Boy Scouts Confirm Robert Gates as President

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The Boy Scouts of America on Thursday formally confirmed former Defense Secretary Robert Gates as the organization's new president.

The group's national council voted to approve Gates for the volunteer role at the organization's annual meeting in Nashville.

"The Boy Scouts of America had a profound influence on my childhood and helped form the foundation of my career in public service," Gates said in a statement from the BSA on Thursday. "I’ve had tremendous opportunities in my life, but I can say without hesitation that my memories of Scouting are every bit as vivid and meaningful as what came later. I believe every boy deserves an opportunity to experience what Scouting offers."

Gates, who served as defense secretary for Presidents George W. Bush and Barack Obama, was announced as interim president in October. As head of the organization's executive board, Gates will become one of Scouting's most public figures at a pivotal time in its history.

The Boy Scouts voted last year to allow openly gay young men in its ranks while continuing to exclude homosexual adult leaders.

The change has led some to leave Scouting altogether. The BSA has 2.5 million youth members and nearly 1 million adults nationwide. Enrollment has declined slightly over the last decade, with a 6 percent drop last year.

Gates, who also formerly served as director of the CIA and president of Texas A&M University, stirred controversy in January with his book "Duty."

In it he criticized President Obama and Vice President Joe Biden and called the White House staff "micromanagers" who were fond of "operational meddling."

On the book tour circuit, Gates said that he meant no disrespect to the administration and that the comments had been "hijacked" by politics.

— with The Associated Press