The Nov. 6 re-election of President Obama triggered immediate speculation about the future of Defense Secretary Leon E. Panetta, who will turn 75 in June. Mr. Panetta, defense secretary since June 2011, has had a long career in government and is said by associates to be ready to return to private life in Northern California, where he frequently visits and owns land.
Asked about the secretary’s future, Pentagon spokesman George Little told Inside the Ring:
“Panetta is honored to serve as secretary, thoroughly enjoys the job, and that’s where his focus is. His eyes are now on the [Defense] Department and its missions, not on his personal future.”
Pentagon insiders say Deputy Secretary of Defense Ashton B. Carter is known to be eager to fill the top position at the Pentagon should Mr. Panetta decide to step down. Mr. Carter was the Pentagon’s acquisitions undersecretary from 2009 until October 2011, when he became the No. 2 official.
Another candidate for defense secretary is said to be Michele Flournoy, who held the post of undersecretary of defense for policy from 2009 to February.
Both Mr. Carter and Ms. Flournoy were officials during the administration of Bill Clinton and favor liberal defense policies similar to those of Mr. Panetta’s.
Mr. Panetta said in a statement to Pentagon employees on Nov. 7 that throughout the presidential campaign, “we at the Department of Defense have been squarely focused on our mission of defending the nation.”
“Now that the campaign is over, we will stay just as focused on that critical mission,” he said, as the Pentagon prepares to grapple with a looming $660 billion cut in defense spending mandated by Congress in the coming months.
Ms. Flournoy is a supporter and friend of Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, who also is expected to step down after logging more than 900,000 miles of travel.
Should Mrs. Clinton move on from Foggy Bottom, U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Susan Rice is expected to be named as her replacement.
However, Ms. Rice is likely to face a bruising confirmation battle before the Senate over her public comments calling the Sept. 11 attack on the U.S. diplomatic compound in Benghazi, Libya, the result of spontaneous anti-U.S. demonstrations. legally binding guarantees that our missile defenses will not threaten Russia’s strategic deterrent,” he said.
“Russia’s demand that such guarantees include a set of ‘military-technical criteria’
Defense Secretary Leon E. Panetta, who has held that position since June 2011, is said to want to resume private life, but officially, he is he’s fully focused on his department’s missions.