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Fmr. SecDef Leon Panetta joins Purdue tech diplomacy think tank

Leon Panetta delivers remarks upon retiring as Defense Secretary on Feb. 8, 2013, at Joint Base Myer-Henderson Hall, Va. (U.S. Army photo by Staff Sgt Sun L. Vega)
December 20, 2021

Former Secretary of Defense and CIA director Leon Panetta joined the newly formed Center for Tech Diplomacy at Purdue.

According to a press release on Friday, Panetta joined the center’s Global Advisory Board. Panetta joins retired U.S. Army Gen. Stanley McChrystal, former Under Secretaries of State for Economic Growth, Energy, and the Environment Keith Krach and Robert Hormats and former NASA administrator Dr. Dan Goldin at the think tank.

The Center for Tech Diplomacy at Purdue is a think tank focused on technology and its significance in the foreign policy and national security setting. One immediate concern for the think tank is the influence of China’s growing technology sector around the world.

Panetta joined the U.S. Army in 1964 as an intelligence officer. After his time in the Army, Panetta went on to work as a congressional aide and was eventually elected to the U.S. House of Representatives in 1976. Panetta served in Congress for 16 years.

Panetta went on to serve as director of the Office of Management and Budget in President Bill Clinton’s administration and then became Clinton’s White House Chief of Staff in 1994. Panetta went on to serve in President Barack Obama’s administration as director of the Central Intelligence Agency. In 2011, Obama nominated Panetta to serve as the secretary of defense, a role he held from July 2011 until January 2013.

Panetta also currently serves as co-chair of the Defense Personnel Task Force for the Bipartisan Policy Center, and the Commission on Countering Violent Extremism for the Center for Strategic and International Studies.

“China’s techno-economic aggression presents a serious threat to the United States and the free world, especially when it comes to advanced technologies such as 5G, AI, and semiconductors,” Panetta said. “The key to securing freedom is securing high tech through widespread adoption of trusted technologies.”

In his remarks upon joining the Center for Tech Diplomacy at Perdue, Panetta noted “The Clean Network” — a Trump-era initiative led by Krach, with the goal of getting the U.S. and its allies to adopt digital infrastructure that meets shared standards for network security — as a model for how the think tank should handle its mission.

“The Clean Network pioneered a trust-based model for countering authoritarian aggression across all areas of techno-economic competition,” Panetta said. “I support the adoption of that successful model by the Center for Tech Diplomacy at Purdue in its noble mission, and I am honored to join its Advisory Board.”

Krach said, “Our success in recruiting a renowned and respected leader like Secretary Panetta reflects the importance of countering authoritarianism through trusted technology and our unique nonpartisan mission. His leadership experience as Secretary of Defense, Director of the CIA, White House Chief of Staff, Director of OMB, and Chair of the House Budget Committee as a Congressman brings a wealth of knowledge and real-world expertise at the highest levels of government and geopolitical competition.”

Bonnie Glick, the inaugural Director of the Center for Tech Diplomacy at Purdue, said, “Secretary Panetta’s wisdom and the breadth of his experience will be an invaluable resource for the Center for Tech Diplomacy as it sets out to advance freedom through ‘techno-statecraft.’”