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Pentagon Policy Chief Stepping Down: Michele Flournoy, undersecretary of defense for policy since February 2009, announced on Monday that she is stepping down early next year to return to private life. "Michele has been an invaluable advisor to me during my six months as Secretary of Defense, and has been an outstanding departmental leader for nearly three years at a time of great consequence for our nation's defense," stated Defense Secretary Leon Panetta in a release. "From guiding our strategy in Afghanistan and Iraq, to helping set the department's priorities and global posture through the 2010 Quadrennial Defense Review as well as the strategy review that has been under way this year, Michele has made a strong and lasting positive imprint on this department and on our nation's security." Panetta said personal and family considerations drove Flournoy's decision. Her staying on until early next year will enable a smooth transition, he said.