Pentagon denies report that Air Force Secretary Wilson may be on her way out

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Defense Department spokesperson Dana White called the report 'nonsense.'

WASHINGTON — The Defense Department on Friday dismissed a news report that says President Trump is considering removing Air Force Secretary Heather Wilson.

“This is nonsense,” Pentagon Chief Spokesperson Dana White said in a statement in response to a story published on Thursday by Foreign Policy. White did not elaborate. “The Department of Defense leadership team is focused on defending our great nation and working together,” she added.

Sources contacted by SpaceNews said rumors have circulated for two weeks that Trump administration officials who are overseeing a Space Force legislative proposal were unhappy with Wilson for submitting a a memo Sept. 14 laying out a detailed plan for how to organize a Department of the Space Force, with an estimated cost of about $13 billion over five years.

“These rumors are not new,” said one knowledgeable source. “But I doubt any decisions have been made.” This is all part of the infighting sparked by a major Pentagon reorganization, the source said. “People fume, and speculate, that’s the character of this town.”

The administration’s point man for the military space reorganization is Vice President Mike Pence. A spokesperson for the vice president’s office did not respond to a request for comment. Leading the reorganization inside the Pentagon is Deputy Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan.  His spokesman provided this statement: “I greatly appreciate Secretary Wilson’s leadership, commitment, and vision. We are partnered on implementing the National Defense Strategy and winning. We’re focused on the future of the department. There is no groupthink in the Pentagon as we deal with complex real-world decisions as making large scale institutional change is difficult and demanding. I rely on Secretary Wilson’s advice and counsel.”

Wilson’s Space Force proposal angered Rep. Mike Rogers (R-Ala.), chairman of the House Armed Services Committee’s strategic forces subcommittee, who is mentioned in the Foreign Policy story as a candidate to replace Wilson.

At an Aspen Institute event last week, Rogers blasted Wilson for developing a “gold plated” estimate. He said he supports the president’s idea of a Space Force as a separate service but will continue to push his committee’s less disruptive plan that would set up a Space Corps within the Department of the Air Force.

Rogers suggested Wilson’s memo was an attempt to sour Congress on the idea of a Space Force. But Wilson has repeatedly voiced support for the president’s proposal since he ordered the Pentagon in June to put together a plan to organize a Space Force as a separate military service.

She said her proposal is “bold” but carries out the president’s intent.

Another source who has followed the Space Force debate said Wilson showed “strong leadership” by putting forth a proposal knowing that it would be criticized by “armchair quarterbacks.”