Flournoy May Not Be a Shoo-In for Defense After All

Sources tell Politico that Biden is still mulling his options for defense secretary
By Jenn Gidman,  Newser Staff
Posted Nov 24, 2020 9:09 AM CST
Flournoy May Not Be a Shoo-In for Defense After All
This Dec. 7, 2011, file photo shows former US Defense Undersecretary Michele Flournoy, preparing for a bilateral meeting in Beijing.   (AP Photo/Andy Wong, File)

President-elect Joe Biden is hard at work making picks for his administration, with reports already circulating on his choices for secretary of state, Homeland Security chief, and director of national intelligence, among others. But one key role tied to national security is still up in the air: secretary of defense, a job that seemed to be for the taking for Pentagon veteran Michele Flournoy. Six sources tell Politico that Biden still isn't sure if she's the right pick, and he's mulling other options before making the final call. "Michele is still at the top of the list, but they still want to keep looking," says an ex-senior national security official. "The sense is: 'Let's not be rushed here.'" Although Flournoy's experience within the defense community isn't debated, Biden isn't said to have a close relationship with her, and he may be feeling the heat from those who oppose Flournoy's ties to defense contractors.

Foreign Policy notes that progressives are pushing back especially hard on Flournoy, who they say would ensure "a continuation of ... America's 'forever wars.'" Defense News backs that up, noting that her "relatively hawkish views" could spook left-leaning Democrats. It's not clear whom progressives would rather see nominated. Politico's sources say Obama-era Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson is another potential pick for the Pentagon's top spot; if Johnson is chosen, he'd be the first Black secretary of defense. Still, not everyone is counting Flournoy out. "We shouldn't read too much into the timing," says Richard Fontaine, CEO of the Center for a New American Security, the think tank Flournoy co-founded. "I'm certain we'll know the next round of appointees soon enough." (More Biden administration stories.)

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