Wilson confirmed as Air Force secretary
- By Sean D. Carberry
- May 09, 2017
Heather Wilson, shown here in a 2009 congressional portrait, was confirmed by the Senate to lead the U.S. Air Force.
The Senate has confirmed Heather Wilson as the new secretary of the Air Force, but the Trump administration is still struggling to fill other key positions in the Department of Defense.
Wilson cleared the Senate by a 76-22 vote after four hours of debate. The former New Mexico congresswoman and Air Force Academy graduate faced opposition from some Democrats over her past work as a defense industry consultant and questions about whether she completed work for which she was paid.
Her confirmation came just days after the Trump administration's second nominee for Army secretary withdrew.
Mark Green, a Tennessee state senator aligned with the Tea Party, faced strong opposition from gay rights and Muslim groups for past statements and legislation that he supported.
"Tragically, my life of public service and my Christian beliefs have been mischaracterized and attacked by a few on the other side of the aisle for political gain," Green said in a statement announcing his withdrawal on May 5.
"While these attacks have no bearing on the needs of the Army or my qualifications to serve, I believe it is critical to give the president the ability to move forward with his vision to restore our military to its rightful place in the world," he added.
Trump's first choice for Army secretary, billionaire Vincent Viola, withdrew from consideration in February after determining he would not be able to distance himself from his financial interests to satisfy ethics requirements.
Trump's initial pick for Navy secretary, Philip Bilden, withdrew from consideration for similar reasons in February. Trump has yet to nominate another candidate for that post.
Other nominees, meanwhile, are beginning to move forward. On May 9, the Senate Armed Services committee held a confirmation hearing for David Norquist, Robert B. Daigle and Elaine A. McCusker to serve as under secretary of defense, comptroller; director of cost assessment and program evaluation; and principal deputy under secretary of defense, comptroller respectively.
The Trump administration has presented five other DOD nominees to the Senate, including former Marine Kenneth Rapuano and Hill veteran Robert Story Karem as assistant secretaries. Kari Bingen, a professional staff member on the House Armed Services Committee, is awaiting confirmation to replace Marcel Lettre as principal deputy undersecretary of defense for intelligence.
In March, the administration tapped Patrick Shanahan, Boeing's senior vice president for supply chain and operations, to replace Robert Work as deputy secretary of defense, but the Senate Armed Services Committee has yet to receive his nomination. Work remains the senior-most holdover from the Obama administration.
Sean Carberry is a former FCW staff writer who focused on defense, cybersecurity and intelligence.