The Defense Department held a farewell ceremony to honor outgoing Defense Secretary Leon Panetta. Secretary Panetta received the highest military salute and President Obama awarded him the Medal of Freedom, the most distinguished civilian honor.
In remarks this week, Secretary Panetta stated his term as defense secretary was the greatest honor of his life but stressed "deep concern" that the automatic spending cuts known as sequestration will "seriously damage" the country’s economy and degrade the military’s ability to respond to a crisis.
Panetta began as the 23rd Defense Secretary in President Obama’s administration on July 1, 2011. Prior to that, he directed the CIA from 2009 to 2011. He plans to leave the Pentagon this month and return home to his family's walnut farm in Carmel Valley, Ca.
If approved, former Nebraska Senator Chuck Hagel (R) would serve as Panetta's replacement.