Washington, Dec 13: A top woman Pentagon official, who helped US President Barack Obama craft his Af-Pak policy, would be stepping down as Under Secretary of Defence for Policy.
Michele Flournoy, who was Defence Secretary Leon Panetta's chief policy adviser, is leaving the administration to return to private life and contribute to Obama's re-election bid next November.
"Michele Flournoy has been an invaluable advisor to me during my six months as secretary of defence, and has been an outstanding departmental leader for nearly three years at a time of great consequence for our nation's defence," Leon Panetta has said in a statement.
Earlier in the day, Flournoy, who has been the highest ranking woman in the history of the Department of Defence, announced her intention to step down early next year and return to private life.
"From guiding our strategy in Afghanistan and Iraq, to helping set the department's priorities and global posture through the 2010 Quadrennial Defence Review as well as the strategy review that has been underway this year, Michele has made a strong and lasting positive imprint on this department and on our nation's security," Panetta said.
"Michele is a treasured colleague, and the entire Department of Defence will be sad to see her go, but she has built an incredible team that is a testament to her leadership," he said.
The Defence Secretary said he will personally miss Flournoy's valued counsel, adding, that he understand the stresses and strains that holding senior administration positions can have on families.
Flournoy had just returned from a trip to China, where she led a US delegation for talks with the Chinese counterparts.
According to 'The Hill', Flourney is highly regarded in defence circles having "led several US security delegations and efforts around the world."