All of the services officially have a permanent leader for the first time since May as the Senate voted to confirm Barbara Barrett as Air Force secretary Oct. 16.
The Senate confirmed Barrett by a vote of 85-7. Senators who voted no include Senate Armed Services Committee members Sens. Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), Tammy Duckworth (D-Ill.) and Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.), as well as Ron Wyden (D-Ore.), Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.), Ed Markey (D-Mass.), and Tina Smith (D-Minn.).
Barrett most recently served as the chair of the Aerospace Corporation from 2013 to 2017, and is a former U.S. ambassador to Finland from 2008 to 2010. She has been a senior leader at the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) and the U.S. Civil Aeronautics Board, and served on the governing boards of companies and organizations including Raytheon [RTN], Piper Aircraft
and the Space Foundation.
Barrett is an instrument-rated pilot who trained at the Gagarin Cosmonaut Training Center in Star City, Russia, and Kazakhstan, and received a certification for space travel.
“I can think of no position that offers more excitement, challenge and meaning than the Secretary of the Air Force,” Barrett said in a statement provided by the Air Force after the vote. “Our Air Force is the best in the world because of extraordinary Airmen and civilians with whom I am now proud to serve.”
Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. David Goldfein said the service “won the lottery – again” with Barrett as the next service secretary following the previous secretary Heather Wilson in remarks at the annual Air Force Association’s Air, Space and Cyber Conference in September outside Washington, D.C.
Wilson, who had previous experience as an Air Force officer, serving on the National Security Council, as a GOP House member and as the president of the South Dakota School of Mines and Technology, led the service from July 2017 until May 2019, when she resigned to become the president of the University of Texas at El Paso. Matt Donovan, who has served as acting service secretary following Wilson’s departure, will resume his previous role as Air Force undersecretary.
In her confirmation hearing before the Senate Armed Services Committee (SASC), Barrett affirmed her commitment to lowering the flight costs of the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter and to overall fleet modernization, and to leading the Air Force in the creation of a new Space Force once approved by Congress. (Defense Daily, Sept. 12).