Mr. Gates moved very quickly to make it clear that he didn't see himself as a closer called on to pitch a single inning, but a relief pitcher on the order of the great fireballer Joe Page, who would take the mound for the New York Yankees with three or more innings to go and the game still on the line.
Last month, Mr. Gates decapitated the Air Force leadership, forcing the resignations of its two top officials, the service secretary and the chief of staff. As Tom Wilkerson, the Naval Institute's CEO and a retired Marine major general, ably recounts in "Sprinting Through the Tape," Mr. Gates had already collected several very senior scalps by the time he took those of Michael Wynne and General T. Michael Moseley. Along the way, he has proven himself an activist Defense Secretary, with an agenda that begins (and, according to critics, ends) with winning the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Moreover, he has displayed an impatience with those who disagree with his priorities, and an admirable obsession with accountability.
When he took office, Mr. Gates was viewed by many as a colorless intelligence bureaucrat. Now we know the truth. The bland demeanor was routine tradecraft in his old profession.
We lead off this issue of Proceedings with "Maritime Strategy in an Age of Blood and Belief," a fascinating tour d'horizon by Vice Admiral Sandy Winnefeld, commander of the Sixth Fleet, Strike Force NATO, and NATO's Allied Joint Command in Lisbon. From his vantage point, the admiral takes a close look at a re-emergent Russia, the time bomb ticking in Iran, and an African continent that has become, for a number of reasons — natural resources (notably oil and uranium), its potential as a terrorist training ground, and the continued destabilizing influence of dictatorial leaders like Zimbabwe's Robert Mugabe — a major concern for the United States and its allies.
Retired Marine Captain Chas Henry, author of the widely circulated "Insurgents in the Bloodstream" in our February issue, returns with a distressing article on absentee military voting. In "Lots of Bullets, Not Enough Ballots," he reports that over the years the system has proved to be more of a broken promise than something service members deployed overseas can depend on to ensure their votes are counted.
Navy Captain Kevin Eyer shines a light on an intensifying problem, the Navy's difficulty in retaining O-6s once they have held a major command. In "The Bitter Cost of Business," the author says there are no easy answers, but he offers some possible solutions.
We include in this issue an excerpt titled "Final Salute," from a stunning new book of the same title by Pulitzer Prize winner Jim Sheeler. The book is beautifully written, but it is painful to read. It may take you several minutes to regain your voice when you finish the excerpt.
Response has been overwhelmingly positive to "Answering the Call," the new monthly feature we debuted last month with a column by Hall of Fame pitcher and World War II Navy veteran Bob Feller. This month? Tom Ridge, congressman, governor, Cabinet secretary — and Vietnam infantry sergeant.