Final Panetta press briefing expected Wednesday

Defense Secretary Leon Panetta and Gen. Martin Dempsey, Joint Chiefs chairman, expect to come out for their final Pentagon press briefing together on Wednesday afternoon, the E-Ring has learned, one day after President Obama’s State of the Union Address. It’s hoped in the building to be Panetta’s final briefing, but that could be wishful thinking. ...

Win McNamee/Getty Images
Win McNamee/Getty Images
Win McNamee/Getty Images

Defense Secretary Leon Panetta and Gen. Martin Dempsey, Joint Chiefs chairman, expect to come out for their final Pentagon press briefing together on Wednesday afternoon, the E-Ring has learned, one day after President Obama’s State of the Union Address.

It’s hoped in the building to be Panetta’s final briefing, but that could be wishful thinking. Panetta’s fate now depends on whether Chuck Hagel’s nomination can make it past the Senate Armed Services Committee in a contentious Tuesday afternoon vote -- and whether the GOP then drops its threats and allows a Senate floor vote before the President's Day recess. If not, Panetta’s likely stuck in the job through February and could be heading to Brussels next week for a NATO meeting of defense ministers.

Dempsey just returned from a weekend trip to Kabul, where he attended the ceremony in which Gen. John Dunford assumed command of International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) from Gen. John Allen.

Defense Secretary Leon Panetta and Gen. Martin Dempsey, Joint Chiefs chairman, expect to come out for their final Pentagon press briefing together on Wednesday afternoon, the E-Ring has learned, one day after President Obama’s State of the Union Address.

It’s hoped in the building to be Panetta’s final briefing, but that could be wishful thinking. Panetta’s fate now depends on whether Chuck Hagel’s nomination can make it past the Senate Armed Services Committee in a contentious Tuesday afternoon vote — and whether the GOP then drops its threats and allows a Senate floor vote before the President’s Day recess. If not, Panetta’s likely stuck in the job through February and could be heading to Brussels next week for a NATO meeting of defense ministers.

Dempsey just returned from a weekend trip to Kabul, where he attended the ceremony in which Gen. John Dunford assumed command of International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) from Gen. John Allen.

Dempsey will return to the Senate Armed Services Committee on Tuesday morning to testify on the effects of the sequester threat to the military, alongside other service chiefs, Deputy Secretary of Defense Ash Carter, and Bob Hale, the DOD comptroller. Panetta and Dempsey faced tough questioning in the committee just last week on Benghazi. Ranking Member Jim Inhofe (R-OK) left the hearing claiming their testimony “proves” a White House cover-up over whether the president knew the attack was a terrorist event.

The two men also revealed the Pentagon had favored arming Syrian rebels, a position not held by the White House. Dempsey walked back that assertion as just preliminary talk, but you can bet is likely to be just one of the contentious topics Panetta and Dempsey will answer to at Wednesday’s briefing.

Kevin Baron is a national security reporter for Foreign Policy, covering defense and military issues in Washington. He is also vice president of the Pentagon Press Association. Baron previously was a national security staff writer for National Journal, covering the "business of war." Prior to that, Baron worked in the resident daily Pentagon press corps as a reporter/photographer for Stars and Stripes. For three years with Stripes, Baron covered the building and traveled overseas extensively with the secretary of defense and chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, covering official visits to Afghanistan and Iraq, the Middle East and Europe, China, Japan and South Korea, in more than a dozen countries. From 2004 to 2009, Baron was the Boston Globe Washington bureau's investigative projects reporter, covering defense, international affairs, lobbying and other issues. Before that, he muckraked at the Center for Public Integrity. Baron has reported on assignment from Asia, Africa, Australia, Europe, the Middle East and the South Pacific. He was won two Polk Awards, among other honors. He has a B.A. in international studies from the University of Richmond and M.A. in media and public affairs from George Washington University. Originally from Orlando, Fla., Baron has lived in the Washington area since 1998 and currently resides in Northern Virginia with his wife, three sons, and the family dog, The Edge. Twitter: @FPBaron

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