Friday, July 1, 2011

Panetta takes control of Pentagon

New Pentagon chief facing mountain of problems

After operating behind a wall of secrecy at the CIA, Panetta at the Pentagon will face brighter lights of public scrutiny.
Further complicating the picture for Panetta is the fact that Washington is fast approaching the 2012 presidential election season, as well as the expectation that he may serve only through President Barack Obama's current term. At 73, Panetta is older than any of his predecessors when they began their tenure as defense secretary.
He inherits the task of winding down U.S. involvement in Afghanistan and Iraq while guiding the Obama administration through a stalemated Libya conflict that has stirred up domestic political trouble for Obama. And he walks into an even more immediate problem: new attacks on the Pentagon budget.
"The president has a huge budget crisis going right now, and so literally on Friday when Leon steps into the job he's going to find himself in the middle of negotiations about budgets, and it's going to include defense," said Gordon Adams, who worked for Panetta when he was the White House budget chief in 1993-94.
Robert Gates, who ran the Pentagon for 4 years, also hands to Panetta the challenge of implementing a repeal of the two-decade-old "don't ask, don't tell" policy that prohibits gays from serving openly in uniform. Preparations within the military for ending the gay ban are said to have gone well, but the historic change carries the potential for disruption or discontent. It will fall to Panetta to manage a smooth more.

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