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US Defense Secretary Nominee's Extensive Budget Background Could Prove Useful


Protestors demonstrate as CIA Director Leon Panetta arrives to testify at his Senate confirmation hearings to become U.S. Secretary of Defense on Capitol Hill, Washington, June 9, 2011

Protestors demonstrate as CIA Director Leon Panetta arrives to testify at his Senate confirmation hearings to become U.S. Secretary of Defense on Capitol Hill, Washington, June 9, 2011

Leon Panetta, nominated to become the next U.S. defense secretary, is a government official and former Democratic congressman with extensive budget experience.

The current chief of the Central Intelligence Agency, Panetta headed the White House budget office under President Bill Clinton and also served as chairman of the House of Representatives Budget Committee for four years.

Panetta's budget skills will be put to the test as President Barack Obama is expected to call on him to oversee an additional $400 billion in cuts to defense spending. The 72-year-old Panetta will have to balance that with national security needs and the challenge of U.S. military involvement in Iraq, Afghanistan and Libya.

Panetta was elected to his first of eight terms in the U.S. House of Representatives in 1976, representing a district in California.

He is credited with bringing Congressional connections and cohesion to the CIA, which he took over in 2009.

In the 1990s, after heading the White House budget office, Panetta also served as chief of staff to President Clinton.

Following a stint as an Army intelligence officer, Panetta started out his political career working for Republicans, eventually becoming head of the Office for Civil Rights under President Richard Nixon. He left the post because of a disagreement and switched to the Democratic Party in 1971.

Some information for this report was provided by AP.

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