President Obama is nominating CIA Director Leon Panetta [[ puh-NET-uh ]] as secretary of defense. If confirmed by the Senate, Panetta would replace retiring Defense Secretary Robert Gates. In a White House ceremony, the President confirmed that he is tapping General David Petraeus [[ puh-TRAY-us ]] to replace Panetta as CIA chief. Obama said Panetta and Petraeus will continue to help the U.S. confront urgent challenges.

Panetta is a former California congressman who also served as chief-of-staff in the Clinton White House. He was also a White House budget chief and is expected to continue Gates’ efforts to streamline costs and end waste at the Pentagon. Petraeus is the top U.S. military commander in Afghanistan. He previously ran the U.S. war effort in Iraq. Obama said Panetta and Petraeus are men of enormous integrity.

President Obama is nominating veteran diplomat Ryan Crocker as U.S. ambassador to Afghanistan. Crocker is a former U.S. ambassador to Iraq and is slated to replace outgoing ambassador Karl Eikenberry. Lieutenant General John Allen will take command of the U.S.-Afghan war effort. Allen is the deputy chief of U.S. Central Command.

In brief remarks, Secretary Gates thanked the men and women of America’s armed forces. Panetta called this a “time of historic change” and said the U.S. must maintain the best military in the world. Meantime, Petraeus expressed guarded optimism about the Afghan war and said the war effort will be in good hands with Allen at the helm.

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