Pentagon’s Top Civilian Female Michele Flournoy Plans to Resign

Undersecretary of Defense Michele Flournoy, the highest-ranking female civilian to hold office at the Pentagon, will step down in February.

Flournoy, who took her post in February, 2009, wants to spend more time with her family and doesn’t have future job plans, said Tara Rigler, a spokeswoman for the Pentagon. Flournoy, 50, is married to Department of Veterans Affairs Deputy Secretary W. Scott Gould. They have three children.

As the department’s policy chief, Flournoy helped conduct the strategy review by President Barack Obama’s administration on Afghanistan and Pakistan, led renewed defense talks with China and oversaw the department’s Quadrennial Defense Review. She had been discussed within the administration as a prospect to become the first female U.S. Defense Secretary.

Flournoy wasn’t available for an interview, Rigler said.

“In her discussions with me, Michele made clear that her decision to leave is motivated by personal and family considerations,” Defense Secretary Leon Panetta said in a statement today. “I am very pleased that she has agreed to stay on until early next year to enable a smooth transition.”

The February departure will allow time for Obama to nominate a successor while the Pentagon completes a strategy review and releases its blueprint to reduce planned defense spending by $450 billion over the next decade.

Deputy’s Job

Her decision to leave comes two months after another undersecretary, acquisitions chief Ashton Carter, was confirmed by the Senate as deputy to Panetta.

Michael O’Hanlon, director of research at the Brookings Institution policy group in Washington, said he doesn’t believe Flournoy’ departure is linked to her not being tapped for the deputy’s job.

“Three years is a good stint and she deserves a break,” O’Hanlon said. “She can and should be a candidate someday” for defense secretary, he said.

Before joining the Obama administration, Flournoy was co- founder of the Center for a New American Security, a policy group in Washington.

Flournoy plans to support Obama’s re-election next year in an informal capacity, as well as do public speaking and private advising, the Associated Press reported today, citing an interview with her. She said she needed to re-balance her life with more attention to her family, the AP reported.

“She has built an incredible team that is a testament to her leadership,” Panetta said in the statement. “I’m confident that she will have many years of service in her future.”

To contact the reporter on this story: Viola Gienger in Washington at vgienger@bloomberg.net.

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Mark Silva at Msilva34@bloomberg.net.

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