The Obama administration may tap CIA Director Leon Panetta to succeed Bob Gates as Secretary of Defense, The Envoy reported last week, citing U.S. officials who are handicapping likely new Pentagon chiefs ahead of the public announcement of Gates' departure.
Like Gates, Panetta has served as CIA director, we noted in summing up the case that officials in the administration orbit have been making for Panetta. Officials also cited Panetta's strong bipartisan ties, thanks to his years as a lawmaker, his agility in keeping CIA operations from turning into major White House headaches, and his wide array of international contacts and experience as Clinton White House chief of staff and Office of Management and Budget chief--all useful qualifications for a successful Defense secretary.
Since that report, more current and former U.S. national security officials have come forward to say they hear Panetta may be nominated to succeed Gates--though the topic did not come up when both men attended a CIA officers' memorial event last Thursday, a former U.S. official who attended the event said. Gates, currently in Saudi Arabia for a meeting with King Abdullah, has been expected to leave the job some time this summer, although he has not publicly disclosed his planned departure date.
One question raised by the prospect of Panetta possibly moving to the SecDef job is who would succeed him as CIA Director.
NPR reported Monday that one man floated as a contender for the post is Gen. David Petraeus, the top U.S. commander in Afghanistan.
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