The Hill's 25 Women to Watch: Page 17 of 26

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EXECUTIVE BRANCH

MICHELE FLOURNOY

FORMER DEFENSE UNDERSECRETARY

After a stint as the highest-ranking woman at the Pentagon, Michele Flournoy is enjoying her time off from government work.

“I can reassure folks, there is life after government, and it’s good,” Flournoy said in an interview with The Hill.

But just how long she stays out of a high-profile public-sector job is an open question in the defense world.

Flournoy, who stepped down from the No. 3 position at the Pentagon earlier this year, is frequently mentioned among possible successors to Defense Secretary Leon Panetta, should President Obama win reelection.

For now, the former undersecretary of Defense for policy is doing her part to help the Obama campaign as a surrogate, and is also keeping busy with consulting work and her three children.

Flournoy won’t speculate about her future prospects at the Defense Department, but will say her career is far from over.

“I am only 51 — I have more public service in me,” she said.

If Flournoy were to become the first female Defense secretary, it would only be the latest barrier she’s broken through. She is quick to mention that the ranks of women at the Pentagon have swelled since she began her career there during the Clinton administration.

“In my first stint in the Pentagon, we had a women’s leadership lunch, and everybody sat at one table,” Flournoy said. “Now if you do that at the Pentagon, you’d overflow a dining room.”

Growing up in Southern California, Flournoy said the early experience of moving from Hollywood to Harvard for college helped prepare her to adapt to new cultures — the Pentagon included.

“It was — for a kid who grew up [on the] west side of L.A. and played beach volleyball — like landing on another planet,” she said. “In some ways, coming into the Pentagon for my first tour was very much arriving in a new culture.”

— Jeremy Herb

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