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Senate approves Panetta's nomination as defense secretary

By the CNN Wire Staff
CIA Director Leon Panetta's nomination for defense secretary was approved in the Senate on a 100-0 vote.
CIA Director Leon Panetta's nomination for defense secretary was approved in the Senate on a 100-0 vote.
  • NEW: Panetta says he is honored by the Senate's approval
  • The Senate votes unanimously in favor of the CIA director succeeding Robert Gates
  • Senate confirmation was expected
  • Gen. David Petraeus is nominated to succeed Panetta at the CIA

Washington (CNN) -- The Senate on Tuesday gave final approval to CIA Director Leon Panetta's nomination to become defense secretary when Robert Gates steps down at the end of June.

Panetta's approval on a unanimous 100-0 vote was widely expected after the former congressman and Clinton administration official received bipartisan support during his confirmation hearing earlier this month

Senators from both sides of the aisle offered effusive praise for the 72-year-old nominee, who pledged at the hearing be a "tireless advocate for our troops and their families."

In a statement issued after Tuesday's Senate vote, Panetta said he was honored by both his nomination and the unanimous approval.

"I would like to thank the Senate for the strong vote of confidence," Panetta's statement said. "I pledge to them and to the nation that I will work to ensure that we continue to have the strongest, best-trained and best-equipped military in the world."

Panetta, who took over at the CIA in February 2009, served as chief of staff to President Bill Clinton between 1994 and 1997. Before that, the California Democrat served as director of Clinton's Office of Management and Budget, a position requiring mastery of tricky fiscal situations and an understanding of the federal government's sprawling bureaucracies.

Panetta also served in the House of Representatives from 1977 to 1993, a period in which he established deep congressional ties.

President Barack Obama has nominated Gen. David Petraeus, currently head of the NATO International Security Assistance Force and U.S. forces in Afghanistan, to replace Panetta at the CIA.