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.

NBC/NBC NewsWire
National Journal Staff
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National Journal Staff
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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