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Reports: Biden’s top pick for Defense Secretary is Michèle Flournoy; would be first woman SECDEF

Official portrait of Michele A. Flournoy, Under Secretary of Defense for Policy. (Gregory Jones, U.S. Army/Department of Defense/Released)
November 07, 2020

Joe Biden is reportedly considering Michèle Flournoy, a former Under Secretary of Defense for Policy during President Barack Obama’s administration, as his top pick to serve as the Secretary of Defense. Biden’s considering of Flournoy for the Pentagon position comes after several media outlets on Saturday projected him as the winner of the 2020 presidential election. If chosen for the position, Flournoy would be the first woman to serve America’s Secretary of Defense.

Fox News reporter Lucas Tomlinson on Saturday tweeted, “Joe Biden presidency paves the way for first female defense secretary Michèle Flournoy, officials say.”

On Saturday, the New York Times and Politico both reported Flournoy was already being considered a frontrunner for the position of Secretary of Defense.

Politico reported Sen Tammy Duckworth (D-IL), a U.S. Army  Iraq War veteran and Purple Heart recipient was also being considered for the Pentagon position. Sen. Jack Reed (D-RI), a West Point Graduate Army veteran and ranking member on the Senate Armed Services Committee was also reportedly being considered for the Pentagon position, though Politico reported Duckworth and Reed are seen as less likely contenders for the position than Flournoy.

Prior to serving in the Obama administration, Flournoy sered as a political appointee to the Pentagon during the President Bill Clinton’s administration and, according to a Department of Defense biography, as Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for Strategy and Threat Reduction and Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for Strategy. She was awarded the Secretary of Defense Medal for Outstanding Public Service in 1996, the Department of Defense Medal for Distinguished Public Service in 1998 and the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff’s Joint Distinguished Civilian Service Award in 2000.

In 2007, Flournoy co-founded the Center for a New American Security (CNAS), a Washington D.C.-based defense policy think-tank.

Flournoy served as the Under Secretary of Defense for Policy from February of 2009 to February of 2012. In 2016, Politico reported she was considered by then-Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton as a top contender to become the Secretary of Defense, had Clinton won the 2016 election.

In December of 2011, the Washington Post reported Flournoy had, during her time in the Obama administration, been influential in shaping the administration’s counterinsurgency strategy in Afghanistan. The Washington Post reported at the time prior to leaving her position as the Under Secretary of Defense for Policy, Flournoy had assembled a team to plan for the future U.S. military role in Afghanistan, including the then-planned departure of combat troops from the country by 2014.

Flournoy was also reportedly a proponent of the 2011 U.S. military intervention in Libya.

At the time, ABC News reported U.S. operations included the launch of more than 112 Tomahawk cruise missiles that struck over 20 targets in Libya. According to ABC, the Pentagon said its operations in Libya were meant to stop attacks by then-Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi and to enforce a U.N.-backed no-fly zone.

Flournoy, in a 2013 interview with the Council on Foreign Relations, Flournoy said, “I supported the intervention in Libya on humanitarian grounds,” adding,  “I think we were right to do it.”