Washington (CNN) -- CIA Director Leon Panetta, the president's pick to be the next secretary of defense, has been meeting with senior Department of Defense leaders to prepare for this week's confirmation hearing, the Pentagon said Monday.
The department "has established 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 Pentagon spokesman Col. David Lapan.
He described a two-step process:
"First step is to prepare Director Panetta for his confirmation hearing and the second step is to ensure an appropriate and smooth turnover with Secretary Gates upon the nominee's confirmation."
Panetta is to testify before the Senate Armed Service Committee on Thursday, and Lapan said that he "has participated in meetings with senior DoD leaders to prepare him for his upcoming confirmation hearing."
But Lapan said there are limits to what the Pentagon can do for Panetta. The department "is guided by the administration's instructions in coordinating activities for presidential appointments and ensures not to take any actions that may presume confirmation," he said.
However, since Panetta's current job means regularly working with the Defense Department, he has contact with the Pentagon outside the confirmation process.
"Director Panetta remains active in his role as director of the Central Intelligence Agency and, therefore, participates in meetings relevant to that capacity," Lapan said.
The outgoing secretary of defense, Robert Gates, took office in December 2006, under President George W. Bush. He has been talking about going back to his home in Washington state for years, but agreed to stay on the job when Obama asked him to.
Although he now is committed to leave, he's not going into complete relaxation mode. He has said he intends to write at least two books, including one focusing on the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.