Senate confirms Trump's Air Force chief
© Getty Images

The Senate confirmed President Trump's pick to lead the Air Force, the first of his military branch leaders to get through the upper chamber.  

Senators voted 76-22 for Heather Wilson to be the next Air Force secretary, with only a simple majority needed to approve her nomination.

Wilson, a former congresswoman from New Mexico, was expected to easily clear the upper chamber. Democrats could use the Senate's rulebook to drag out her nomination for days, but senators instead agreed to a vote after only four hours of debate. 


The vote on Wilson's nomination comes as Trump has struggled to fill top military and Pentagon positions during the first quarter of his administration.  

Tennessee state Rep. Mark Green (R), Trump's second nominee to be Army secretary, withdrew his nomination amid mounting criticism about his previous comments on LGBT people, Islam, Hispanics, the Second Amendment and creationism.

Vincent Viola, Trump's first Amy secretary nominee, and Navy Secretary nominee Philip Bilden both withdrew from consideration in February over concerns about their financial holdings. 

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellPress: Trumpism takes a thumping The Hill's 12:30 Report — Sponsored by Delta Air Lines — Trump says Florida races should be called for GOP | Latest on California wildfires | Congress set for dramatic lame duck Congress braces for high-drama lame duck MORE (R-Ky.) praised Wilson ahead of Monday's vote, noting he expected Democrats to help confirm her. 

"Wilson is a Rhodes scholar, Air Force Academy graduate, part of the third class ever to admit women, by the way, and a dedicated public servant who served several times in the U.S. House," he said. "I'm sure she will work hard in this new role to strengthen the branch of the military that she cares so much about." 

The Senate Armed Services Committee approved Wilson to fill the Air Force's top civilian post earlier this year in a 22-5 vote.  

Wilson largely evaded Democrats who questioned her over the lack of documentation for her work as a defense industry consultant with a Lockheed Martin subsidiary. 

Sen. Jack ReedJohn (Jack) Francis ReedMidterms poised to shake up US-Saudi defense ties Overnight Defense: Trump defends border deployment | Claims caravan larger than reported | Key Dem calls plan 'unwise' | Watchdog issues troubling report on Afghan war Top Senate Armed Services Dem: Sending troops to border 'unwise, unproductive' MORE (D-R.I.) tried to pin down Wilson about working for Sandia Corp. as a consultant.  

In 2013, the DOE inspector general found Sandia paid Wilson’s consulting company $464,000 from 2009 to 2011 with no evidence of work. Wilson denied the findings, but the government was reportedly paid back about $443,000. 

Under federal acquisition regulation laws, Wilson should have kept documentation of her consulting work.  

Pressed by Reed, Wilson said during the committee hearing that she complied with the rules, adding that, "the review found no fault with me. ... The DOE auditors never even talked to me.” 

If confirmed, Wilson would be the first Air Force Academy graduate to serve as Air Force secretary, according to a statement from the White House when it announced her nomination in January. 

She served as an Air Force officer until 1989, when she joined President George H.W. Bush’s National Security Council (NSC) as director for European defense policy and arms control.