Hagel still on deck, Pentagon sets Friday farewell for Panetta

Chuck Hagel’s contentious confirmation to be the next defense secretary hasn’t cleared the committee, much less the whole Senate, but Defense Secretary Leon Panetta apparently has seen enough.

The Pentagon is planning a Friday afternoon formal farewell ceremony for Panetta at Joint Base Myer-Henderson Hall. The location is the site of most high-level departures from military and defense positions, including Adm. Mike Mullen, former chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and Gen. David Petraeus, former Afghanistan war commander.  

Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman Carl Levin (D-MI) said last week that he expected the committee would approve Hagel’s nomination by Thursday. But the whole Senate needs to make it official with a subsequent majority floor vote. It’s unlikely that could occur by the time Panetta is delivering his farewell speech -- one of several media interviews and public speeches he is delivering in his final days.

It won't necessarily be the last day on the job for Panetta, but it sure may feel like it. Panetta’s departure from the Pentagon and likely public service is sure to draw an A-list crowd of Washington names, top brass and political leaders. After serving in Congress and then the Clinton White House, Panetta was drawn back to DC by President Obama with a surprise placement as Central Intelligence Agency director, where he presided over the agency’s involvement in the successful mission to find and kill Osama bin Laden.

Former Defense Secretary Robert Gates, who served for roughly four years, was sent off in a large formal ceremony at the Pentagon’s own parade grounds, with President Obama presiding and awarding the lifelong national security servant the Presidential Medal of Freedom.

Watch for Panetta's guest list, and all the farewell happenings, right here.

Susan Walsh - Pool/Getty Images