WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump has nominated an aerospace executive to be the next secretary of the Air Force.
Trump says in a tweet that he has chosen Barbara Barrett, former chairman of the Aerospace Corporation, to replace Heather Wilson who is stepping down at the end of this month after two years on the job.
Barrett, 68, of Arizona, served as ambassador to Finland in 2008 during President George W. Bush's administration. She also previously served as deputy administrator of the Federal Aviation Administration and was vice chairman of the U.S. Civil Aeronautics Board.
Congratulations, Barbara! This is a fantastic choice. Barbara brings a wealth of knowledge and experience. She is immensely qualified to serve as Secretary of the Air Force and is a true public servant. Arizona is proud! @usairforce https://t.co/Zd9XrTADjR— Doug Ducey (@dougducey) May 21, 2019
She grew up in Indiana and Pennsylvania but came west after high school, eventually earning undergraduate, master's and law degrees from Arizona State University.
Barrett, along with her husband Craig, endowed ASU with the funds to launch the Barrett Honors College which was named in their honor.
This is the second time she's been picked for the Air Force job. In 2003, Bush announced he intended to nominate Barrett to replace John Roche, who was to become Army secretary. But when Roche's nomination was blocked in the Senate, he went back to his Air Force post, so Barrett was never confirmed for the position.
If confirmed by the Senate, Barrett would step into the center of the debate over the launch of a new U.S. Space Force, a Trump proposal that has hit widespread resistance on Capitol Hill.
A trained civilian pilot who also was certified for space travel, Barrett was mentioned last year as a possible replacement for Sen. Jon Kyl, an Arizona Republican, who resigned his Senate seat. The appointment, however, went to Martha McSally, a U.S. House member who had run unsuccessfully for the U.S. Senate in 2018.
McSally, a former fighter pilot, tweeted her congratulations to Barrett, thanking Trump "for taking my recommendation on this important role and selecting an incredibly talented leader as next AF Secretary!"
Barrett holds the distinction of being the first Republican woman to run for governor in Arizona. In 1994, she challenged the incumbent Republican, Fife Symington, in the primary and spent more than $1 million of her own money, but was soundly defeated.
Barrett serves on a number of boards, including for RAND Corporation, the Smithsonian Institution and the California Institute of Technology, and she's held a number of senior executive positions for Fortune 500 companies. She and her husband, the former CEO of Intel Corp., own Triple Creek Ranch, a luxury resort in Montana's Bitterroot Valley.