Sources in the gay activist community have received indications that the announcement could come this week.
The Pentagon has been reviewing what benefits it could extend without violating the Defense of Marriage Act. Gay rights groups have been calling for the change.
Among the benefits gay rights groups say can be legally extended are housing on military bases, military ID cards to access on-base activities and programs, access to commissaries and the consideration of a same-sex spouse and family in duty assignments.
Panetta’s likely replacement, former Senator Chuck Hagel, has said he supports extending the benefits.
“I will do everything possible to the extent permissible under current law to provide equal benefits to the families of all our service members,” Hagel wrote in answer to a questionnaire he completed for the Senate Armed Services Committee.