A trusted national security aide to the elder Bush, Gates also has a resume that has intersected with top current officials, including CIA Director Michael Hayden and Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice. However, he has expressed mixed feelings about Washington and working in a Cabinet.
''There is nothing comparable to working at the White House,'' he wrote in his book. ''The pace is frenetic and the hours impossible. Intrigue. Backstabbing. Ruthless ambition. Constant conflict. Informers. Leakers. Spies. ... Egos as big as surrounding monuments. Battles between Titans. Cabinet officers behaving like children. High-level temper tantrums.''
Some wonder why Gates is returning, given his fondness for Texas A&M. Bush asked him to be the country's first national intelligence director, and he turned it down last year.
''Washington, D.C., is my past. Texas A&M is my present and my future -- at least for a while,'' Gates told the students there last fall. ''There is no position or opportunity for me now more significant than president of Texas A&M University. And none I would trade it for.''