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Air Force nominee prepping at the Pentagon

Deborah Lee James

Deborah Lee James, nominated to become the next Secretary of the Air Force. (SAIC photo)

Earlier this month, President Barack Obama announced his nomination of SAIC executive Deborah Lee James to be secretary of the Air Force. Now James is said to be gearing up for her upcoming Senate confirmation hearing, embarking on a crash course in the Air Force hierarchy.

James reportedly surfaced at the Pentagon on Aug. 26, settling in for groundwork that likely will involve reading volumes of books, point papers and summaries of key information, as well as briefings and meetings that will fill her time until her scheduled Sept. 19 confirmation hearing.

At that hearing, James will sit before Congress and be quizzed on all things pressing in the Defense Department and Air Force arenas right now. She'll be asked for her views on a range of topics, including weapons systems, cybersecurity, the F-35 and the Edward Snowden scandal, among others.

"It's tough because she's not in the job, but she still will have to answer detailed questions about what the job will entail," said one former top DOD official speaking on background. The source added that James also likely will be making the rounds on Capitol Hill meeting with key lawmakers and their staffs, assessing agendas and collecting allies for the confirmation hearing.

James is no stranger to Washington's inner workings. Currently the vice president of SAIC's technical and engineering sector, her bio boasts "30 years of senior homeland and national security management, policy, and program experience in government and the private sector."

She also spent a decade as a professional staff member on the House Armed Services Committee –that was after five years as assistant secretary of Defense for reserve affairs under President Bill Clinton, another position for which she was presidentially nominated and confirmed by the Senate.

If confirmed as Air Force secretary, James will replace Michael Donley, who retired in June. In the interim, Eric Fanning, Donley's deputy, has been serving in an acting capacity.

James did not return a call from FCW, but an SAIC spokesperson on Aug. 23 said that James remains employed at SAIC. Inquiries to the Air Force were referred to the White House, where representatives did not respond to requests for comment.

About the Author

Amber Corrin is a former staff writer for FCW and Defense Systems.

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