At a Glance
- Career History: CIA Director (February 2009 to June 2011); Executive director, Leon & Sylvia Panetta Institute for Public Policy (since 1997); New York Stock Exchange Board Member (1997 to 2003); Chief of Staff, President Bill Clinton (1994 to 1997)
- Birthday: June 28, 1938
- Hometown: Monterey, Calif.
- Alma Mater: University of Santa Cruz, B.A., 1960; University of Santa Cruz, J.D., 1973
- Spouse: Sylvia Marie Varni
- Religion: Roman Catholic
Path to Power
Panetta was born to Italian immigrant parents in Monterey, Calif., in 1938. As a boy, he worked on his family farm and restaurant. He earned a B.A. from Santa Clara University in 1960 and a J.D. from the same school in 1963. He was also editor of the law review.
After graduating from law school, Panetta served as a first lieutenant in the Army from 1964 to 1966, eventually earning the Army Commendation Medal.
Panetta has broad prescriptions for fixing the country. He is a staunch proponent of balancing the budget and has called on the federal government to borrow less money. He has also asked presidents and Congress alike to preserve the integrity of the U.S. Constitution and the separation of powers.
A wide range of admirers have praised Panetta's organizational and management skills and his prescriptions for the budget. However, though he dealt with national security issues as Clinton's chief of staff, he does not have a first-hand expertise in intelligence issues.
Panetta and Obama transition team leader John D. Podesta are tight, and their relationship stretches back to the early 1990s, when Podesta served as deputy under Panetta in the White House.
Panetta is close to the Clintons, however, his circle extends to the Hill, where he is friendly with many current and former legislators. When he was in Congress, he was "one of the best-liked members of the House," forging relationships with the likes of former House Majority Leader Richard Gephardt (D-Mo.).
Panetta donated $2000 to Hillary Rodham Clinton's 2008 Presidential campaign, but he later criticized the way Mark Penn and others ran her political operation, saying they failed to plan for the future.