Defense Secretary Leon Panetta
WASHINGTON (AP) - As Defense Secretary Leon Panetta's plane returned home from his final official overseas trip, his staff gathered to salute his time as Pentagon chief. And they presented him with a symbol of his tenure months at the helm of the world's largest military: a plastic meat ax.
Panetta may go down in history as the CIA director who got Osama bin Laden. But his 19 months as defense secretary came at a critical moment - dominated by the nation's fiscal crisis and an endless struggle to protect the defense budget from billions in automatic spending cuts he repeatedly compared to a meat ax.
For President Barack Obama, Panetta's experience as a congressman and as budget director in the Clinton administration made him the perfect choice to take on Capitol Hill.
(Copyright 2013 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)