The Washington Times Weekly - - Geopolitics -

As re­ported in this col­umn last week, Mr. Panetta’s fu­ture as de­fense sec­re­tary in the sec­ond Obama ad­min­is­tra­tion is a hot topic since Pres­i­dent Obama’s re-elec­tion.

Mr. Panetta pro­vided re­porters trav­el­ing with him to Asia a “two-handed” an­swer to the ques­tion of whether he will continue on in the sec­ond Obama ad­min­is­tra­tion.

One the one hand, Mr. Panetta said “it’s no se­cret that, at some point, I’d like to get back to Cal­i­for­nia. It’s my home, and we have our in­sti­tute.”

On the other hand, he added: “But there are a lot of chal­lenges right now with re­gards to de­fense is­sues in Wash­ing­ton — se­ques­tra­tion, bud­get is­sues, is­sues re­lated to plan­ning on Afghanistan — and I think the pres­i­dent and I are work­ing very closely to make sure that we meet those de­fense chal­lenges.”

Mr. Panetta said his cur­rent goal is to deal with those is­sues.

Pressed on whether he in­tends to stay four more years, the de­fense sec­re­tary stated: “Who the hell knows?”

Bill Gertz can be reached at in­sid­e­ther­ing@wash­ing­ton­

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