Panetta to be sworn in as US defense chief Friday

July 1, 2011 12:42

WASHINGTON - Leon Panetta will be sworn in as US defense secretary on Friday at a private ceremony at the Pentagon, where a looming budget battle may be as big a challenge as the wars he will inherit.

Panetta, who is scheduled to arrive at the Pentagon at 8:30 a.m. EDT (1230 GMT) and take the oath of office 15 minutes later, has served as CIA director for the past two and a half years, at a time when the lines between US covert and military operations have blurred.

He comes to the Pentagon two months after a covert raid killed Osama bin Laden in Pakistan, and a week after President Barack Obama announced a faster-than-expected US troop draw-down in Afghanistan.

The 73-year-old Panetta has a full first day in office, including attending a meeting with the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and service chiefs in "The Tank," the ultra-secure Pentagon briefing room.

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