US Senate panel approves Panetta as defense chief

WASHINGTON - The US Senate Armed Services Committee unanimously approved Leon Panetta on Tuesday as the next Pentagon chief, a committee spokeswoman said, sending the nomination to the full Senate for consideration.
Panetta, nominated for the post by US President Barack Obama, is the outgoing head of the Central Intelligence Agency.
He is expected to win a Senate floor vote in the near future as the next US defense secretary but the exact timing of that vote is still uncertain.