Secretary Gates expects to leave his post sometime in 2011 according to an interview he gave to Foreign Policy (FP) magazine.  Former President George W. Bush appointed Gates Secretary in 2006 and President Obama retained his services when he took office.  Gates told FP that he had not intended to stay on as secretary and  was preparing the way for his successor.  But, he said he could not say no when Obama asked him to stay.  “I punted all these balls to my successor and discovered I was the receiver,” he said in the interview.  At first he agreed to stay for a year, but, according to FP, as his influence with the president grew in both budgetary and strategic policy matters, he changed his mind.  He became convinced that managing two wars required continuity and he saw an opportunity to make real reforms in acquisition and the way DOD does business.  He began a series of reforms and changes that culminated in his announcement last week of significant cuts to contracting, freezes and potential reductions to civilian personnel levels, and organizational reforms that will dismantle the Business Transformation Agency and JFCOM, and change how IT is managed in DoD.  There has been some criticism of these initiatives, especially from Congress, and many observers believe that he will have to press hard to put them in place, especially during the FY2012 congressional budget review next year.  He has shown in the past his willingness to work hard to implement his plans, such as with his proposal to stop building the F-22.  However, the fight to implement these initiatives may be his last.  Now that combat operations in Iraq will end this month and the withdrawal of combat forces from Afghanistan is set to begin in July 2011, Gates told FP that he is ready to retire before the end of next year.  He said he wants to give the President enough time to find a good replacement.  However, that will leave only one year to the next election and he still has over a year left before he says he plans to go.  Pentagon spokesperson Geoff Morrell, responding to questions from MSMBC about the Secretary's intentions, cautioned the press that Gates' statement was not an "announcement."  Morrell reminded reporters that "he still has a lot to do."  So the real question is what will Gates say if the president asks him to stay for just one more year.