many, many months now.”

Separately, a State Department official dismissed the suggestion that there is friction between that department and the Jones-led National Security Council.

“It depends on how you define ‘friction,'” spokesman Mark Toner said.

“I mean, obviously, we … discuss policy with the NSC, and in the end of the day, we all move forward to implement the president’s agenda,” he said.

Toner described communications between the two agencies as “a rich, interagency dialogue.”

Earlier Friday, Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton praised Jones for his “steady hand and clear vision” and said the world “is more stable because of Jim’s tireless efforts.” Clinton also praised Donilon, calling him “a trusted member of our team” who has “contributed to every major policy decision” since Obama took office.