When Defense Secretary Robert Gates gets on a plane for his final return to his private home in Washington state on Thursday afternoon he actually will still be Defense Secretary. Gates will travel by military aircraft with full security and communications teams because incoming Defense Secretary Leon Panetta will not be sworn into until Friday morning in a private quick ceremony. Once Panetta is sworn in by Pentagon general counsel Jeh Johnson and signs a few papers, then he will officially take the chair, according to Defense Department officials.
Its an important thing to keep track of because the secretary of defense must be reachable at all times in the event of crisis, as well as being part of the succession of government if other senior members of the government are dead.
There will be a more formal “arrival” ceremony for Panetta at the Pentagon in early July with plenty of pomp, circumstance and military gold braid and stars in attendance.