Yesterday, the Senate confirmed Leon Panetta to become the next Secretary of Defense.  In a rare show of bipartisanship, the Senate unanimously approved (100-0) Panetta to succeed Robert Gates, who will leave the job next week. 

Panetta was nominated by the President in late April and was recommended for confirmation by the Senate Armed Services Committee (SASC) last week when it cleared the FY2012 Defense Authorization bill for Senate floor action. 

One of his first jobs, Panetta said at his confirmation hearing, will be to design budgets that eliminate wasteful spending, while protecting defense core elements.  He expressed agreement with the “strategy-driven” approach that Sec. Gates has outlined to meet the president’s goal of cutting $400 billion from national security budgets.  He told Senators that such an approach is “essential to ensuring that we preserve a superb defense force to meet national security goals.” 

Panetta will bring to the job wide experience with budget issues.  Prior to assuming his current job as Director of the CIA, he was the Director of OMB and later Chief of Staff under President Clinton.  Before that he represented California’s 17th District in the House of Representatives and during his tenure served as Chair of the House Budget Committee.