Senate panel approves Panetta for Defense secretary

The Senate Armed Services Committee approved CIA chief Leon Panetta to be the next Defense Secretary in a unanimous voice vote Tuesday. The widely expected move was immediately reported to the floor following the Committee's action. The confirmation is expected this month. The former White House Office of Management and Budget director and House Budget chairman faces the daunting task of managing three conflicts abroad while downsizing the Pentagon to cope with the nation's fiscal problems. Obama has announced plans to slash $400 billion from security spending over the next 12 years, with the military's budget expected to bear many of those cuts.
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