WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump announced he will nominate former U.S. ambassador and Arizona gubernatorial candidate Barbara Barrett to be the next secretary of the Air Force.

“I am pleased to announce my nomination of Barbara Barrett of Arizona, and former Chairman of the Aerospace Corporation, to be the next Secretary of the Air Force,” Trump tweeted May 21. “She will be an outstanding Secretary! #FlyFightWin”

In 2008 and 2009, Barrett was U.S. ambassador to Finland under President George W. Bush. She also served as senior adviser to the U.S. Mission to the United Nations, is a former chairman of the State Department’s Women’s Economic Empowerment Working Group, U.S. Advisory Commission on Public Diplomacy and U.S. Secretary of Commerce’s Export Conference.

From 2013 until 2017, Barrett served as chairman of the Board of Trustees of The Aerospace Corporation, a federally funded research and development center that advises the Defense Department on national security and military space systems. Barrett also was chairman of the Aerospace board. Originally elected to the Aerospace board in 2006, she served until her confirmation as U.S. ambassador to Finland in 2008. Following completion of her service in Finland, she was reelected to the Aerospace board in June 2010.

“I am delighted to hear that President Trump has nominated Ambassador Barbara Barrett to be the next Secretary of the Air Force, ” Aerospace Corp. CEO Steve Isakowitz told SpaceNews in a statement. “During her years of service as chairman and vice chairman of The Aerospace Corporation’s Board of Trustees, Ambassador Barrett provided invaluable counsel to our organization in supporting our nation’s leadership in space. We wish her great success throughout the confirmation process.”

Barrett earned bachelor’s, master’s, and law degrees at Arizona State University, and received honorary doctorates from ASU, Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University, the University of South Carolina, Pepperdine University and Finlandia University.

A certified and instrument-rated pilot, in 2009 Barrett trained at the Gagarin Cosmonaut Training Center in Star City, Russia, and Kazakhstan, culminating in certification for space travel.

Barrett is a close friend of Arizona Republican Sen. Martha McSally, a retired Air Force combat pilot. In a tweet on Tuesday, McSally thanked Trump for taking her recommendation to select Barrett as the next Air Force secretary.

If confirmed, Barrett would replace Heather Wilson, the 24th secretary of the Air Force who will be stepping down May 31 to become president of the University of Texas El Paso.

On Tuesday during a farewell ceremony at Andrews Air Force Base, Maryland, Wilson tweeted “Wonderful choice by the President.”

Sandra Erwin writes about military space programs, policy, technology and the industry that supports this sector. She has covered the military, the Pentagon, Congress and the defense industry for nearly two decades as editor of NDIA’s National Defense...