Wormuth became the Pentagon's policy chief only late last month, but her time at the Pentagon dates back to the Clinton administration. She most recently served as the deputy undersecretary for strategy, plans, and force development, and has been a frequent face on the Hill defending the department's Quadrennial Defense Review—a wide-ranging policy document. She has also held positions outside government, including as a senior fellow at the Center for Strategic and International Studies.
James became the second woman to lead the Air Force when she was sworn in late last year. She returned to the Pentagon—having previously served as an assistant secretary during the Clinton administration—after spending more than a decade in the private sector. So far, the biggest issue she has confronted during her tenure has been allegations of cheating on exams within the nuclear-missile force at Malmstrom Air Force Base in Montana.
Anderson joined Secretary Chuck Hagel's staff late last year, but the two go all the way back to his days in the Senate—when she was the liaison for Sen. Barbara Mikulski to the Senate Intelligence Committee, on which Hagel served. Before joining Hagel's Pentagon staff, Anderson was chief of staff for then-Deputy Secretary Ashton Carter. She could soon have a new title: Hagel's current chief of staff has been tapped to serve as ambassador to South Korea, and Anderson is considered a contender for the job.
Rice is no stranger to the spotlight or to controversy. She recently took digs at Senate Republicans for holding up Obama's ambassadorial nominees; she received mixed reviews for beating the president to the punch in expressing support for three kidnapped Israeli teens; and she is pushing gay rights as human rights on behalf of the White House. But Rice's most infamous role in national security was her insistence, as the U.S. representative to the U.N., that the assault on the U.S. Consulate in Benghazi resulted from a protest against an anti-Muslim video rather than a planned terrorist attack.
Sherman is the State Department's top nuclear negotiator in talks with Iran. She is also the department's fourth-ranking official, managing a massive diplomatic portfolio including Africa, East Asia, the Pacific, Europe, Eurasia, the Near East, South and Central Asia, the Western Hemisphere, and international organizations. Sherman previously ran EMILY's List, which helps elect Democratic women who support abortion rights. She also managed Sen. Barbara Mikulski's first successful Senate race and served as her chief of staff.
This article appears in the July 26, 2014 edition of National Journal Magazine as 25 Women Who Shape National Policy.