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Former US Secretary of Defense Robert Gates to lead Boy Scouts

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FILE: Aug. 31, 2010: Secretary of Defense Robert Gates speaks at the American Legion convention in Milwaukee, Wis. (AP)

Former U.S. Secretary of Defense and former CIA director Robert Gates will soon lead the Boy Scouts of America, the organization announced Wednesday.

Gates, a distinguished Eagle Scout, was elected by the group’s national executive board and will serve as the national president-elect. The 70-year-old Kansas native will begin a two-year term as president in May if approved by members of the organization’s national council.

“There is no finer program for preparing American boys for citizenship and leadership than the Boy Scouts of America,” Gates said in a statement. “As an Eagle Scout, I know firsthand how impactful this program can be, and I believe its mission is more important today than ever before. I am honored to take on this role and look forward to working on behalf of the millions of youth and adult members who make Scouting what it is today -- an organization providing life-changing opportunities to today’s youth.”

Gates is no stranger to the organization’s long history and its roughly 2.6 million youth members. He previously served as the president of the National Eagle Scout Association and received the Silver Buffalo Award, the highest commendation doled out by the Scouts for extraordinary service to youth.

“Our country and its young people need Scouting, and Boy Scouts of America is honored to have Dr. Gates serve on our National Executive Board as the national president-elect,” Chief Scout Executive Wayne Brock said in a statement. “I believe Dr. Gates’ vision and passion for Scouting will continue to allow the BSA to focus on delivering the nation’s foremost youth program of character development and values-based leadership training to the young people of this nation.”

Gates, a published author and a married father of two, is the only U.S. secretary of defense to be asked to remain in office by a newly-elected president. Prior to that post, Gates served as president of Texas A&M, the nation’s seventh-largest university.

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