Senate Approves Panetta as Pentagon Chief

June 21, 2011 - 4:00 PM

War Changes

FILE - In this June 9, 2011 file photo, Defense Secretary nominee, CIA Director Leon Panetta, second from left, is greeted on Capitol Hill in Washington by, from left, Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas, and Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., as he arrived to testify before a Senate Armed Service Committee hearing on his nomination. President Barack Obama’s long-awaited decision on how many troops to bring home from Afghanistan in summer 2011 is overshadowing an impending change of arguably equal importance to the course of the war: the departure from Washington and Kabul of senior U.S. leaders with years of experience in managing the conflict. (AP Photo/Manuel Balce Ceneta)

WASHINGTON (AP) — The Senate has unanimously approved the nomination of Leon Panetta to be the next Pentagon chief.

Panetta will replace Defense Secretary Robert Gates, who is retiring June 30 after 4 ½ years on the job through the administrations of George W. Bush and Barack Obama.

Panetta currently is CIA director. He has served in the House as a California congressman, headed the Budget Committee and was director of the Office of Management and Budget. He also was chief of staff to former President Bill Clinton.

He takes over the Pentagon with a crowded agenda — overseeing the drawdown of troops in Iraq and Afghanistan, likely implementing the new policy to let gays serve openly in the military, handling the Libyan conflict and cutting the budget.