Wars, budget top agenda for next Pentagon chief



WASHINGTON (AP) — The wars in Iraq, Afghanistan and Libya and the impact of the deficit on defense spending top the agenda for Leon Panetta, President Barack Obama’s pick to replace Robert Gates as Pentagon chief.

Panetta, who currently is CIA director, was to testify Thursday before the Senate Armed Services Committee at his confirmation hearing to be the next defense secretary. Weeks after the CIA’s success in killing al-Qaida leader Osama bin Laden, Panetta is expected to sail toward Senate approval.

Then comes the hard work for Panetta, who was a budget-cutter at the White House and as a California congressman.

First up is Obama’s decision on how many of the 100,000 U.S. troops to withdraw from Afghanistan in July. The president will weigh advice from military leaders before he decides.