The Senate confirmed Air Force Gen. Charles Brown to become the next chief of staff June 9 by a vote of 98-0, ensuring that Brown becomes the first African-American to lead the service.
Brown currently serves as the commander of Pacific Air Forces, the air component command commander for U.S. Indo-Pacific Command and the executive director for Pacific Air Combat Operations Staff at Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam, Hawaii. He will become the 22nd Air Force chief of staff, succeeding Gen. David Goldfein in a swearing-in ceremony Aug. 6.
Goldfein issued a statement of congratulations to Brown Tuesday afternoon following the confirmation. “There is no more seasoned warfighter in the U.S. Air Force than CQ Brown, and no leader has been better prepared for this job than him,” he said.
The Trump administration formally nominated Brown to lead the Air Force May 2. Brown’s confirmation had been held up by Sen. Dan Sullivan (R-Alaska), a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee. Defense News reported June 3 that Sullivan placed a hold on the nomination, waiting on several answers to questions he had following the committee’s May 7 confirmation hearing for Brown, and that he had since lifted the hold.
During his confirmation hearing, Brown asserted his priorities as chief of staff would include the Pentagon-wide effort of joint all-domain command and control (JADC2), a focus on maintaining space superiority, and better partnership with both traditional and non-traditional defense industry members. He advocated for the Defense Department to receive steady funding of 3 to 5 percent real growth per year to keep up with modernization efforts and readiness goals.
Vice President Mike Pence presided over the Senate vote Tuesday afternoon. As vice president, Pence also serves as the president of the U.S. Senate.
Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman Sen. Jim Inhofe (R-Okla.) congratulated Brown on his “historic promotion” in a Tuesday statement.
“General Brown’s experience as Commander of Pacific Air Forces and the Air Component Commander of the Indo-Pacific Command will be an asset as we turn our focus even more to this priority theater,” Inhofe said. “Not only is General Brown accomplished in his military career, but he is an inspiring leader – brave, authentic, and unifying.”
President Donald Trump issued a congratulatory tweet for Brown’s confirmation Tuesday, calling it “a historic day for America.”
Brown’s uncontested Senate confirmation was set against the background of over two weeks of protests across the country and the globe, with participants taking to the streets to protest police brutality against black citizens and to call for an end to systemic racism. Brown was one of several African-American Air Force leaders who spoke out about their own experiences growing up as a black man in the United States since the beginning of the month.
“I’m thinking about how my nomination provides some hope but also comes with a heavy burden,” Brown said in a June 5 video, where he shared his thoughts on the May 25 death of Minneapolis resident George Floyd at the hands of police and the aftermath across the country. “I can’t fix centuries of racism in our country, nor can I fix decades of the discrimination that may have impacted members of our Air Force.”
“I’m thinking about how I can make improvements personally, professionally, and institutionally,” he added in the video. “I just want the wisdom and knowledge to lead during difficult times like these.”
Sullivan spoke on the Senate floor Tuesday ahead of the confirmation vote, calling Brown “the right man at the right time for this very important job.”
The expectations of becoming the first African-American Air Force chief at such a time in history must be “a tremendous weight for anyone to carry,” Sullivan continued. “But I firmly believe that Gen. Brown’s shoulders are broad and strong enough to carry this weight.”
Brown was commissioned into the Air Force in 1984 after completing the ROTC program at Texas Tech University. He is a command pilot with more than 2,900 flying hours to include 130 combat hours, and previously served as an F-16 instructor at the Air Force Weapons School. He received his fourth star and assumed command of Pacific Air Forces in July 2018.
Among his many assignments, he previously served as deputy commander of U.S. Central Command; commander of U.S. Air Forces Central Command; and director of Operations, Strategic Deterrence, and Nuclear Integration for U.S. Air Forces in Europe-Air Forces Africa at Ramstein Air Base, Germany. He has also served as the commander of the 31st Fighter Wing at Aviano Air Base, Italy; commander of the 8th Fighter Wing at Kunsan Air Base, South Korea; and aide-de-camp to the chief of staff of the Air Force.