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Panetta to Be Named Defense Secretary

Panetta to Be Named Defense Secretary


President Barack Obama is expected to name CIA director Leon Panetta as Defense secretary Thursday, an appointment likely to take effect this summer after current secretary Robert Gates departs as planned.

The Associated Press first reported on the move, among a handful of transitions at the top of the president's national security team.

"President Barack Obama plans to name CIA Director Leon Panetta defense secretary and Gen. David Petraeus, now running the war in Afghanistan, as chief of the intelligence agency, according to administration officials," the AP reported.

In addition, the AP reports, "The officials say Mr. Obama also is expected to announce that Lt. Gen. John Allen will succeed Gen. Petraeus as Afghanistan commander and that diplomat Ryan Crocker will be the next U.S. ambassador in Afghanistan."

President Obama is expected to announce the changes Thursday at the White House. All four appointments will require confirmation by the U.S. Senate.

Gates, who already announced he would leave this year, was appointed by President George W. Bush in 2006. He presided over the Defense Department during the effort to repeal the "don't ask, don't tell" policy, which continues to undergo implementation.

Army veteran and Servicemembers Legal Defense Network Executive Director Aubrey Sarvis said his organization welcomed Panetta leading the Department of Defense.

"This expected nomination underscores the need for Secretary Gates and Admiral Mullen to move forward now on DADT repeal certification," he said in a statement Wednesday. "We thank Secretary Gates for his remarkable leadership on repeal and hope the Secretary will finish the repeal job on his watch, and that all of the services will be ready in May. SLDN looks forward to working with Director Panetta. He will bring a strong national defense background to the Pentagon, seasoned leadership, and a demonstrated commitment to equality dating back to his time in Congress."

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