Michèle Flournoy: The next U.S. Secretary of Defense?


Monday’s news that U.S. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel is resigning sparked plenty of buzz in D.C. And whenever there is speculation in Washington about the prospect of a first-ever female Defense Secretary, one name surfaces: Michèle Flournoy.

When she left her role as the Undersecretary of Defense for Policy in early 2012 to spend more time with her children, she was the highest-ranking woman there. Despite the gains of women at the Pentagon, the Defense Department remains a stubbornly mostly-male bastion.

In her first stint in the Department of Defense under Bill Clinton, there were so few females that a women’s leadership lunch—which could be accommodated by a small round table—spawned conspiracy theories. A decade later, when she served Obama, there were enough women in the Defense Secretary’s office that they came to be known as “the feared clackers”—a reference the sharp sound of heels on the Pentagon’s echoing floors.

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