WASHINGTON, April 27, 2011 — President Barack Obama intends to nominate CIA Director Leon Panetta as the next defense secretary, a senior administration official said today speaking on background.
If confirmed by the Senate he will replace Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates who will leave office June 30, according to the official. Gates was sworn in on December 18, 2006, as the 22nd Secretary of Defense. Gates is the only Secretary of Defense in U.S. history to be asked to remain in that office by a newly elected president.
International Security Assistance Force Commander Army Gen. David H. Petraeus will retire from the service and the president will nominate him to replace Panetta, the official said.
The president also intends to nominate U.S. diplomat Ryan Crocker as the next U.S. Ambassador to Afghanistan. He will also nominate Marine Lt. Gen. John Allen, the current deputy at U.S. Central Command, to the ISAF command, the official said. The president will officially make the announcements at the White tomorrow.
“This is the culmination of a multi-month process to find nominees for these important positions,” the senior administration official said. The president believes these choices put in place the “strongest possible team” to execute U.S.strategies and policies, the official said. This was important to Obama, the official said, as the president looked at the way the individuals will interact and work together as a team.
The transition is being done in a way to provide a seamless transition, the official said. “There will be no gaps, no disruption in execution of policy,” he said. Obama has selected a very experienced team, the official said.
“That’s consistent with the position the president has taken with respect to his national security team: strong figures, who work together and respect each other,” he said. Panetta “brings all the necessary qualities to be a superb secretary of defense,” the official said. Panetta has had four decades of public service starting as an Army second lieutenant in 1964. He served as White House chief of staff in the Clinton administration, member of Congress from California, and the director of the Office of Management and Budget.
Crocker is one of the nation’s most respected diplomats, the official said. He served as ambassador to Pakistan, Iraq, Syria, Kuwait and Lebanon. He is currently the dean of the Bush School of Government and Public Service at Texas A&M University.
Petraeus is one of the pre-eminent military leaders in the world, the official said. He graduated from West Point in 1974 and served as the commander of the 101stAirborne Division during the initial phases of Operation Iraqi Freedom. He served as commander of the Multinational Forces Iraq, then as commander of U.S. Central Command until he took his current job.
Allen is expected to take command in Afghanistanin September, the official said. He is a 1976 graduate of the Naval Academy and served as the Marine commander in Iraq in 2006 and 2007.
U.S. Department of Defense
Office of the Assistant Secretary of Defense (Public Affairs)