President Trump will nominate former Rep. Heather Wilson (R-N.M.) to be the secretary of the Air Force, the White House announced Monday.
“Heather Wilson is going to make an outstanding secretary of the Air Force,” Trump said in a statement. “Her distinguished military service, high level of knowledge and success in so many different fields gives me great confidence that she will lead our nation’s Air Force with the greatest competence and integrity.”
Wilson, 56, graduated from the U.S. Air Force Academy in 1982 and was in the school’s third class to include women. She also earned master's and doctoral degrees as a Rhodes Scholar at Oxford University. She is currently the president of the South Dakota School of Mines and Technology.
If confirmed, Wilson would be the first Air Force Academy graduate to serve as Air Force secretary, according to the White House statement.
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.
When she left the NSC in 1991, she founded Keystone International, Inc., in New Mexico. The company, which she has since sold, promoted business development in the United States and Russia.
In 1995, then-New Mexico Gov. Gary JohnsonGary Earl JohnsonBiden broadened Democratic base, cut into Trump coalition: study New Mexico lawmakers send recreational marijuana bills to governor Judge throws out murder convictions, releases men jailed for 24 years MORE appointed her to be secretary of the state’s Children Youth & Families Department.
Wilson was elected to Congress in 1998 and served until 2009. During her time in the House, she became a senior member of the House Energy and Commerce Committee and chaired the House Subcommittee on Technical and Tactical Intelligence. She also served on the House Armed Services Committee.
She twice ran unsuccessfully for the Senate, losing the Republican primary in 2008 and the general election in 2012.
In 2013, she became the president of the South Dakota School of Mines and Technology, a public university that focuses on science and engineering. As president of the school, she increased enrollment and research, while “earning a reputation as a sound financial manager and accessible leader,” according to the White House release.
If confirmed as Air Force secretary, Wilson would be responsible for overseeing part of Trump’s promised build-up of the military. Trump has promised to increase military spending, which includes hiring more airmen and buying more equipment.
Trump has also blasted expensive Air Force acquisition programs, including the F-35 fighter jet. As Air Force secretary, Wilson would have a key role in negotiating acquisition.
“America and our vital national interests continue to be threatened,” she said in a statement. “I will do my best, working with our men and women in the military, to strengthen American air and space power to keep the country safe.”