Caption: U. S. Air Force Secretary Deborah Lee James Credit: U.S. AIR FORCE PHOTO

The U.S. Senate confirmed Deborah Lee James as the next secretary of the Air Force by a vote of 79-6 on Dec. 13. 

“I’ve seen a number of secretaries and chiefs in my 20-plus years of doing this,” Eric Fanning, the former acting secretary of the Air Force, said in a Dec. 13 briefing. “I think she and General Welsh will be the strongest team I’ve ever seen and great advocates for the Air Force and for airpower, so I’m very excited to see her in the building.”

Gen. Mark Welsh was confirmed in 2012 as Air Force chief of staff.

James, a former SAIC executive and House Armed Services Committee staffer, sidestepped several space-related questions from the Senate Armed Services Committee in her written response.

Her nomination had been held up twice, once by Sen. Martin Heinrich (D-N.M.) over the future of the Operationally Responsive Space Office, currently located at Kirtland Air Force Base, N.M., and once by Sen. Kelly Ayotte (R-N.H.) over the future of the A-10 Thunderbolt aircraft.