President Obama is expected to announce Thursday that CIA Director Leon Panetta will be the new defense secretary, replacing Robert Gates, and that the U.S. commander in Afghanistan, Gen. David Petraeus, will head the CIA.
The changes, which were reported as a strong possibility earlier this month, will also bring Lt. Gen. John Allen in to replace Petraeus in Afghanistan and diplomat Ryan Crocker as American ambassador there. The changes will take effect in July, officials say. —KDG
The long-anticipated overhaul could have broad implications for the Obama administration, which is pursuing deeper defense spending cuts in the face of a yawning budget deficit and will start withdrawing troops from Afghanistan this July.
Panetta is a Democratic party insider seen as close to Obama who could be more receptive to deeper defense spending cuts than outgoing Defense Secretary Robert Gates, a holdover from the Bush administration.
Panetta, who turns 73 in June, is a former U.S. representative from California who was chairman of the House Budget Committee. He was former President Bill Clinton’s budget director, then chief of staff.
As well as starting the withdrawal from Afghanistan, the United States is set to pull U.S. forces out entirely from Iraq by the end of 2011, while the future course of its campaign in Libya remains unclear.