Barrett to be Tapped as Next Air Force Secretary

President Donald Trump announced plans to nominate Barbara Barrett, the former US ambassador to Finland, to be the next Air Force Secretary. Here, Barrett speaks at the Sandra Day O'Connor College for Law at Arizona State University in Phoenix, Ariz., on Nov. 17, 2017. Photo by Gage Skidmore via Flickr.

President Donald Trump said on Twitter this week he plans to nominate Barbara Barrett, former chairwoman of The Aerospace Corporation’s board of trustees and a past Federal Aviation Administration deputy administrator, as the Air Force’s 25th Secretary.

If confirmed by the Senate, Barrett will take over for outgoing Secretary Heather Wilson, who joined the service in 2017 and is leaving May 31 to lead the University of Texas at El Paso.

Barrett would become the third woman in a row to serve as the Air Force’s top civilian, overseeing the service’s attempt to refocus on conflict with other advanced militaries in the midst of a massive modernization bill and an ongoing pilot shortage. The Arizona resident is an instrument-rated pilot who became the first civilian woman to land an F/A-18 on an aircraft carrier, and is certified for space flight.

“Barbara advised five American Presidents on trade and defense policy,” according to a Committee for Economic Development biography. “President George W. Bush appointed and the Senate confirmed Barbara as US Ambassador to Finland and she was a senior advisor to the US. Ambassador to the United Nations.”

Barrett’s tenure at the FAA came under President Ronald Reagan, and she also served as vice chairman of the Civil Aeronautics Board. She was nominated as Air Force Secretary during the George W. Bush administration when then-Secretary James Roche was picked to lead the Army, but she withdrew her name when the Senate stalled Roche’s nomination.

In a May 21 release, Sen. Martha McSally (R-Ariz.) said she pushed for her close friend’s nomination, even speaking with Trump last week, since Wilson announced her resignation earlier this year.

“Ambassador Barrett is a force to be reckoned with and has the leadership, experience, and knowledge to lead our Air Force into the future during a time of increased global threats,” McSally said. “I have confidence that Ambassador Barrett will lead the way in maintaining air and space dominance and continue to build upon the initiatives, leadership, and example set forth by Secretary Heather Wilson.”

Senate Armed Services Committee Chairmen Jim Inhofe (R-Okla.) weighed in on Twitter as well, saying Barrett’s extensive experience in government, business, and diplomacy, plus her longtime aerospace involvement, makes her well-suited for the job.