He would succeed Robert Gates, who is one of longest
serving US Defence Secretary.
Panetta's confirmation comes on the eve of the
much-awaited announcement of President Barack Obama, on the
drawdown of troops from Afghanistan.
Welcoming Panetta's confirmation, US Senators exuded
confidence that the new Defence Secretary would be able to
lead the armed forces in the critical time of substantial
budgetary cuts and when the war in Afghanistan has entered one
of the most important phases in the last decade.
"Director Panetta will bring a reassuring level of
continuity and in-depth experience, since he has been a
critical member of President Obama's national security team
during his tenure as Director of the Central Intelligence
"The Department of Defence will need Director
Panetta's skill and wisdom to navigate the extraordinarily
complex set of challenges in the years ahead," Senator Carl
Panetta will have to struggle with the competing
demands on US forces while Washington struggles with an
extremely challenging fiscal environment, he said.
"I am certainly hopeful that, as Secretary of Defence,
Director Panetta will successfully lead the effort to find and
eliminate Ayman al-Zawahiri, who we are told has assumed
leadership of al-Qaeda, and other al Qaeda leaders.
"Zawahiri is a sworn enemy of the United States and
our way of life and, like bin Laden, must be dealt with in
similar terms," said Senator John McCain, a top Republican
"As Director of the CIA, Panetta has demonstrated he
possesses the experience and ability to ensure that we achieve
our objectives in the three conflicts in which US forces are
now engaged, Iraq, Afghanistan, and Libya," McCain said.
Senate Majority Leader, Harry Reid, said Panetta had
all the skills to excel at the difficult job of maintaining
the "world's greatest fighting force".
"In this time of tight budgets, he knows how to do
more with less," he said.
"At a time when we are reconsidering our strategy in
Afghanistan and when events are changing rapidly in the Middle
East, we need a Secretary of Defence who has the proven
ability to adapt to new situations and re-think our military
preparedness at a time when resources are scarce.
"I look forward to working closely with Leon Panetta
to ensure a strong and secure America in the 21st Century,"
said Senator Robert Menendez.
Washington: The US Senate has unanimously
approved the nomination of Leon Panetta, the CIA Director, to
be the next Pentagon chief.
First Published: Wednesday, June 22, 2011, 10:30