Panetta to Return to His Walnut Farm, ‘Dealing With a Different Set of Nuts’

By Patrick Burke | January 7, 2013 | 3:24 PM EST

Outgoing U.S. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta. (AP)

( -- Outgoing Defense Secretary Leon Panetta, in announcing his stepping-down from his federal job, said the time has come for him to be with his family at his walnut farm where he can deal “with a different set of nuts,” which prompted laughter from the audience.

“The time has come for me to return home to my wife Sylvia, our three sons, their families, our six grandchildren, and my walnut farm -- dealing with a different set of nuts,” Panetta said Monday at the White House, alongside President Barack Obama, former Sen. Chuck Hagel (R-Neb.)  and counterterrorism adviser John Brennan.

If the player does not load, please check that you are running the latest version of Adobe Flash Player.

“I want to deeply thank my family for giving me the fullest measure of love and support during my many absences from home throughout my long career in public service,” he said.

Panetta also had kind words for former Sen. Hagel, who was nominated today for Secretary of Defense by President Obama.

Panetta also praised Obama’s pick for CIA director, White House counterterrorism adviser John Brennan.

“Chuck Hagel is a patriot, he is a decorated combat veteran, and he is a dedicated public servant,” Panetta said. “I believe his experience, his judgment, his deep understanding of the security issues facing this country make him the right choice to be Secretary of Defense.”

If Hagel’s nomination is approved by the Senate, he will replace Panetta, and Brennan is slated to replace former CIA Director David Petraeus.