WASHINGTON — President-elect Barack Obama’s security team came into sharper focus, with officials confirming that Defense Secretary Robert Gates would retain his job and that retired Marine Gen. James Jones would likely join the incoming administration as national security adviser.
The picks, which are expected to be formally announced in Chicago Monday, signal Mr. Obama’s desire for experience and continuity with the nation embroiled in two wars.
The probable appointments — along with Sen. Hillary Clinton’s likely ascension to the secretary of state position — also mean that Mr. Obama is entrusting his foreign policy to centrist figures who have at times advocated policies that were more hawkish than his own.
Lawmakers from both parties had been urging Mr. Obama to retain Mr. Gates for weeks, arguing that it would improve the new administration’s ability to oversee the war effort. It would also put a Republican in the cabinet of a president who promised to bridge partisan divides.
Mr. Obama appears to have made a similar calculus in asking Gen. Jones to be his national security adviser. The former North Atlantic Treaty Organization supreme commander and Marine Corps commandant hasn’t decided whether to take the job, but people close to him said the general appears likely to accept.
The job would make Gen. Jones, a nonpartisan figure, the chief policy coordinator between the State Department, the Pentagon and other national-security agencies.
Gen. Jones would become the first former military general to serve as the top White House national-security adviser to a president since retired Gen. Colin Powell worked alongside President Ronald Reagan 20 years ago. He is close to Sen. Clinton, and has close ties to many lawmakers on Capitol Hill, where he worked for years as a Marine liaison.
Gen. Jones also has deep knowledge of two of the biggest challenges Mr. Obama will face in his first term: the need to redesign America’s energy infrastructure and the ongoing war in Afghanistan.
Mr. Obama’s decision to retain Mr. Gates, while expected, is the clearest indication to date of the incoming administration’s thinking about Iraq and Afghanistan. The defense secretary has opposed a firm timetable for withdrawing American forces from Iraq, so his appointment could mean that Mr. Obama was further moving away from his campaign promise to remove most combat troops from Iraq by mid-2010.
The two men largely see eye-to-eye on Afghanistan, which will be the new administration’s main national-security priority. Like the president-elect, Mr. Gates supports deploying more troops to Afghanistan, and he has already said he will try to meet the top American commander in Afghanistan’s request for at least 20,000 additional troops next year.
Mr. Gates took over the Pentagon in late 2006 after President George W. Bush ousted then-Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld over his management of the Iraq war. Mr. Gates set about reshaping the U.S. war effort, appointing Gen. David Petraeus to lead the military campaign and overseeing the deployment of 30,000 additional combat troops.
Also Tuesday, John O. Brennan, a former Central Intelligence Agency official who is advising the Obama transition, withdrew his name from consideration for a top intelligence post after liberal critics accused him of being too close to Bush administration policies.
Mr. Brennan wrote to Mr. Obama that the critics misinterpreted his views and he was a “strong opponent” of Bush policies such as coercive interrogations of terror suspects.