President Obama announced Monday he would nominate former U.S. Sen. Chuck Hagel to succeed Panetta as secretary of defense. Panetta stood at the podium with Obama, Hagel, John Brennan, Obama's nominee to lead the CIA, and Acting CIA Director Michael Morell.
After thanking Obama for trusting him to lead the Pentagon and the CIA before that, Panetta said he was leaving public life 50 years after he entered it as an Army officer.
He also said he looked forward to returning to his family's small walnut farm in California.
"I'll be dealing with a different set of nuts," quipped Panetta, 74.