WASHINGTON – Responding to questions about reports the Bush administration is seeking a "war czar" to coordinate or oversee federal agencies involved, Defense Secretary Robert Gates acknowledged that many federal agencies enlisted to help in the revised strategy on Iraq, first announced by President Bush in January, are failing to fully contribute.
Gates said he is "sympathetic" to remarks that the defense and state departments "are about the only parts of the government that are at war."
Describing the role of an overseer as a "czar" is "kind of silly," Gates said, but the position is one that's needed.
"This kind of position is intended to ensure that where other parts of the government can play a contributing role, that, in fact, they understand what the president's priorities are and make sure that the commanders in the field, the ambassador in the field gets what he needs," Gates said.
"This czar term is, I think, kind of silly. The person is better described as a coordinator and a facilitator, somebody -- this is what is (National Security Adviser) Steve Hadley would do if Steve Hadley had the time," he said.
Gates was speaking after the White House confirmed that it is struggling to find a candidate to fill the job of overseeing the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan to better coordinate military operations there.
The White House wants someone to focus on conducting strategic reviews for the wars, said Gordon Johndroe, a National Security Council spokesman.
"The White House is looking into creating a higher profile position that would have the single, full time focus on implementing and executing the recently completed strategic reviews for both Iraq and Afghanistan," Johndroe told FOX News. "This position would report directly to the president as well as Steve Hadley and have representatives in the offices of the secretaries of state and defense in order to speed up and make more efficient the implementation of these strategies."
First reported by The Washington Post, the administration is seeking a high-powered candidate to head up a new office, but so far, three retired four-star generals have turned down the offer.
Retired Marine Gen. Jack Sheehan didn't want the job, he said, because he doesn't think he would be able to bypass Vice President Dick Cheney and other administration officials who Sheehan suspects aren't interested in developing a plan to get out of Iraq.
"The very fundamental issue is, they don't know where the hell they're going," Sheehan told the newspaper.
Army Gen. Jack Keane and Air Force Gen. Joseph Ralston also declined the offer.
White House spokeswoman Dana Perino refused to say whether anyone had turned down the job.
"I will stress to you that there have been no decisions about any possible change in structure," Perino said. "There has been no list of candidates that's been narrowed down. It's an idea that is one very much in the making, so I don't have any more specifics for you that I can give to you on that."
Democrats said it's the president's job to oversee the wars.
"Someone needs to tell Steve Hadley that position is filled, it's the commander in chief, unless the decider's become the delegator," said Rep. Rahm Emanuel, D-Ill.
FOX News' Wendell Goler, Jennifer Griffin and Nick Simeone and The Associated Press contributed to this report.