Trump Taps Former Diplomat as Next Air Force Secretary

Then-Backup Spaceflight Participant Barbara Barrett during a press conference on Sept. 29, 2009, at the Cosmonaut Hotel in Baikonur, Kazakhstan. (NASA/Bill Ingalls)
Then-Backup Spaceflight Participant Barbara Barrett during a press conference on Sept. 29, 2009, at the Cosmonaut Hotel in Baikonur, Kazakhstan. (NASA/Bill Ingalls)

President Donald Trump has named his nominee to be the next secretary of the Air Force.

Trump announced via Twitter on Tuesday that Barbara Barrett, 68, a former diplomat and businesswoman, is his pick to be the service's 25th secretary.

"I am pleased to announce my nomination of Barbara Barrett of Arizona, and former Chairman of the Aerospace Corporation, to be the next Secretary of the Air Force," he wrote. "She will be an outstanding Secretary! #FlyFightWin."

If confirmed, Barrett would be the fourth female Air Force secretary, succeeding Heather Wilson, who recently announced she was leaving to take a university position. Deborah Lee James held the post under President Barack Obama; Sheila E. Widnall served in President Bill Clinton's administration.

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Barrett, a former chair of the Aerospace Corporation, served as the U.S. ambassador to Finland under President George W. Bush.

She was nominated to be Air Force secretary in 2003, but was never confirmed, according to a report from Defense News.

In 2009, she trained in Russia as a backup astronaut for a flight to the International Space Station, according to the Ravalli Republic.

Barrett was the first female civilian pilot to land an F/A-18 Hornet fighter on an aircraft carrier and is friends with Sen. Martha McSally, R-Arizona, who was the first woman to fly in combat for the Air Force, according to the Arizona Republic.

"Ambassador Barrett is a force to be reckoned with and who has the leadership, experience and knowledge to lead our Air Force into the future during a time of increased global threats," McSally said in a statement, as reported by the Arizona Republic. "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."

Barrett told Business Jet Traveler magazine in 2014 that she was honored to have had the opportunity to fly the F-18, noting that such moves are needed to break barriers.

"I was a civilian adviser to the secretary of defense and the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff," she told the magazine. "A law had been passed in 1948 that women could fly tankers and transports but not fighters or bombers or aircraft 'engaged in combat.' We worked to get the law changed. There was a Navy admiral who had daughters [and was] not one to be told girls can't do these things; he invited me to train and qualify to fly an F-18 Hornet. I had the privilege of landing on the [USS] Nimitz."

Wilson on Tuesday said she supports the president's decision.

"Great choice by @realDonaldTrump," she said on Twitter, following her own goodbye ceremony at Joint Base Andrews in Maryland. "Ambassador Barrett is an accomplished leader with a heart for service."

Air Force Under Secretary Matt Donovan, a former F-15 Eagle pilot, will serve as acting secretary until Barrett is confirmed.

-- Oriana Pawlyk can be reached at Follow her on Twitter at @Oriana0214.

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