Obama taps House aide for Air Force

President Barack Obama has nominated the staff director of the House Armed Services Committee to be undersecretary of the Air Force.

Erin Conaton has served as the right hand of Rep. Ike Skelton (D-Mo.), the panel’s chairman, for nearly three years and earned the respect of members on both sides of the aisle.

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As the lead aide on Armed Services, Conaton oversees a staff of nearly 70 people and helps draft and negotiate each year’s defense authorization bill.

Skelton said Conaton “has a rare gift for getting along with people.”

Conaton is also known for maintaining the traditional bipartisan nature of the committee.

“I have come to depend upon Erin Conaton as a trusted adviser and friend,” Skelton said in a statement announcing Conaton’s nomination. “Erin has consistently demonstrated her leadership ability, mastery of national security issues, and dedication to our men and women in uniform.”

Skelton urged the Senate Armed Services Committee to move quickly on Conaton’s confirmation process.

Conaton joined the Armed Services panel in 2001 after serving for three years as research staff director for the U.S. Commission on National Security. She became the minority staff director on the committee during the 109th Congress.

A native of New Jersey, Conaton holds a bachelor’s degree from Georgetown University’s School of Foreign Service and a master’s degree from the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts University.