The Air Force's second-highest ranking civilian, Under Secretary Gina Ortiz Jones, is stepping down from her role after a year and a half in the position.
Jones was appointed by President Joe Biden as the first openly lesbian woman to serve as the under secretary for any service branch, and she was officially confirmed by the Senate on July 22, 2021. She will be leaving her role on March 6, according to a Monday press release.
"Throughout her tenure, Under Secretary Jones has been a tireless advocate for the Department of the Air Force and its people," Air Force Secretary Frank Kendall said in the press release Monday. "Her leadership in enabling all airmen, Guardians, and their families to serve to their full potential and providing the resources they need has enhanced the readiness of the Air and Space Force for years to come."
Jones, a member of the LGBTQ community, served under the military's old "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" policy, which allowed non-heterosexual service members to stay in the ranks if they remained closeted.
In her role as under secretary, Jones helped push a wide variety of reforms aimed at making life in uniform easier for women, minorities and parents.
This past September, Jones spearheaded a policy change that allowed pregnant service members and civilians to apply for Air Force Officer Training School, reversing the service's previous rules that barred candidates from going through the program until 12 months postpartum.
Additionally, this past August, Jones helped set new demographic goals in hopes of getting more diverse applicants for the service's officer corps, which has historically leaned toward white males.
Under those new goals, the Air Force and Space Force aim to have 36% of their officers be women, up from the previous target of 30% nearly a decade ago.
"We're in a race for talent, and our policies need to reflect that," Jones said in a press release regarding the OTS change. "This policy change will ensure we're able to fully tap into the talent amongst our force, as well as those looking to join us."
She also ran a Democratic campaign for the U.S. House of Representatives in Texas' 23rd District in 2018 and 2020. Jones ended up losing both races.
The 42-year-old former Air Force intelligence officer’s duties will be taken over by Assistant Secretary of the Air Force for Financial Management and Comptroller Kristyn Jones until a new under secretary is appointed, according to the press release.
"The department is grateful for her dedicated service," Kendall said of Under Secretary Jones. "Kristyn Jones will do a fantastic job keeping the momentum going."
-- Thomas Novelly can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @TomNovelly.