5 Women Who Shape Defense Policy

Christine Wormuthtime at the Pentagon dates back to the Clinton administration and Deborah Lee James became the second woman to lead the Air Force.

MEET THE PRESS -- Pictured: (l-r) – Susan Rice, National Security Adviser, appears on "Meet the Press" in Washington, D.C., Sunday, Feb. 23, 2014.
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July 25, 2014, 1 a.m.

This year, Na­tion­al Journ­al‘s Wo­men in Wash­ing­ton list fo­cuses on wo­men who ex­er­cise power­ful in­flu­ence in five policy areas: en­ergy, health care, tech­no­logy, de­fense, and edu­ca­tion.

Christine Wor­muth, De­fense Un­der­sec­ret­ary for Policy

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.

De­borah Lee James, Air Force Sec­ret­ary

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.

Wendy An­der­son, Deputy Chief of Staff to the De­fense Sec­ret­ary

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.

Susan Rice (Wil­li­am B. Plow­man/NBC/NBC News­Wire)Susan Rice, Na­tion­al Se­cur­ity Ad­viser to the Pres­id­ent

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.

Wendy Sher­man, Un­der­sec­ret­ary of State for Polit­ic­al Af­fairs

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.

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