WASHINGTON — The Senate confirmed Barbara Barrett to be the 25th Secretary of the Air Force by a margin of 85 to 7.

The vote on Oct. 16 makes Barrett the third consecutive woman confirmed to lead the Air Force and its 685,000 airmen. Barrett replaces Heather Wilson who resigned in May. Undersecretary Matthew Donovan served as acting secretary in the interim.

“I can think of no position that offers more excitement, challenge and meaning than the Secretary of the Air Force,” Barrett said in a news release.

Barrett is a former U.S. ambassador to Finland, four-term chairman of the space-focused non-profit Aerospace Corporation, governance vice chairman of NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory at Caltech, and deputy administrator of the Federal Aviation Administration. Barrett was the first civilian woman to land a Navy F/A-18 fighter on an aircraft carrier and was certified for space travel.

Barrett will serve as the civilian head of the Air Force at a “pivotal time for our military,” Sen. Jim Inhofe (R-Okla.), chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, said in a statement. “We need to modernize and innovate if we want to keep up with China and Russia, and this is especially important if we want to maintain air and space supremacy.”

Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. David Goldfein praised Barrett in a statement: “This is an exciting day for our Air Force. Secretary Barrett brings an incredible background and a level of strategic understanding that will propel us into the future.”

During her confirmation hearing Sept. 12, Barrett endorsed creating a Space Force as a separate branch of the U.S. armed forces. “If confirmed, standing up a Space Force would be a key imperative,” she said. If Congress authorizes a Space Force to be place under the Air Force, Barrett would serve as secretary of both the Air Force and the Space Force.

The vote on Barrett was delayed after Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) on Sept. 18 placed a hold on Barrett’s confirmation over concerns about Air Force personnel spending taxpayer money at a Trump-owned resort in Scotland.

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...