U.S. Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta indicated in an interview with VOA that he does not plan to immediately step down following President Barack Obama's re-election.
Although Panetta has said in the past he did not intend to serve throughout Obama's second term, he said Thursday there are tasks ahead that he wants to tackle, so he will confer with the president later on when he'll resign. He said among other things, he wants to deal with the threat of severe budget cuts, called sequestration, that could happen next year if Congress does not act.
"It's no secret that ultimately I'd like to get back to California and back to the Panetta Institute, but there are some challenges I still have to confront, the challenge of sequester, the challenge of developing the plans for Afghanistan. That's something I've got to work out with the president ultimately as to the timing," Panetta said.
The secretary first served as head of the Central Intelligence Agency for Mr. Obama, before moving over to run the Department of Defense in 2011. He is a former congressman from the state of California, and he and his wife founded the Leon and Sylvia Panetta Institute for Public Policy at California State University, Monterey Bay.
Panetta spoke with VOA in Bangkok, Thailand, while on a trip to Southeast Asia. The defense chief met with Thai officials on Thursday and on Friday flies to Siem Reap, Cambodia, for a meeting with defense and foreign ministers ahead of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations summit next week.
He met Tuesday and Wednesday with Australian officials, along with U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.