USA

If Biden beats Trump, former Pentagon official says she would be open to defense secretary job

WASHINGTON — A former senior Pentagon official, Michele Flournoy, said Thursday she would be open to serving as the country's first female defense secretary if Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden wins the White House in November.

NBC News correspondent Courtney Kube asked Flournoy if she would accept the job if Biden became president and nominated her for the position. Flournoy said she did not want to engage in speculation but indicated she would be ready to serve if called upon.

"I've spent 30 years in some form of public service either in government or in the non-profit sector. That is my calling," Flournoy said at the Aspen Security Forum, which was held online.

"Who knows, but I have come out and endorsed Joe Biden. I do think he's the right answer for the country. And I would do anything to support his success and for the sake of the country, frankly," she said.

Flournoy, an influential and pragmatic voice on defense issues in Democratic circles, became the first woman to serve as the Pentagon's number three-ranking official in 2009 during the Obama administration. As under secretary of defense for policy from February 2009 to February 2012, Flournoy helped shape national security strategy at a time when tens of thousands of American troops were in combat in Afghanistan and Iraq.

Flournoy criticized how the Trump administration has treated U.S. allies and said the U.S. risked losing its technological edge over China's military within 10 years without changes in strategy and spending on new weapons.

Flournoy also said the U.S. should avoid a hasty troop exit from Afghanistan until a genuine peace negotiation begins between the Afghan government and the Taliban.

"I think it would be a mistake for the U.S. to precipitously draw down or withdraw, particularly to leave before that peace is solidified," she said. "Because we would basically be pulling the carpet out from under our Afghan government partners, and Afghan women and Afghan civil society, that we fought so hard to help achieve a place at the table."

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