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Cautious optimism for Panetta's Pentagon

If you've been one of the thousands playing SecDef Roulette and your chips were on CIA Director Leon Panetta -- you're a winner! After initial reports this morning, the White House is expected to formally announce sometime soon that it has picked Panetta to take the reins from Secretary Gates this July; to move ISAF boss Gen. David Petraeus to Panetta's old job in Langley; and to move Marine Gen. John Allen into Petraeus' old headquarters in Kabul. All of this is pending confirmation by the Senate, but none of these moves should be a problem for the White House.

So what will the world look like at the end of this round of musical chairs? In all likelihood, very similar. Buzz friends in the Pentagon and on the Hill both are cautiously optimistic about Panetta's Pentagon. Among the things he brings to the E-Ring are a good relationship with President Obama, a thorough knowledge of today's threats and issues, and his insider's experience in dealing with budgets and policies. As SecDef, one of Panetta's main jobs will be to implement Obama's planned $400 billion in cuts to national security spending, and defense advocates hope he'll fight as hard for DoD as he has for CIA.

But what about that je ne sais quoi Gates brought to the job -- his ability, now somewhat diminished, to deflect a Democratic president from traditional attacks of being "weak on defense?" It's an open question, although the initial reaction in the first hours after the news has been positive.  Here's what Bing West wrote about it at the National Review: "The new nominees for secretary of defense and director of the CIA are excellent, non-political choices." For now.

What does Panetta think about government, national defense and the budget? You can get some sense of that by reading the columns he wrote before taking over at CIA, posted here on the site of his eponymous public policy institute in California.

All right, Buzz readers, now what do you think?

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