Obama to Nominate Panetta to Succeed Gates

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)

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