WASHINGTON – President Donald Trump will nominate Heather Wilson to be the next Secretary of the Air Force, his administration announced Monday.
Wilson served in the Air Force from 1982 to 1989, retiring as a captain, and attended the Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs, Colorado. She also served in the House as a representative for New Mexico from 1998 to 2009, but lost bids for the Senate in 2008 and 2012.
As chairman of the House Intelligence subcommittee on tactical and technical intelligence in 2005, she was an advocate for splitting the positions of undersecretary of the Air Force and director of the National Reconnaissance Office, a change the Pentagon adopted later that year..
Wilson argued at the time that the duties of the Air Force and NRO were too demanding to have a single person serve both positions.
Wilson also fought for establishing to Operationally Responsive Space program office at Kirtland Air Force Base near Albuquerque, New Mexico.
The office, which specializes in rapidly developing space capabilities to plug gaps or address emerging military needs, was established in 2007.
In a statement released on the White House website, Wilson said “America and our vital national interests continue to be threatened…I will do my best, working with our men and women in the military, to strengthen American air and space power to keep the country safe.”
It’s not currently known if Wilson – if confirmed – will also take over the position of principal DoD space adviser, or PDSA, vacated by previous Air Force Secretary Deborah Lee James.
James, in one of her last public appearances as secretary, indicated that the Trump administration could rework space leadership, and might abolish the PDSA position in favor of some other management approach.
Wilson, however, will likely be pulled into more terrestrial matters first. The Air Force is the branch most heavily involved in the fight against the Islamic State terrorist group, carrying out an extensive bombing campaign since 2014. There is likely to be much pressure on Trump – and Wilson by extension – to state their plans for handling the ongoing war, and it’s exceedingly likely to come up at Wilson’s confirmation hearing.
Trump has also taken aim at the F-35, the Air Force’s newest plane, as being too expensive (the entire program is estimated to be $160 billion over budget). But military leaders have said the cutting-edge plane gives them great advantage on the battlefield. It’s another debate that will likely occupy Wilson’s attention if she takes office.