Thursday May 26, 2011 | 06:57 PM

Sen. Susan Collins says Leon Panetta would bring a “wealth of experience and knowledge” to the job of defense secretary, though the Maine Republican took pains to add today that she is reserving judgment on Panetta’s nomination until confirmation hearings are finished.

Still, after meeting today with the current CIA director who President Obama has nominated to replace Robert Gates at the Pentagon, Collins says Panetta also will be headed for Maine, at some point, if he is confirmed to the new post by the Senate.
Collins, a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, said in a statement after the 40-minute meeting that she talked with Panetta about issues ranging from Iraq and Afghanistan to the raid that killed Osama bin Laden – but also about “the important contributions that Maine makes to our national security,” including the “critical role that the skilled men and women a the Bath Iron Works play in delivering high quality ships at a low cost” to the Navy. Collins also put in plugs for the work being done refurbishing humvees and other vehicles at the Maine Military Authority and other defense-related installations in Maine.
 “I am delighted that Mr. Panetta also accepted my invitation to visit Maine, should he be confirmed, for a first-hand look at Maine’s enormous contributions to our nation’s security,” Collins said.

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Kevin Miller is Washington bureau chief for the Portland Press Herald and MaineToday Media. He has worked as a journalist in Maine for 6 ½ years, covering the environment, politics and the State House. Before arriving in Maine, he wrote about politics, government and education for newspapers in Virginia and Maryland.
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