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Portrait of Leon E. Panetta

Leon E. Panetta


The Panetta Institute for Public Policy

Leon E. Panetta is chairman of the Panetta Institute for Public Policy and former secretary of defense. Unanimously confirmed in 2011 by the US Senate as the twenty-third secretary of defense, he has had a fifty-year career in public service at the highest levels of government: as secretary of defense, he established a new defense strategy, conducted critical counterterrorism operations, and strengthened US alliances; as director of the CIA, he successfully led the operation that brought Osama bin Laden to justice. He began his public service career in 1964 as a first lieutenant in the US Army, receiving the Army Commendation Medal, and then served as a legislative assistant to US Senator Tom Kuchel. In 1969, he was appointed director of the Office for Civil Rights at the Department of Health, Education, and Welfare, responsible for enforcing equal education laws. Elected to Congress in 1976, he represented the California central coast for sixteen years. In 1993, he was sworn in as director of the US Office of Management and Budget for the Clinton administration, where he was instrumental in achieving a balanced federal budget; he was later appointed White House chief of staff. In 1997, he and Sylvia Panetta established the Panetta Institute for Public Policy, a nonpartisan, not-for-profit study center to inspire men and women to lives of public service. He chronicles his life in public service in his best-selling memoir Worthy Fights, which was published by Penguin Press in the fall of 2014.