It was just over a month ago that I broke the story of what I called “Barack Obama’s $439 billion secret.”

That was his initiative to create something he called a “civilian national security force” he promised would have a budget as big as the U.S. military’s.

Obama made the campaign promise in a July 2 speech in Colorado Springs – then inexplicably deleted references to the initiative from his website while others mysteriously disappeared from transcripts of the speech distributed by the campaign.

In talking about his plans to double the size of the Peace Corps and nearly quadruple the size of AmeriCorps and the size of the nation’s military services, he made this rather shocking (and chilling) pledge: “We cannot continue to rely on our military in order to achieve the national security objectives we’ve set. We’ve got to have a civilian national security force that’s just as powerful, just as strong, just as well-funded.”

I mentioned that I had never heard anyone inside or out of government use the phrase “civilian national security force” prior to that speech. But that doesn’t mean no one ever used it. I think I have tracked down the answer to what this force is all about. I think I know who coined the term, who came up with the idea and who is pushing for the future.

And the bad news is it is someone in a prominent position in the Bush administration and likely to remain in that post no matter who is elected president Nov. 4

You might ask: “Now, how can that be? You’re telling me there is a Cabinet-level operative in the Bush administration who will continue in his post whether John McCain is elected or Barack Obama?”

Yes, that is exactly what I am saying. And it is this powerful person who is the mastermind behind the “civilian national security force.”

Enough of the mystery – let me tell you who this high-level Bush administration Cabinet officer is and why he will remain in his powerful position no matter who Americans send to the White House in 2009.

His name is Robert Gates, and he is the defense secretary.

Are you shocked?

Are you surprised that a Bush administration defense secretary would find favor in the eyes of both McCain and Obama?

Don’t be. It’s true. There really isn’t that much difference between McCain and Obama, as I keep telling you. When it comes right down to it, even on matters of defense policy, they both like Robert Gates and want him to continue running the Defense Department.

Obama said as much in an interview with the editors of the Army Times July 13: “I do think that Secretary Gates has brought a level of realism and professionalism and planning to the job that is worthy of praise. I think that the Pentagon is operating more effectively. I think he has improved greatly the relationships with the Joint Chiefs and the military generally.”

That’s high praise from a candidate who won the nomination of his party by telling the American people the Iraq war was a lost cause.

But what does Gates have to do with the concept behind the “civilian national security force”?

Gates invented the idea.

Last fall Gates began giving a series of speeches about the need to create a more modern State Department and a “civilian national security force” that could “deploy teams that combine agricultural specialists and engineers and linguists and cultural specialists who are prepared to go into some of the most dangerous areas alongside the military.”

Gates’ idea was big – seemingly as big as Obama’s $439 billion vision: “If we’ve got a State Department or personnel that have been trained just to be behind walls, and they have not been equipped to get out there alongside our military and engage, then we don’t have the kind of national security apparatus that is needed. That has to be planned for; it has to be paid for. Those personnel have to be trained. And they all have to be integrated.”

While McCain hasn’t personally suggested keeping Gates on in a McCain administration, his national security adviser has.

Besides that, Gates is the establishment’s man. Check out the editorials calling on both McCain and Obama to keep him in his position – the Washington Post, the Los Angeles Times, why even the Roanoke Times, for heaven’s sake. The media establishment is gaga over Gates.

So, just wanted to let you know, whether you vote for McCain or Obama, you are very likely to get a very expensive if slightly ill-defined “civilian national security force” either way.

But don’t expect any debate about this.

Don’t expect either Obama or McCain to tell you they want to create a new multibillion-dollar bureaucracy – within the State Department, of all things.

This is on a need-to-know basis, at this point. And, right now, neither Obama or McCain believe you have any need to know.


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