Former CIA Director & U.S. Secretary of Defense
October 5, 2015 – Monday, 8pm
Leon Panetta served as the 23rd Secretary of Defense from 2011 to 2013. He oversaw the final removal of American troops from Iraq as well as the beginning of troop withdrawals from Afghanistan. He led the effort to develop a new defense strategy to advance greater agility, protect national security and meet fiscal discipline, opened up new opportunities for everyone to serve in the military and protected benefits for wounded warriors and their families.
Before joining the Department of Defense, Panetta served as the director of the Central Intelligence Agency from 2009 to 2011. Panetta led the agency and managed human intelligence and open source collection programs on behalf of the intelligence community, placed an emphasis on more racial diversity and increased language training for officers in the agency. Most notably, he responsible for overseeing the operation that resulted in bringing Osama bin Laden to justice.
His autobiography, Worthy Fights: A Memoir of Leadership in War and Peace (October 2014), is a reflection of Panetta’s values. It is imbued with the frank, grounded, and often quite funny spirit of a man who never lost touch with where he came from: his family’s walnut farm in beautiful Carmel Valley, California.
Mr. Panetta has dedicated much of his life to public service. Before joining CIA, he spent 10 years co-directing with his wife, Sylvia, the Leon & Sylvia Panetta Institute for Public Policy, based at California State University, Monterey Bay. The Institute is a nonpartisan, not-for-profit center that seeks to instill in young men and women the virtues and values of public service. Today he serves as Chairman of the Panetta Institute. In March 2006, he was chosen as a member of the Iraq Study Group, a bipartisan committee established at the urging of Congress to conduct an independent assessment of the war in Iraq.
From July 1994 to January 1997, Panetta served as Chief of Staff to President William Clinton. Prior to that, he was director of the Office of Management and Budget, a position that built on his years of work on the House Budget Committee. Panetta represented California’s 16th (now 17th) Congressional District from 1977 to 1993, rising to House Budget Committee chairman during his final four years in Congress.
Early in his career, Panetta served as a legislative assistant to Senator Thomas H. Kuchel of California; special assistant to the Secretary of Health, Education and Welfare; director of the U.S. Office for Civil Rights; and executive assistant to Mayor John Lindsay of New York. He also spent five years in private law practice.
He served as an Army intelligence officer from 1964 to 1966 and received the Army Commendation Medal.
Panetta holds a Bachelor of Arts degree in political science and a law degree, both from Santa Clara University. He was born on June 28, 1938 in Monterey, where his Italian immigrant parents operated a restaurant. Later, they purchased a farm in Carmel Valley, a place Secretary and Mrs. Panetta continue to call home. The Panettas have three grown sons and six grandchildren.