Conflict & Justice

Michele Flournoy, adviser to Leon Panetta and top female Pentagon official, stepping down "for family"


U.S. Under Secretary of Defence for Policy Michele Flournoy arrives for a bilateral meeting with Ma Xiaotian, deputy chief of general staff of the Chinese People's Liberation Army at the Bayi Building on December 7, 2011 in Beijing, China. Ties between the two military powers have been strained following announcement by the US that they will base up to 2500 marines in Darwin, northern Australia.


Andy Wong

Michele Flournoy, the most senior female Pentagon official in history, is reportedly stepping down as Defense Secretary Leon Panetta's chief policy adviser.

Flournoy, 51, told The Associated Press on Monday that she was quitting to spend more time with her family — she has children age 14, 12 and 9 with husband, W. Scott Gould, deputy secretary of the Department of Veterans Affairs.

According to The Hill, Flourney is highly regarded in defense circles, having "led several U.S. security delegations and efforts around the world."

In an interview in her Pentagon office, Flournoy told the AP that she felt compelled to "rebalance" her personal life after three years in one of the most demanding national security jobs in Washington.

"By nature it is an all-consuming job and it does take a toll on the family," she said, adding that she considers her time as the undersecretary of defense for policy as "probably the highlight of my professional life." She was the first woman ever to hold the post when she started the job in February 2009, two years after co-founding and serving as the first president of the Center for a New American Security, a prominent think tank.

She said she would leave in February but intended to support President Barack Obama's re-election campaign, possibly as an informal adviser on national security issues.

"I'm very much planning on giving the full measure of support to this president and this campaign, and I'm going to work as much as I can from the outside to do that," she reportedly said.

Flournoy's departure would leave two key Defense Department posts without permanent officials in place, The Hill writes.

When Ashton Carter became deputy defense secretary, he vacated the Pentagon acquisition executive post. That job is being done on an acting basis by Frank Kendall, who was Carter's Senate-confirmed deputy.