Heading into an era of tighter Pentagon budgets, President Obama has chosen former longtime Monterey Congressman Leon Panetta as secretary of defense in a move that puts a former White House budget chief in charge of the sprawling military bureaucracy, administration officials said Wednesday.
Panetta, 72, was reluctant to leave his job as director of the Central Intelligence Agency, a senior administration official said. A budget expert who had little experience in intelligence before taking the job as spy chief, Panetta is credited with restoring morale and order after a period of turmoil over the agency's role in the torture and detention of terrorism suspects.
Obama personally asked Panetta to take the job, and after thinking about it, Panetta agreed at a meeting with Obama on Monday. With Senate confirmation all but assured, Panetta is scheduled to start his new job July 1.
The president is expected to announce the appointment today as part of a shuffling of his national security team set in motion by the retirement of Defense Secretary Robert Gates, who also held the job under President George W. Bush.
In the shuffle, Gen. David Petraeus, the top commander in Afghanistan, will become director of the spy agency, Gen. John Allen will assume military command in Afghanistan, and Bush veteran Ryan Crocker will become ambassador to Afghanistan.
via Panetta to lead Pentagon, Petraeus CIA.