Michele Flournoy Presents Bipartisan Option for Secretary of Defense

Michele Flournoy Presents Bipartisan Option for Secretary of Defense

With Chuck Hagel’s chances for securing the position of Secretary of Defense decreasing more each passing day, Michele Flournoy may be the person Obama calls on next.

Flournoy is 52 years old, the daughter of a World War II veteran, the wife of Navy veteran W. Scott Gould, and the mother of three children.

She is a military policy expert “who first worked in the Pentagon under [President] Clinton,” then spent the early years of the George W. Bush presidency working at the Center for Strategic and International Studies.

Six years ago, Flournoy joined with a former Pentagon colleague to found the Center for a New American Security–a think tank which promotes “the doctrine of counterinsurgency” and “calls for troops to develop close ties with local populations to help defeat militants.”

Through all of this, she has made a name for herself as someone intent on “preventative security” for America. 

She is respected by military personnel at all levels, and because she conducts herself in a non-ideological fashion, politically speaking, she has the backing of both Democrats and Republicans. As retired Marine Lt. Gen. Greg Newbold put it: “[Flournoy’s] worldview is not ideologically based and it is not politically based.”

Flournoy also stands out for the respect she shows to those with whom she works. She “learns the names of interns, visits old colleagues when she travels to military bases,” and when it’s been in her power to do so, she has “introduced flexible work schedules to allow employees… more time with their families.”

It is important to note that while Flournoy has worked for President Obama–she spent time as Undersecretary of Defense for Policy during his first term–she does not view military matters exactly as he does. 

For example, when Obama pressed to get troops out of Iraq as soon as possible, Flournoy pressed for a gradual withdrawal instead. She supported the troop surge in Afghanistan and a better-resourced training program for Afghan troops.

Moreover, her think tank has come to be known as “a haven for hawkish Democrats.”

She penned a commentary piece in The Wall Street Journal on Feb. 4th in which she took a critical stand on the coming defense cuts. She made it clear that now, at a time when troops are coming home, the U.S. runs the risk of repeating past errors and creating what she calls a “hollow force“–a force big on structure but short on “readiness and modernization.”

Flournoy makes it clear that going forward, “the U.S. must take care to preserve the military capabilities it needs to protect America’s interests now and in the future.” She says this can be done by directing the cuts to four very specific ends where possible: 

  1. Unnecessary overhead at the Pentagon tied to what has become an expansive bureaucracy in “defense agencies and headquarter staffs.” 
  2. Find ways to reduce costs in military care for military personnel without reducing quality or availability of care. 
  3. “Cut excess infrastructure,” which regards bases and/or other DOD properties that have only been kept open to get a particular Senator or House Member re-elected. 
  4. Reform acquisition practices used by the DOD.

She admits that dealing with some of these issues will be very difficult, as trying to do so has been up until now, but if Congress doesn’t press for cuts in these areas, the U.S. will end up seeing cuts in places that will make it harder to project strength militarily, where and when strength is needed.