A major shakeup in the Obama administration is set to occur this week, with CIA director Leon Panetta becoming defense secretary and Gen. David Petraeus, top commander in Afghanistan, taking over as director of the CIA.
Shifting Panetta from the CIA to defense gives Obama an already confirmed member of his cabinet and will retain the strong ties already built with both Capitol Hill and the White House, the New York Times reports.
The moves come as President Obama readies for the retirement of Defense Secretary Robert Gates, expected to step down this summer. Gates was appointed to his current position by former President George W. Bush.
Although Gates and Obama have been on the same side of many issues, the defense secretary’s approaching retirement comes at a time when he and the president displayed opposing views on the war with Libya.
The two changes precede several others facing the White House. Shortly after Gates steps down, Adm. Mike Mullen, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, will see his term expire. Deputy Secretary of State James Steinberg has announced his departure for an academic job.
Some have suggested the move to place Petraeus as the head of the US spy agency is designed to keep the GOP from positioning him as the party’s challenge to Obama’s hopes for re-election.