Michèle Flournoy

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Michèle Flournoy
Michele Flournoy official portrait.jpg
Under Secretary of Defense for Policy
In office
February 9, 2009 – February 8, 2012
PresidentBarack Obama
Preceded byEric Edelman
Succeeded byJames Miller
Personal details
Michèle Angelique Flournoy

(1960-12-14) December 14, 1960 (age 58)
Los Angeles, California, U.S.
Political partyDemocratic
Spouse(s)Scott Gould
EducationHarvard University (BA)
Balliol College, Oxford (MLitt)

Michèle Angelique Flournoy (born December 14, 1960) is the former Under Secretary of Defense for Policy, the seventh-ranking[note] official in the U.S. Department of Defense, and in that role served as a principal advisor to U.S. Secretaries of Defense Robert Gates and Leon Panetta from February 2009 to February 2012.[1] When the U.S. Senate confirmed her nomination on February 9, 2009, she was at the time the highest-ranking woman at the Pentagon in the department's history.[2]

She currently serves as a Senior Advisor to the Boston Consulting Group[3] and as a Senior Fellow at Harvard's Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs.[4]

After the election of Donald Trump, she was asked to become the Deputy Secretary of Defense by Jim Mattis. Facing scrutiny and pushback from the Trump White House, due to her having served under the Obama administration, she ultimately turned him down.[5]

Early life and education[edit]

Flournoy's father George Flournoy was a cinematographer who worked on shows like I Love Lucy and The Odd Couple. He died of a heart attack when Michele was 14 years old.[6] Flournoy attended Beverly Hills High School in Beverly Hills, California. She studied at Harvard College where she received a bachelor of arts degree. She received an M.Litt. in international relations in 1983 from Oxford University, where she was a Newton-Tatum scholar at Balliol College. From 1989 until 1993 she was at Harvard's John F. Kennedy School of Government, where she was a Research Fellow in its International Security Program.[2]


Clinton administration[edit]

Flournoy served as a political appointee under the Clinton administration in the U.S. Department of Defense, where she was dual-hatted as Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for Strategy and Threat Reduction and Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for Strategy. In that capacity, she was responsible for three policy offices in the Office of the Secretary of Defense:

Flournoy 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.[7]

Public policy research[edit]

She then joined the Institute for National Strategic Studies at the National Defense University (NDU) as a distinguished research professor, founding and leading NDU's Quadrennial Defense Review (QDR) working group, which had been chartered by the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff to develop intellectual capital in preparation for the Defense Department’s upcoming QDR in 2001.

She then moved to the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS), where she was a Senior Advisor working on a range of defense policy and international security issues before co-founding the Center for a New American Security (CNAS), to which she was named President, in 2007 with Kurt M. Campbell.[2] Flournoy and CNAS co-founder Kurt Campbell wrote a policy paper called "The Inheritance and the Way Forward" that advocated for a U.S. foreign policy "grounded in a common-sense pragmatism rather than ideology".[2][8]

Obama administration[edit]

After the 2008 presidential election, she was selected as one of the Review Team Leads for the Obama transition at the Department of Defense. On January 8, 2009, President-elect Obama announced that he was nominating her as Under Secretary of Defense for Policy, to serve under Secretary of Defense Robert Gates.[9] In his memoirs, Secretary Gates wrote that he had "developed high respect for" Flournoy, whom he characterized as "clear-thinking and strong".[10]

On December 12, 2011, Flournoy announced that she would step down in February 2012 to return to private life and contribute to President Barack Obama's re-election bid.[11] As part of the Obama campaign, Flournoy appeared in a message from the official Democrat Twitter feed on October 22, 2012. She was shown in a video responding to GOP candidate Mitt Romney's assertion that Russia was the US's "number-one geopolitical foe" by stating Romney's was "a really curious statement, given that the Cold War has been over for some time."[12]


Flournoy speaking on the panel, "Is the Pentagon Adapting Fast Enough?" at the New America Foundation first annual Future of War conference, Washington, D.C., 25 February 2015; also pictured, left to right: Kevin Baron, Flournoy, Janine Davidson, Thomas Ricks

She currently serves as a Senior Advisor to the Boston Consulting Group's Washington, D.C.-based public sector practice, where she advises the consultancy on government projects,[3] and as a Senior Fellow at Harvard's Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs.[4] She also serves on the Board of Directors of the Center for a New American Security (CNAS), the Atlantic Council,[13] and Women in International Security. She is a member of the Aspen Strategy Group, the Council on Foreign Relations, and the CIA's External Advisory Board.

She is a former member of the guiding coalition of the Project on National Security Reform, the Defense Policy Board, and the Defense Science Board Task Force on Transformation.[14]

Personal life[edit]

Flournoy's husband, W. Scott Gould, is a retired captain who served for 26 years in the United States Navy Reserve.[2] He was a vice president at IBM before becoming United States Deputy Secretary of Veterans Affairs. The couple have three children, and reside in Bethesda, Maryland.[15][16]

Flournoy is a supporter of the Democratic Party and campaign finance records show she contributed $500 to Senator Hillary Clinton's presidential campaign in June 2007.[17]


In addition to several edited volumes and reports, Flournoy has authored many articles on international security issues:

  • "The Inheritance and the Way Forward", with Kurt M. Campbell (Washington, DC: CNAS, June 2007)[2]
  • "Beyond Goldwater-Nichols Phase III Report: The Future of the National Guard and Reserves", with Christine Wormuth, Clark A. Murdock, and Patrick Henry (Washington, DC: CSIS Press, July 2006)
  • "European Defense Integration: Bridging the Gap Between Strategy and Capabilities", with David R. Scruggs, Guy Ben-Ari, and Julianne Smith (Washington DC: CSIS Press, October 2005)
  • "Beyond Goldwater-Nichols: Phase II Report", with Clark A. Murdock, Pierre Chao, Anne A. Witkowsky, and Christine E. Wormuth, (Washington, DC: CSIS Press, July 2005)
  • "Beyond Goldwater-Nichols: Defense Reform for a New Strategic Era: Phase I Report", with Clark Murdock, Christopher Williams, and Kurt Campbell, (Washington, DC: CSIS Press, March 2004)
  • Nuclear Weapons After the Cold War: Guidelines for U.S. Policy. Harpercollins College Div. August 1992. p. 314. ISBN 978-0065011289.


^ Ranking based on U.S. Secretary of Defense succession was changed by Executive Order 13533 on March 1, 2010. When Flournoy was confirmed and sworn into office in 2009, the position was fourth-ranking, which was the highest for a female in the U.S. Department of Defense history at that time. As of September 2015, the highest ranking woman having served in the U.S. DoD is Christine Fox as acting Deputy Secretary of Defense (from December 2013 to February 2014).

External links[edit]


  1. ^ "Nominations Before the Senate Armed Services Committee, First Session, 111th Congress"
  2. ^ a b c d e f Emily Wax (6 November 2011), "Michele Flournoy, Pentagon's highest-ranking woman, is making her mark on foreign policy", Washington Post, retrieved 8 November 2011
  3. ^ a b "ormer DoD Under Secretary Michele Flournoy Joins BCG as Senior Advisor". Boston Consulting Group. 16 July 2012.
  4. ^ a b "Experts: Michèle Flournoy". Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs. Retrieved 23 March 2014.
  5. ^ "Mattis wanted this woman as his second-in-command. Here's why she turned him down".
  6. ^ http://fortune.com/2014/11/24/michele-flournoy/
  7. ^ "DefenseLink Biography: Michèle Flournoy". U.S. Department of Defense. Retrieved 2009-07-02.
  8. ^ Horowitz, Jason (15 August 2007). "Hot Policy Wonks For The Democrats: The New Realists". New York Observer.
  9. ^ Scott, Ann (December 2, 2008). "Gate's Top Deputies May Leave Tyson". Washington Post. Retrieved December 2, 2008.
  10. ^ Robert Gates, Duty: Memoirs of a Secretary at War. Alfred A. Knopf; (January 14, 2014). ISBN 978-0307959478, Kindle edition location 5150
  11. ^ "Pentagon's Michele Flournoy To Step Down". Washington Post. 2011-12-12. Retrieved 2011-12-17.
  12. ^ Romney, who calls Russia our "No. 1 geopolitical foe," doesn't seem to realize it's the 21st century. #RomneyNotReady
  13. ^ "Board of Directors (last updated March 21, 2014)". Atlantic Council. Retrieved 23 March 2014.
  14. ^ "SheSource: Michèle Flournoy". Women's Media Center. Retrieved 23 March 2014.
  15. ^ Vogel, Kenneth P. (June 15, 2009). "15 Obama administration power couples". Politico.com. Retrieved 2009-07-02.
  16. ^ Skelton, Ike (January 15, 2009). "Confirmation Hearing on the Expected Nominations of Ms. Michele Flournoy" (PDF). U.S. Senate Committee on Armed Services. p. 7. Archived from the original (PDF) on August 5, 2009. Retrieved 2009-07-02.
  17. ^ "Michele Flournoy Political Campaign Contributions 2008 Election Cycle". campaignmoney.com. Retrieved December 28, 2012.

External links[edit]

Political offices
Preceded by
Eric Edelman
Under Secretary of Defense for Policy
Succeeded by
James Miller