Thursday, May 30, 2024

Flournoy gets a progressive push in Biden’s search for the Pentagon chief

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Alan Binder
Alan Binder
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“I would like to see her as a candidate for the post of Minister of Defense,” he added.

Flournoy, a former undersecretary of defense for policy, has also received endorsement from a group of former senior defense officials, diplomats and arms control experts who have praised her support for international treaties and other efforts to reduce the number and role of nuclear weapons in war planning. .

Flournoy “knows that the top priority of the Biden administration should be restoring American leadership on a variety of issues, including reducing nuclear risks,” They wrote in an open letter That was signed by the former Minister of Defense William Perry Rose Gottimuller, former Under Secretary of State for Arms Control and Deputy Secretary-General of NATO.

“They have repeatedly expressed their strong support for the extension of the New START nuclear control agreement with Russia,” they added. “It has raised important questions about the need and affordability of the current nuclear modernization plans. The Trump administration has been criticized for lowering the threshold for nuclear use.”

They write that Flournoy is best able to ensure that the Department of Defense will not, through momentum and inertia, over-invest in unnecessary or dangerous legacy systems – including nuclear weapons systems – that are inadequate to address pressing risks in the present and future. “

Flournoy has long been on the Democrats’ shortlist for the highest office in the Pentagon, making her the first woman to serve as a civilian leader of the United States Armed Forces.

To many observers, it was not included in other members of Biden’s national security and foreign policy team’s pitch this week.

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But Biden and Flournoy have differed in the past, particularly on the war in Afghanistan. Flournoy played a leading role in increasing the number of US military forces into the country in 2009 when then Vice President Biden opposed a further commitment to the troops.

Politico newspaper was first published this week That the president-elect has not yet decided on the chief of the Pentagon and that former Secretary of Homeland Security, J Johnson, is also a candidate.

“Michelle is still at the top of the list but they still want to keep looking – that’s a change,” said a former senior national security official who follows the transition closely. The meaning is: “Let’s not hurry here.”

Flournoy, along with some of her allies in the transition team at the Pentagon, has come under fire from some leftists who consider her to be too hard-line and warm with the defense industry.

She co-founded a think tank, the Central Center for New American Security, which gets significant funding from Lockheed Martin, Boeing, General Dynamics, Northrop Grumman and Raytheon, according to a study published last month by the Center for International Affairs. Policy.

Flournoy also started a consulting firm, WestExec Advisors, Which did not disclose its customers. She is also a member of the board of directors for Booz Allen Hamilton, a major contractor in the Pentagon.

This does not make it unique. Johnson is also a member of the board of directors of Lockheed Martin, the largest US defense contractor. And some progressive groups They claim Anyone Biden chooses to fill in the senior Pentagon positions should disclose any former defense industry agents as part of a broader effort to limit contractors’ influence in shaping policy.

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Flournoy sought to assuage some of their fears, Including participating in a call With a number of progressive groups ahead of the elections, they committed to reviewing arms sales to Saudi Arabia, which led to a humanitarian catastrophe in the Yemeni civil war.

However, as Biden is narrowing down on choice, other forward-thinking national security veterans and military defense groups are increasingly seeking to defend it.

Almost a dozen military family defense groups supported her over the weekend, recommending a “fast-track affirmation”.

“We value her undisputed expertise in a variety of issues in the Department of Defense, and we appreciate her deep commitment to US forces and their families,” The groups informed Politico in a statement. “We especially appreciate that she is a member of a military family.”

On Wednesday, her supporters in the arms control community told Biden, “We believe Michel Flournoy is the best candidate for the job.”

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