Following the unanimous vote in the Senate yesterday to approve CIA Director Leon Panetta as the next defense secretary, the Pentagon is preparing for the top transition as Robert Gates retires at the end of the month.
A formal transition team is a “normal practice” to establish a process “for ensuring a coordinated and smooth transition that causes minimal disruption to DoD’s ability to carry out its critical mission,” according to a Pentagon spokesman.
While a standard practice, ensuring a smooth transition is even more important considering the number of challenges Panetta will face as he takes over.
The question of troop numbers in Afghanistan has taken center stage, especially as President Barack Obama has announced a 33,000 troop reduction over next 14 months — a more accelerated timetable than what some top military commanders had initially been willing to sign on to.
Also, sure to take up Panetta’s attention is the ongoing efforts to trim the department’s finances. His predecessor, Gates, was instrumental in putting plans in place to cut overhead and bureaucratic costs. However, earlier this spring, the White House committed an additional $400 billion in cuts to national security spending — with most likely to come from DoD — over the next 12 years.