Trump May Fire Air Force Secretary Over Space Force Pushback: Report

FILE PHOTO -- Secretary of the Air Force Heather Wilson speaks to the audience at the National Academy of Sciences, Washington, D.C., Jan. 18, 2018. (U.S. Air Force/Wayne A. Clark)
FILE PHOTO -- Secretary of the Air Force Heather Wilson speaks to the audience at the National Academy of Sciences, Washington, D.C., Jan. 18, 2018. (U.S. Air Force/Wayne A. Clark)

Air Force Secretary Heather Wilson may be on the outs with President Donald Trump over the service's reluctance to advance his Space Force proposal, according to a report from Foreign Policy published Thursday.

As a result, Trump is considering removing Wilson, who was confirmed as the 24th Air Force secretary last May, after the midterm elections next month, Foreign Policy reported, citing three anonymous sources with knowledge of the matter.

The Air Force on Thursday referred all questions to the White House. The White House did not respond to Military.com's request for comment by press time.

A possible replacement being floated for Wilson is Alabama Republican Mike Rogers, who had put an emphasis on space in the months preceding the Space Force idea.

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Lawmakers including Rogers last year proposed a military entity known as "Space Corps" within the Air Force to oversee the mission. But in November, they ended up removing language in the Fiscal 2018 National Defense Authorization Act requiring the service to stand up the detachment.

Nevertheless, in March, Rogers and others renewed their efforts to convince the Air Force it was time to create a military entity to protect U.S. technologies in space, saying it was possible to stand up a Space Corps in a three-to-five-year timeframe.

Weeks later, Trump revealed that his administration wants to create a sixth branch of the military to focus on protecting military space assets. The president's issue with Wilson stems from the service's efforts to undercut the Space Force proposal, Foreign Policy said. She and Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. David Goldfein instead outlined how the service's space budget propels the Pentagon's mission forward against emerging threats such as Russia and China.

"As the president said yesterday, the new National Defense Strategy for space recognizes that space is a warfighting domain. We appreciate the president and the vice president's leadership on space," Wilson said when addressing the issue during a House Appropriations Defense subcommittee March 14.

The Air Force -- the service seen as "the leader in space," overseeing operations since the mid-1950s -- has also proposed its own space boost over the next 12 years.

Wilson recently spoke of the necessity for the Air Force to continue to hone its space mission in some way, announcing at the annual Air Force Association Air, Space and Cyber conference that seven new space squadrons would be part of its 386 operational squadron plan, dubbed "The Air Force We Need."

The additional space squadrons are needed "so that we can dominate in space, where we have not been threatened in the past," she said in a speech at the conference.

That same week, Wilson wrote in a memo that the Defense Department will need roughly $12.9 billion over five years to resource the personnel and infrastructure for the Trump administration's proposed Space Force.

Wilson is the third woman to serve as the Air Force secretary, after Deborah Lee James, who served under President Barack Obama, and Sheila E. Widnall, who served under President Bill Clinton's administration.

Wilson graduated from the Air Force Academy in 1982, part of the third class to include women.

She served as a Republican in Congress from 1998 to 2009, representing New Mexico's 1st Congressional District. She chaired the House Subcommittee on Technical and Tactical Intelligence, and was senior ranking member on the House Energy and Commerce Committee. She also served on the House Armed Services Committee for four years.

-- Oriana Pawlyk can be reached at oriana.pawlyk@military.com. Follow her on Twitter at @Oriana0214.

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