Leon Panetta

Leon Panetta
23rd United States Secretary of Defense
In office
July 1, 2011  February 27, 2013
President Barack Obama
Deputy William Lynn
Ash Carter
Preceded by Robert Gates
Succeeded by Chuck Hagel
Director of the Central Intelligence Agency
In office
February 13, 2009  June 30, 2011
President Barack Obama
Deputy Stephen Kappes
Michael Morell
Preceded by Michael Hayden
Succeeded by Michael Morell (Acting)
18th White House Chief of Staff
In office
July 17, 1994  January 20, 1997
President Bill Clinton
Preceded by Mack McLarty
Succeeded by Erskine Bowles
Director of the Office of Management and Budget
In office
January 21, 1993  July 17, 1994
President Bill Clinton
Preceded by Richard Darman
Succeeded by Alice Rivlin
Chair of the House Budget Committee
In office
January 3, 1989  January 21, 1993
Preceded by Bill Gray
Succeeded by Martin Olav Sabo
Member of the U.S. House of Representatives
from California's 17th district
In office
January 3, 1993  January 21, 1993
Preceded by Cal Dooley
Succeeded by Sam Farr
Member of the U.S. House of Representatives
from California's 16th district
In office
January 3, 1977  January 3, 1993
Preceded by Burt Talcott
Succeeded by Don Edwards
Personal details
Born Leon Edward Panetta
(1938-06-28) June 28, 1938
Monterey, California, U.S.
Political party Republican (Before 1971)
Democratic (1971–present)
Spouse(s) Sylvia Panetta
Alma mater Santa Clara University
Religion Roman Catholicism
Military service
Allegiance  United States
Service/branch  United States Army
Years of service 1964–1966
Rank First Lieutenant
Awards Army Commendation Medal

Leon Edward Panetta (born June 28, 1938) is an American statesman, lawyer, and professor. He served in the Obama administration as Director of the Central Intelligence Agency from 2009 to 2011, and as Secretary of Defense from 2011 to 2013. A Democrat, Panetta was a member of the United States House of Representatives from 1977 to 1993, served as Director of the Office of Management and Budget from 1993 to 1994, and as President Bill Clinton's Chief of Staff from 1994 to 1997. He co-founded the Panetta Institute for Public Policy and served as a Distinguished Scholar to Chancellor Charles B. Reed of the California State University System and as a professor of public policy at Santa Clara University.

In January 2009, newly elected President Barack Obama nominated Panetta for the post of CIA Director.[1][2] Panetta was confirmed by the full Senate in February 2009. As director of the CIA, Panetta oversaw the operation that brought down international terrorist Osama bin Laden.

On April 28, 2011, Obama announced the nomination of Panetta as Defense Secretary, to replace the retiring Robert Gates. In June the Senate confirmed Panetta unanimously and he assumed the office on July 1, 2011.[3] David Petraeus took over as Director of the Central Intelligence Agency on September 6, 2011.[4]

Panetta serves today as Chairman of The Panetta Institute for Public Policy, located at California State University, Monterey Bay, a campus he helped establish during his tenure as congressman.[5] The Institute is dedicated to motivating and preparing people for lives of public service and helping them to become more knowledgeably engaged in the democratic process. He also serves on a number of boards and commissions and frequently writes and lectures on public policy issues.

Early life, education, and military service

Panetta was born in Monterey, California, the son of Carmelina Maria (Prochilo) and Carmelo Frank Panetta, Italian immigrants from Siderno in Calabria, Italy. In the 1940s, the Panetta family owned a restaurant in Monterey.[6]

He was raised in the Monterey area, and attended two Catholic schools: San Carlos Grammar School and Carmel Mission School. He attended Monterey High School, a public school where he became involved in student politics, and was a member of the Junior Statesmen of America.[7] As a Junior, he was Vice President of the Student Body, and as a Senior, he became President of the Student Body.[8] In 1956, he entered Santa Clara University, California, and graduated magna cum laude in 1960 with a Bachelor of Arts in Political Science. In 1963, he received a Juris Doctor from the Santa Clara University School of Law.

In 1964, he joined the United States Army as a Second Lieutenant, where he served as an officer in Army Military Intelligence, and received the Army Commendation Medal.[9] In 1966, he was discharged as a First Lieutenant.[10]

Political career

Early political career

Panetta started in politics in 1966 as a legislative assistant to Republican Senator Thomas Kuchel, the United States Senate Minority Whip from California, whom Panetta has called "a tremendous role model".[11]

In 1969 he became the assistant to Robert H. Finch, Secretary of the United States Department of Health, Education, and Welfare under the Nixon administration. Soon thereafter he was appointed Director of the Office for Civil Rights.[12]

Panetta chose to enforce civil rights and equal education laws over the objection of President Nixon, who wanted enforcement to move slowly in keeping with his strategy to gain political support among Southern whites.[13] Robert Finch and Assistant Secretary John Veneman supported Panetta and refused to fire him, threatening to resign if forced to do so.[14] Eventually forced out of office in 1970, Panetta left Washington to work as Executive Assistant for John Lindsay, the then-Republican Mayor of New York City (Lindsay would switch parties the following year.) Panetta wrote about his Nixon administration experience in his 1971 book Bring Us Together.[15]

He moved back to Monterey to practice law at Panetta, Thompson & Panetta from 1971 to 1976.[16]

U.S. House of Representatives


1977 Congressional portrait of Panetta.

Like Lindsay, Panetta switched to the Democratic Party in 1971, because he thought that the Republican Party was moving away from the political center.[17] In 1976, Panetta was elected to the U.S. Congress to represent California's 16th congressional district, unseating incumbent Republican Burt Talcott with 53% of the vote (the 17th district after the 1990 census), and was reelected eight times.[18][19][20] (With a few boundary adjustments, the 16th district became the 17th district after the 1990 census and is the 20th district today. It consist of all of Monterey and San Benito Counties, plus most of Santa Cruz County, including the city of Santa Cruz. At the time of Panetta's first election, it also included the northern part of San Luis Obispo County.)


During his time in Congress, Panetta concentrated mostly on budget issues, civil rights, education, healthcare, agriculture, immigration, and environmental protection, particularly preventing oil drilling off the California coast. He wrote the Hunger Prevention Act (Public Law 100-435) of 1988 and the Fair Employment Practices Resolution. He was the author of legislation establishing the Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary,[21] and legislation providing Medicare coverage for hospice care. Working with Chancellor Barry Munoz of CSU, he helped establish CSU Monterey Bay at the former Fort Ord military base.

Budget Committee

A member of the House Committee on the Budget from 1979 to 1989, and its chairman from 1989 to 1993, Panetta played a key role in the 1990 Budget Summit.[22][23]

Committee assignments

His positions included:

Director of the Office of Management and Budget

Though elected to a ninth term in 1992, Panetta left the House at the beginning of 1993, after President-elect Bill Clinton selected him to serve as Director of the United States Office of Management and Budget. In that role he developed the budget package that would eventually result in the balanced budget of 1998.

White House Chief of Staff

In 1994, President Clinton became increasingly concerned about a lack of order and focus in the White House and asked Panetta to become his new Chief of Staff, replacing Mack McLarty. According to author Nigel Hamilton, "Panetta replaced McLarty for the rest of Clinton's first term—and the rest is history. To be a great leader, a modern president must have a great chief of staff—and in Leon Panetta, Clinton got the enforcer he deserved."[24] Panetta was appointed White House Chief of Staff on July 17, 1994, a he held that position until January 20, 1997. He was a key negotiator of the 1996 budget, which was another important step toward bringing the budget into balance.[25][26]

Director of the CIA


President Barack Obama speaks to CIA employees at CIA Headquarters in Langley, April 20, 2009

On January 5, 2009, President-elect Barack Obama announced his intention to nominate Panetta to the post of Director of the Central Intelligence Agency.[1]

At the time of his selection, journalists and politicians raised concerns about Panetta's limited experience in intelligence, aside from his two-year service as a military intelligence officer in the 1960's. California Democratic Senator Dianne Feinstein, the Chairman of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, expressed concerns that she was not consulted about the Panetta appointment and stated her belief that "the Agency is best-served by having an intelligence professional in charge at this time.”[27]

Former CIA officer Ishmael Jones stated that Panetta was a wise choice, because of his close personal connection to the President and lack of exposure to the CIA bureaucracy.[28][29] Also,Washington Post columnist David Ignatius said that Panetta did have exposure to intelligence operations as Director of the OMB and as Chief of Staff for President Bill Clinton, where he "sat in on the daily intelligence briefings as chief of staff, and he reviewed the nation's most secret intelligence-collection and covert-action programs in his previous post as director of the Office of Management and Budget".[30]

On February 12, 2009, Panetta was confirmed in the full Senate by voice vote.[31]


Panetta as Director of the CIA.
Wikisource has original text related to this article:

On February 19, 2009, Panetta was sworn in as Director of the Central Intelligence Agency by Vice President Joe Biden before an audience of CIA employees. Panetta reportedly received a "rock star welcome" from his new subordinates.[32]

As CIA Director, Panetta traveled extensively to intelligence outposts around the world and worked with international leaders to confront threats of Islamic extremism and Taliban. In 2010 working with the Senate Intelligence Committee, he conducted a secret review of enhanced interrogation techniques used by the CIA during the administration of George W. Bush. The review, which came to be known by 2014 as the "Panetta Review," yielded a series of memoranda that, according to The New York Times, "cast a particularly harsh light" on the Bush-era interrogation program.[33]

Panetta supported U.S. drone strikes in Pakistan, which he identified as the "most effective weapon" against senior Al-Qaeda leadership.[34][35] These attacks supported by President Obama increased significantly under Panetta, with as many as 50 suspected Al-Qaeda militants being killed in May 2009 alone.[36][37][38]

As Director of the CIA, Panetta also oversaw the operation that resulted in brigning Osama bin Laden's to justice on May 1, 2011.

Secretary of Defense


Panetta being sworn in as Secretary of Defense.

On April 28, 2011, President Obama announced the nomination of Panetta as United States Secretary of Defense as a replacement for retiring Secretary Robert Gates. On June 21, 2011, the Senate confirmed Panetta in a 100–0 vote.[39] He was sworn in on July 1, 2011.


One of Panetta's first major acts as Defense Secretary was to jointly certify with the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff that the military was prepared to repeal "Don't Ask, Don't Tell", triggering final repeal after 60 days. In August 2011, Panetta publicly warned that deeper cuts in the defense budget risked hollowing out the military and would hamper Pentagon efforts to deal with rising powers such as China, North Korea, and Iran and he urged Congress not to go beyond the roughly $500 billion in defense cuts required over the next decade under the debt reduction bill signed by President Barack Obama. Working with military and civilian leaders at the Department of Defense, Panetta developed a new defense strategy for the 21st century.

The need to keep the United States military strong in the face of tightening budget constraints became an ongoing theme during Panetta's tenure. He also warned that future service members may see changes in retirement benefits and that the military healthcare system may need reforms to rein in costs while ensuring quality care.[40]

Panetta stands with Saudi Arabian Minister of Defense Prince Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud, Pentagon, April 11, 2012

Another major issue during Panetta's tenure as Defense Secretary was the Obama administration's diplomatic effort to dissuade Iran from developing nuclear weapons. In January 2012 Panetta, Panetta stated that nuclear weapons development was a "red line" that Iran would not be allowed to cross and that the United States was keeping all options, including military ones, open to prevent it. He said that Iran would not be allowed to block the Straits of Hormuz.

In January 2013, shortly before his departure from the Defense Secretary post, Panetta announced that women would be allowed to enter all combat jobs in the military, citing an assessment phase in which "each branch of service will examine all its jobs and units not currently integrated and then produce a timetable for integrating them".[41]

Activities outside politics

Panetta giving his farewell speech to Europe at King's College London in January 2013.[42]

Panetta and his wife Sylvia founded the Panetta Institute for Public Policy in December 1997 and served as co-directors there until his departure in 2009 to serve as CIA director and later Secretary of Defense under President Obama. He has since returned to the Institute in the role of Chairman, while his wife serves as Co-Chair and CEO, supervising the Institute's day to day operations. The Institute is located at California State University, Monterey Bay, a campus Panetta was instrumental in creating on the site of a decommissioned Army base, Fort Ord, when he was a Congressman. Coincidentally, Panetta was stationed at Fort Ord in the 1960' during his service as an Army intelligence officer.

Panetta served on the board of the UC Santa Cruz Foundation, as a Distinguished Scholar to the Chancellor of California State University[43] and as a Presidential Professor at Santa Clara University. He was urged to consider running for Governor of California during the recall election in 2003 but declined in part because of the short time available to raise the necessary campaign funds.[44]

Panetta has long been an advocate for the world's oceans. In addition to introducing legislation and winning passage of ocean protections measures such as the Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary during his time in Congress,.[43][45][46] he was named chairman in 2003 of the Pew Oceans Commission, which in 2005 combined with the U.S. Commission on Ocean Policy to establish the Joint Ocean Commission Initiative. Panetta now co-chairs the Joint Ocean Commission Initiative with Admiral James D. Watkins, U.S. Navy (Ret.) [47] and continues to serve as a Commission member. Panetta also serves as an advocate and information source for other ocean organizations, including the National Marine Sanctuary Foundation[48] and the Monterey Bay Aquarium.[49]

In 2006, Panetta was part of the presidentially-appointed Iraq Study Group, also known as the Baker Commission, which explored potential changes in U.S. policy in Iraq.[50][51]

In 2014, Panetta published his memoir Worthy Fights, in which he recounted his long career in public service. While overwhelmingly positive in his assessment of the Obama presidency, Panetta aired some disagreements in the book with the President's policies in Syria and Iraq.


Joint Ocean Commission Initiative[52]

Pew Oceans Commission

Bread for the World

National Marine Sanctuary Foundation

National Leadership Roundtable on Church Management

New York Stock Exchange

Close Up Foundation

Connetics Investor Relations


Junior Statesmen Foundation Inc.

Public Policy Institute of California

Blue Shield of California


In June 2002, the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops appointed Panetta to their National Review Board,[59] which was created to look into the Catholic Church's sexual abuse scandal. This created controversy because of Panetta's pro-choice stands on abortion and other views seen as conflicting with those of the Church.

Panetta is also a member of the Partnership for a Secure America's bipartisan Advisory Board. The Partnership is a non-profit organization based in Washington, DC that promotes bipartisan solutions to national security and foreign policy issues.

Personal life

Panetta is married to Sylvia Marie Varni, who administered his home district offices during his terms in Congress.[60][61] They live on his family's twelve-acre walnut farm in Carmel Valley, California. They have three sons and six grandchildren.[21] in 2016, their third son, Jimmy, a former Monterey County Deputy District Attorney, won election to the U.S. House of Representatives for California's 20th congressional district - essentially the same district that his father represented from 1977 to 1993.



  1. 1 2 "Leon Panetta Tapped to Head CIA, Prompting Criticism From Lawmakers". Fox News. January 5, 2009.
  2. "Obama names Panetta for CIA". Associated Press. January 9, 2009. Archived from the original on January 28, 2016. Retrieved January 9, 2009.
  3. "Obama bids farewell to defense secretary". MSNBC. June 30, 2011. Retrieved December 20, 2011.
  4. Quemener, Tangi (September 6, 2011). "Petraeus sworn in as new CIA chief". Agence France-Presse. Retrieved September 6, 2011.
  5. "The Panetta Institute for Public Policy |". panettainstitute.org. Retrieved 2016-11-03.
  6. "Current Biography Yearbook - 1993". Amazon.com. 31 December 1993. Retrieved 2 December 2016.
  7. "Hon. Leon Panetta Appointed CIA Director". Alumni. JSA and the Junior Statesmen Foundation. May 21, 2009. Archived from the original on February 9, 2010. Retrieved 11 December 2009.
  8. Profile of Leon Panetta, Santa Clara University Law School web site, accessed April 28, 2011
  9. "Message to the Department of Defense from Defense Secretary Leon Panetta". Retrieved 1 July 2011.
  10. Biography, Leon Panetta, Public Broadcasting Service program News Hour guest profiles, accessed April 28, 2011
  11. "Conversation with Leon Panetta", p. 2
  12. Gizzi, John (April 28, 2011), "Leon Panetta: Bipartisan in Spirit but a Liberal at Heart", Human Events
  13. Secretary
  14. Gall, Peter; E, Panetta, Leon (1971). Bring us together: the Nixon team and the civil rights retreat ([1st ed.] ed.). Philadelphia: Lippincott.
  15. Study group member profile, Leon Panetta, published by Iraq Study Group, accessed April 28, 2011
  16. "Leon Panetta B.S. '60, J.D. '63". Lawyers Who Lead. Santa Clara University School of Law. Retrieved March 29, 2012.
  17. Opinion column, Democrats See Potential Gains, by Matt Pinkus, Congressional Quarterly, published in Eugene Register-Guard, August 23, 1976
  18. Newspaper article, Democrats in Congress Keep Old Seats, Take 1 From GOP, Los Angeles Times, November 4, 1976
  19. Newspaper article, State Democrats Gain By One Seat In Congress, by Associated Press, published in Modesto Bee, November 4, 1976
  20. 1 2 ""Hon. Leon E. Panetta"". Archived from the original on September 27, 2007. Retrieved 2007-09-27., U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops
  21. "Budget Summit Opens", by Tom Raum, Associated Press, published in Hendersonville Times-News, May 16, 1990
  22. "As Budget Chief, Panetta May Be Frugal Deficit Foe", Christian Science Monitor, December 11, 1992
  23. Hamilton, Nigel (2007). Bill Clinton: Mastering the Presidency. New York: PublicAffairs. ISBN 978-1-58648-516-0.
  24. Newspaper column, Clinton Is Winning On Balanced Budget, by Morton Kondracke, Pomeroy-Middleton Daily Sentinel, January 23, 1996
  25. Newspaper article, Flexibility Shown in Budget Talks, by Associated Press, published in Williamson Daily News, September 17, 1996
  26. "Dianne Feinstein Not Too Pleased With Panetta Pick « The Washington Independent". Washingtonindependent.com. Retrieved August 21, 2010.
  27. "JONES: Where loyalty is vital". Washington Times. January 8, 2009. Retrieved August 21, 2010.
  28. "Panetta a 'Brave' Choice, Says Former CIA Agent – The Corner – National Review Online". Corner.nationalreview.com. January 6, 2009. Retrieved August 21, 2010.
  29. Ignatius, David (January 7, 2009). "A Surprise for Langley". The Washington Post. Retrieved January 23, 2009.
  30. "Senate confirms Panetta as CIA director". Associated Press. February 12, 2009. Retrieved February 12, 2009.
  31. "Leon Panetta Gets a Rock Star Welcome at CIA Headquarters". The Wall Street Journal. February 19, 2009.
  32. Mazzetti, Mark (March 7, 2014). "Behind Clash Between C.I.A. and Congress, a Secret Report on Interrogations". The New York Times.
  33. "CIA Pakistan Campaign Is Working, Director Says", Mark Mazzetti and Helene Cooper, New York Times, February 26, 2009, A15
  34. Gerstein, Josh. "CIA Director Panetta Warns Against Politicization". NBC New York. Retrieved August 21, 2010.
  35. http://news.yahoo.com/s/nm/20090516/ts_nm/us_pakistan_missile. Retrieved June 10, 2009. Missing or empty |title= (help)
  36. "25 Militants Are Killed In Attack In Pakistan". The New York Times. May 17, 2009. Retrieved March 27, 2010.
  37. Bergen, Peter (June 3, 2009). "The Drone War". NewAmerica.net. Retrieved August 21, 2010.
  38. "U.S. Senate Periodical Press Gallery". Senate.gov. Archived from the original on November 26, 2011. Retrieved December 20, 2011.
  39. Pincus, Walter (October 10, 2011). "On Pentagon budget matters, telling it like it is". The Washington Post.
  40. "Military to open combat jobs to women". CNN.
  41. Leon Panetta calls for 'relentless pressure on al-Qaida', The Guardian, January 18, 2013
  42. 1 2 Panetta Institute – Leon Panetta – retrieved 11/22/2008 Archived July 6, 2008, at the Wayback Machine.
  43. Newspaper article, Panetta Doesn't Seek Governorship, San Jose Mercury News, July 20, 2003
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  46. "Watkins bio". Jointoceancommission.org. Retrieved December 20, 2011.
  47. National Marine Sanctuary Foundation – Leon Panetta Archived August 28, 2008, at the Wayback Machine.
  48. "Stanford University, Monterey Bay Aquarium launch center to save oceans". News.mongabay.com. January 9, 2008. Retrieved August 21, 2010.
  49. Television news report transcript, Iraq Survey Group Report Released, by Kim Landers, the World Today, ABC (Australia), December 7, 2006
  50. Newspaper article, Iraq Study Group to Present Report to Bush, by Brian Knowlton, New York Times, December 3, 2006
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  61. "The James W. Dodge Foreign Language Advocate Award". Northeast Conference on the Teaching of Foreign Languages. Retrieved August 28, 2014.
  62. "AFBF Golden Plow Award,". American Farm Bureau Federation. Retrieved March 8, 2012.
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Further reading

External links

Wikimedia Commons has media related to Leon Panetta.
United States House of Representatives
Preceded by
Burt Talcott
Member of the U.S. House of Representatives
from California's 16th congressional district

Succeeded by
Don Edwards
Preceded by
Cal Dooley
Member of the U.S. House of Representatives
from California's 17th congressional district

Succeeded by
Sam Farr
Preceded by
Bill Gray
Chair of the House Budget Committee
Succeeded by
Martin Sabo
Political offices
Preceded by
Richard Darman
Director of the Office of Management and Budget
Succeeded by
Alice Rivlin
Preceded by
Mack McLarty
White House Chief of Staff
Succeeded by
Erskine Bowles
Preceded by
Robert Gates
United States Secretary of Defense
Succeeded by
Chuck Hagel
Government offices
Preceded by
Michael Hayden
Director of the Central Intelligence Agency
Succeeded by
Michael Morell
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