Leon Edward Panetta (born June 28, 1938) is an American politician who has served in several different public office positions, including the Secretary of Defense, Director of the CIA, White House Chief of Staff, Director of the Office of Management and Budget, and as a U.S. Representative from California. 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. 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. David Petraeus took over as Director of the Central Intelligence Agency on September 6, 2011.
Since retiring as Secretary of Defense in 2013, Panetta has served as Chairman of The Panetta Institute for Public Policy, located at California State University, Monterey Bay, a campus of the California State University that he helped establish during his tenure as congressman. 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.
|23rd United States Secretary of Defense|
July 1, 2011 – February 26, 2013
|Deputy||William J. Lynn III|
|Preceded by||Robert Gates|
|Succeeded by||Chuck Hagel|
|3rd Director of the Central Intelligence Agency|
February 13, 2009 – June 30, 2011
|Preceded by||Michael Hayden|
|Succeeded by||David Petraeus|
|18th White House Chief of Staff|
July 17, 1994 – January 20, 1997
|Preceded by||Mack McLarty|
|Succeeded by||Erskine Bowles|
|Director of the|
Office of Management and Budget
January 21, 1993 – July 17, 1994
|Preceded by||Richard Darman|
|Succeeded by||Alice Rivlin|
|Chair of the House Budget Committee|
January 3, 1989 – January 21, 1993
|Preceded by||William H. Gray|
|Succeeded by||Martin Olav Sabo|
|Member of the U.S. House of Representatives|
from California's 17th district
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
January 3, 1977 – January 3, 1993
|Preceded by||Burt L. Talcott|
|Succeeded by||Don Edwards|
Leon Edward Panetta
June 28, 1938
Monterey, California, U.S.
|Political party||Democratic (1971–present)|
Republican (before 1971)
|Children||3, including Jimmy|
|Education||Santa Clara University (BA, JD)|
|Service/branch||United States Army|
|Years of service||1964–1966|
|Awards||Army Commendation Medal|
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.
He was raised in the Monterey area, and attended two Catholic grammar schools: San Carlos School (Monterey) and Junípero Serra School (Carmel). 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. As a junior, he was the vice president of the Student Body, and as a senior, he became its president. 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. In 1966, he was discharged as a First Lieutenant.
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".
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.
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. Robert Finch and Assistant Secretary John Veneman supported Panetta and refused to fire him, threatening to resign if forced to do so. 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.
He moved back to Monterey to practice law at Panetta, Thompson & Panetta from 1971 to 1976.
Like Lindsay, Panetta switched to the Democratic Party in 1971, because he thought that the Republican Party was moving away from the political center. In 1976, Panetta was elected to the U.S. Congress to represent California's then-16th congressional district, unseating incumbent Republican Burt Talcott with 53% of the vote, and was reelected eight times. (With a few boundary adjustments, the 16th district became the 17th district after the 1990 census and is the 20th district today. It consists 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, 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.
His positions included:
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.
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." Panetta was appointed White House Chief of Staff on July 17, 1994, and 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.
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 1960s. 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."
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. 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".
On February 12, 2009, Panetta was confirmed in the full Senate by voice vote.
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.
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 the use of torture by the CIA (euphemistically referred to as "enhanced interrogation techniques") 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. The findings of this report aligned closely with the Senate Intelligence Committee report on CIA torture.
Panetta supported the Obama administration's campaign of U.S. drone strikes in Pakistan, which he identified as the "most effective weapon" against senior al-Qaeda leadership. Drone strikes increased significantly under Panetta, with as many as 50 suspected al-Qaeda militants being killed in May 2009 alone.
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. 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.
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 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".
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 the decommissioned Fort Ord Army base when he was a Congressman. Coincidentally, Panetta was stationed at Fort Ord in the 1960s 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 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.
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, 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.) 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 and the Monterey Bay Aquarium.
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. Panetta said: "By failing to persuade Iraq's leader to allow a continuing force of US troops, the commander in chief "created a vacuum . . . and it's out of that vacuum that ISIS began to breed."
Panetta was a speaker on Day 3 of the 2016 Democratic National Convention in which Hillary Clinton was nominated to run as the Democratic candidate in the presidential election that year. Notably, his speech was booed by anti-war supporters of Bernie Sanders who protested his war record.
Panetta has held positions within a number of institutions and corporations, including:
In June 2002, the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops appointed Panetta to their National Review Board, 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.
Panetta serves on the Advisory Board of the Committee to Investigate Russia.
Panetta is married to Sylvia Marie Varni, who administered his home district offices during his terms in Congress. They live on his family's twelve-acre walnut farm in the Carmel Valley, California. They have three sons and six grandchildren. 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.
|U.S. House of Representatives|
| Member of the U.S. House of Representatives
from California's 16th congressional district
| Member of the U.S. House of Representatives
from California's 17th congressional district
| Chair of the House Budget Committee
| Director of the Office of Management and Budget
| White House Chief of Staff
| United States Secretary of Defense
| Director of the Central Intelligence Agency