President-elect Joe Biden is predicted to take a historic step and choose a lady to move the Pentagon for the primary time, shattering one of many few remaining boundaries to girls within the division and the presidential Cupboard. Michele Flournoy, a politically reasonable Pentagon veteran, is regarded by U.S. officers and political insiders as a best choice for the place.
Her choice would come on the heels of a tumultuous Pentagon interval that has seen 5 males maintain the highest job underneath President Donald Trump. The newest protection secretary to go was Mark Esper, who was fired by Trump on Monday after pushing again on points together with troop withdrawals and the usage of the navy to quell civilian unrest.
If confirmed, Flournoy would face a future that’s anticipated to contain shrinking Pentagon budgets and potential navy involvement within the distribution of a coronavirus vaccine.
Democrats have lengthy sought to call a lady to the highest submit in a division that did not open all fight jobs to feminine service members till about 5 years in the past. Flournoy had been the anticipated alternative of Hillary Clinton if she had received the 2016 election. Her identify surfaced early as a front-runner for Biden’s Cupboard, mentioned officers who spoke on situation of anonymity to debate personnel issues.
Seen as a gentle hand who favors robust navy cooperation overseas, Flournoy, 59, has served a number of occasions within the Pentagon, beginning within the 1990s and most not too long ago because the undersecretary of protection for coverage from 2009 to 2012. She serves on the board of Booz Allen Hamilton, a protection contractor, which might elevate considerations from some lawmakers. However her reasonable views would seemingly guarantee large bipartisan help ready that requires Senate affirmation.
Few different names have been talked about, although former Division of Homeland Safety chief Jeh Johnson was listed as a potential alternative at one level. Selecting a lady could be in keeping with Biden’s pledge to have a various Cupboard.
She has been outspoken on American international and protection coverage, notably over the previous 12 months. She favors nearer worldwide cooperation after 4 years of a Trump White Home that touted an “America First” coverage and was extra distrustful and important of allies.
“Whoever the subsequent president is,” she mentioned in March, “whether or not it’s a second Trump time period or Vice President Biden or whoever it’s, one of many high agenda gadgets goes to attempt to, I believe, restore a few of that notion” that America could now not be a dependable accomplice. “However I don’t suppose it’s going to be straightforward or occur in a single day. I believe it’s going to take loads of work over a lot of years to get well that belief and that standing.”
She has additionally cautioned towards drastic, fast modifications.
“Some of the harmful tendencies is for — after a change of administration, notably when there’s a change of celebration — for the brand new crew to come back in and use the time period ‘repudiation.’ However to come back in and assume that every little thing their predecessors did was improper, you realize, they throw the child out with the bathwater, principally, they usually overcorrect in one other path,” she mentioned in a Hudson Institute discussion board.
Arnold Punaro, a retired Marine two-star common and former workers director of the Senate Armed Providers Committee underneath then-Democratic Sen. Sam Nunn of Georgia, mentioned not too long ago that he regards Flournoy as “extremely well-qualified” to steer the Pentagon.
The Protection Division is one in every of three Cupboard businesses — the others being Treasury and Veterans Affairs — which have by no means been led by a lady. A number of the 28 males who’ve held the highest protection job because it was created in 1947, together with three who served in Trump’s administration — Jim Mattis, Esper and present performing Secretary Christopher Miller — have been navy veterans. Flournoy didn’t serve within the navy.
Like Mattis and Esper, Flournoy views China as essentially the most vital long-term problem to American predominance on the world stage. In July, she mentioned the USA is dropping its navy technological benefit over key opponents like China and that reversing this pattern should be the Pentagon’s high precedence.
She has, nevertheless, additionally warned towards abandoning the Center East and as an alternative advocates “extra modest ranges of steady presence” there. For instance, she has backed a restricted function in Afghanistan that focuses extra on countering the phobia menace and fewer on rebuilding the nation.
“We need to scale back our dedication, however we need to do it in a means that’s sensible and that safeguards our pursuits within the course of,” she mentioned in March about Afghanistan, including that she hopes “we do not simply lower and run.” Trump has pushed for a full troop withdrawal from Afghanistan by the tip of the 12 months, however to this point the Pentagon has no orders to try this.
On North Korea, she mentioned in an October on-line discussion board that whereas nuclear disarmament ought to stay the last word purpose, she finds it “laborious to see” Kim Jong Un agreeing to surrender all his nuclear weapons, which she mentioned he sees as his regime’s “survival card.”
On Iran, Flournoy has argued for a revised strategy of deterring the Islamic Republic by breaking the acquainted sample of sending extra American forces to the Gulf in response to Iranian provocations, because the Trump administration did in Might 2019 after what it referred to as credible threats to U.S. pursuits within the area.
Flournoy is a co-founder of Westexec Advisors, a consulting agency that gives recommendation and geopolitical threat evaluation to company purchasers. She works with a combination of former senior authorities officers — together with Antony Blinken, a former deputy secretary of state and presently Biden’s high international coverage adviser — and navy consultants comparable to retired Military Gen. Vincent Brooks, who led U.S. forces in Korea till 2019.
In 2007, Flournoy helped create a suppose tank, the Middle for a New American Safety.