Next Pentagon Chief Could Be a Woman Michèle Flournoy has been the department's highest-ranking woman By Matt Cantor, Newser User Posted Nov 25, 2014 9:24 AM CST 49 comments Comments This Dec. 7, 2011 file photo shows former US Defense Undersecretary Michele Flournoy. (AP Photo/Andy Wong) (Newser) – Following Chuck Hagel's exit as defense secretary, the obvious question is who might replace him. One leading possibility: former undersecretary of defense for policy Michèle Flournoy—the defense department's highest-ranking woman ever, ABC News reports. She stepped down in 2012 and now heads a nonpartisan national security think tank thought to have played a big role in President Obama's policymaking, the Washington Post reports. Some administration officials, however, believe she has sided too readily with the uniformed military, which could lead to disagreements with the president, the Post notes. But her perceived hawkishness could play well with Republicans during the Senate confirmation process, Politico reports, and she was on Obama's shortlist the last time around. Other top names in the running: Former deputy defense secretary Ashton Carter oversaw budgeting amid tough times for the Pentagon between 2011 and 2013, ABC notes. He was a Rhodes scholar and Harvard professor, the Post reports, but he hasn't been hugely influential politically. Sen. Jack Reed of Rhode Island is set to be the Democrats' top official on the Armed Services Committee. He recently won re-election and became known after criticizing the handling of the Iraq War in a response to a State of the Union speech by George W. Bush. But he doesn't want the Pentagon job, says a rep: He "loves his job and wants to continue serving the people of Rhode Island." Robert Work is currently in the No. 2 position at the Pentagon, Politico notes. The retired Marine colonel has dealt extensively with the department's budget, the Post notes, and he has headed the same think tank Flournoy now leads. And Politico raises the possibility that the likes of former generals David Petraeus or Stanley McChrystal could get the job. Both faced scandals before leaving their posts, but "they command a lot of respect with the military as well as with the Republicans," and they "worked with (the) Obama administration," says an analyst.