Michèle Flournoy Stepping Down in Early 2012

The Pentagon’s policy chief plans to leave her current post—and we didn’t see it coming.

By: Shane Harris

Photograph by Karen Bleier/AFP/Getty Images

Color me surprised, or maybe a tad chagrined, that Michèle Flournoy is stepping down as the Pentagon’s policy chief. In February, we ran a long profile of her by Spencer Ackerman, who predicted, “There’s little doubt that Flournoy, who’s just 50, will eventually become Defense Secretary, and probably the first woman to hold that office.” I edited the piece, and I concurred with Ackerman’s assessment.

Hell, I still do. Reportedly, Flournoy is stepping down to spend more time with her family—for real. Officials have emphasized that Flournoy wasn’t forced out, and that the administration wasn’t unhappy with how she did her job. Ackerman writes today that Flornoy’s departure was “long expected: her aides said in mid-2010 she probably wouldn’t stick around very long in the job if Obama passed her over for secretary of defense. But after she leaves in February, don’t think of Flournoy as gone.”

I have to agree with my colleague again. Flournoy’s future is bright. It’s rare that you find a senior-level official in any department with so few enemies. I suspect the President just felt that this time around, the timing wasn’t right. And since Ackerman punctuated his post with one horrible (sorry, man) song from 1987, I’ll offer this one. Seems apt.