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Obama nominates spy chief Panetta for U.S. secretary of defense

RIA Novosti

03:12 29/04/2011 WASHINGTON, April 29 (RIA Novosti) - U.S. President Barack Obama has nominated CIA Director Leon Panetta to be the next secretary of defense replacing Robert Gates who announced last year of his plans to retire before the start of a new presidential election run.

"I'm confident that Bob's [Robert Gates] reform agenda will be carried out by another great public servant of our time, Leon Panetta... The patriotism and extraordinary management skills that have defined Leon's four decades of service is exactly what we need in our next Secretary of Defense," Obama said, announcing the nomination on Thursday.

After approval by the Senate, Panetta, 73, is expected to replace Gates on July 1.

He is known among experts as an official who has a knack for finding the least painful compromises on budget cuts. And that's what the Pentagon's inflated budget needs the most at present, the White House believes.

Panetta's nomination is part of a reshuffle in the national security ranks that will also place Gen. David Petraeus, current commander of U.S. forces and the International Security Assistance Force in Afghanistan, in the chair of CIA director.

Petraeus will resign from the military and take over the CIA by the beginning of September.

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