Panetta Would Bring Decades of Service to Pentagon
By Lisa Daniel
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, Apr. 28, 2011 CIA Director Leon E. Panetta, President Barack Obama’s choice as the next secretary of defense, would bring to the job more than 40 years of government service that has traversed local and federal government and the legislative and executive branches.
Like soon-to-retire Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates, also a former CIA director, Panetta served briefly in the military. He served as an Army intelligence officer from 1964 to 1966 and received the Army Commendation Medal.
After his discharge, the Monterey, Calif., native and son of Italian immigrants set the stage for his long government career by working as a legislative assistant to U.S. Senate minority whip Tom Kuchel of California. In 1969, he was appointed as director of the U.S. Office of Civil Rights in President Richard M. Nixon’s administration.
Panetta, a graduate of Santa Clara Law School, served in the U.S. House of Representatives for 16 years and chaired the House Budget Committee from 1989 to 1993.
Panetta left Congress in 1993 to serve as director of the Office of Management and Budget in President Bill Clinton’s administration, where he took a leading role in balancing the federal budget that led, briefly, to budget surpluses. He served as Clinton’s chief of staff from 1994 to 1997.
Panetta and his wife, Sylvia, founded the nonpartisan Panetta Institute for Public Policy in 1997 at California State University, Monterey Bay. The institute provides a range of opportunities for studying government -- awarding master’s degrees, hosting research fellows and sponsoring congressional internships. Sylvia Panetta serves as the institute’s director.
The institute’s Leon E. Panetta Archive offers a resource for scholars interested in the workings of Congress, federal agencies, and local government, based on Panetta’s personal papers from four decades of work.
Panetta has served on numerous boards and commissions, including some related to the military. He co-chaired California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger’s Council on Base Support and Retention, and in 2006 served on the Iraq Study Group, a bipartisan national commission seeking a new course for the war in Iraq.
Panetta, appointed as CIA director in 2009, is 72. The Panettas have three grown sons.
If confirmed by the Senate to serve as secretary of defense, he would take office July 1.