Facts about Leon Panetta

Leon Panetta is 86 years old
Born: June 28, 1938
Best known as: U.S Secretary of Defense, 2011-13


Leon Panetta Biography

Leon Panetta has worked as a Senate aide, a Congressman, a White House Chief of Staff, director of the C.I.A. and Secretary of Defense during his long career in politics.

Leon Panetta earned both undergraduate (1960) and law (1963) degrees from Santa Clara University, then served in the U.S. Army from 1964-66. The year he left the Army he went to Washington as an assistant to California senator Thomas Kuchel, and a decade later he was himself elected to Congress from California’s 16th District.

He served eight full terms in Congress, from 1977-93, establishing a reputation as a social liberal with a special focus on the federal budget. (He was chairman of the House Budget Committee from 1989-93.) Panetta won a ninth term in 1992, but left Congress the next January to become Director of the Office of Management and Budget under new President Bill Clinton (1993-94). He also served as Clinton’s chief of staff from 1994-97 before returning to private life.

With his wife he founded the Leon & Sylvia Panetta Institute for Public Policy in California, while also serving a term on the board of directors of the New York Stock Exchange, teaching at Santa Clara University, and serving on the Iraq Study Group of 2006.

President Barack Obama chose Panetta in 2009 to be the director of the Central Intelligence Agency, a post he held until June of 2011, when he was confirmed to be Defense Secretary. He served in that post until 2013, when he was replaced by Chuck Hagel.

Extra credit

Leon Panetta was a Republican before switching to the Democratic party in 1971… California’s 16th District became the 17th District in 1990… Leon Panetta and his wife, the former Sylvia Marie Varni, were married in 1962, according to a 2009 profile in The New York Times. They have three sons: Christopher, Carmelo, and James.


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