Barbara Barrett, the former business executive, ambassador and trained astronaut nominated Tuesday to be the next Air Force secretary, is winning early praise on Capitol Hill.
“Ambassador Barrett is 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,” said Sen. Martha McSally (R-Ariz.). McSally, a member of the Armed Services Committee, said she urged Trump to nominate Barrett in phone call on Friday.
“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,” added McSally, a retired Air Force pilot, calling Barrett a close friend.
Sen. Mike Rounds (R-S.D.), another member of the Senate oversight panel, tweeted that he spoke to Barrett at an event honoring Wilson recently and looks forward to her confirmation process.
Barrett, 68, rose to prominence as a business executive in her 20s before taking on a series of high-profile government posts.
She served in President Ronald Reagan’s administration as deputy administrator of the Federal Aviation Administration and as the ambassador to Finland under President George W. Bush.
Between 2013 and 2017 she was the head of the board of trustees of the Aerospace Corporation, a government-backed nonprofit that is closely affiliated with the Air Force.
Barrett’s extensive business background has also included a stint as the interim president of the Thunderbird School of Global Management at Arizona State University and CEO of the nonprofit American Management Association.
She is also a trained astronaut, having completing a four-and-a-half month program in Russia and Kazakhstan to be a backup astronaut on a launch to the International Space Station in 2009. She did not end up flying the mission.
If confirmed by the Senate, Barrett will replace Wilson, who is leaving her post as the Air Force’s top civilian to become the president of the University of Texas at El Paso at the end of this month.
Wilson, in a tweet Tuesday, called Barrett a “wonderful choice” for the post.
Barrett would be the third woman in a row to be named Air Force secretary, after Wilson and Deborah Lee James, who was the service’s top civilian under former President Barack Obama.
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