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Co-founder of The Panetta Institute for Public Policy, Leon Panetta returned to the Institute on February 27, 2013, after serving as the 23rd Secretary of Defense.

A Monterey native and Santa Clara University School of Law graduate, Secretary Panetta began his long and distinguished public service career in 1964 as a First Lieutenant in the U.S. Army, and upon discharge went to work in Washington as a legislative assistant to U.S. Senate Minority Whip Tom Kuchel of California. In 1969, he was appointed Director of the U.S. Office for Civil Rights, where he was responsible for enforcing equal education laws, and later he served as Executive Assistant to the Mayor of New York City. He then returned to Monterey, where he practiced law until his election to the U.S. House of Representatives in 1976.

Serving his Central Coast district in Congress for sixteen years, Secretary Panetta was a key participant in agriculture, federal budget, ocean and healthcare issues. From 1989 to 1993 he chaired the House Budget Committee.

In 1993, Secretary Panetta left Congress to serve as Director of the Office of Management and Budget for the incoming Clinton administration. There, he was instrumental in developing the policies that led to a balanced Federal budget and eventual budget surpluses. In 1994, he accepted appointment as the President’s Chief of Staff, and immediately brought order and focus to White House operations and policy making.

Upon leaving the Clinton administration in 1997, Secretary Panetta joined with his wife Sylvia to establish and co-direct The Panetta Institute for Public Policy, based at California State University, Monterey Bay.

Returning to public service in the Obama Administration as Director of the CIA, he ran the operation that brought Osama bin Laden to justice, and, as Secretary of Defense, led the effort to develop a new defense strategy, conduct critical counter terrorism operations, strengthen U.S. alliances, and opened up opportunities for everyone to serve in the military. Secretary Panetta chronicles his life in public service in his best-selling memoir, Worthy Fights, which was published by Penguin Press in the Fall of 2014.

Over the years Secretary Panetta has served on numerous boards and commissions. He co-chaired California Forward, the Joint Ocean Commission Initiative and Governor Schwarzenegger’s Council on Base Support and Retention. In 2006, he served on the Iraq Study Group, a bipartisan national commission seeking a new course for the war in Iraq. Presently, Secretary Panetta serves on the boards of directors for Oracle, Blue Shield of California as well as the Commission on Presidential Debates. In addition, he is an advisor to FleishmanHillard.

Secretary Panetta is the recipient of many awards and honors. His most recent awards include: the California Teachers Association’s Friends of Education Award; the Judicial Council of California’s Stanley Mosk Defender of Justice Award; The Harry S. Truman Good Neighbor Award; the Sons of Italy Foundation’s National Education & Leadership Award; the Peter Benchley Ocean Award for “Excellence in Policy”; the Intelligence and National Security Alliance’s William Oliver Baker Award; the Italian Community Services’ Distinguished Service Award; The OSS Society’s William J. Donovan Award; and the National Defense Industrial Association’s Dwight D. Eisenhower Award