Trump considering firing Air Force secretary over ‘Space Force’ position: report

Greg Nash

President Trump is considering firing the secretary of the Air Force after the midterm elections over her handling of his proposed “Space Force,” according to a report Thursday.

Citing three unnamed sources with knowledge of the matter, Foreign Policy reported that Air Force Secretary Heather Wilson has angered Trump and Deputy Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan with a perceived campaign to undermine Trump’s order to stand up the new military branch.

“Shanahan hates her guts, and [Defense Secretary James] Mattis is lukewarm at best,” one source told the publication.

The Air Force referred The Hill to the White House and the Office of the Secretary of Defense for comment.

“There is no discussion by the President to oust Air Force Secretary Heather Wilson – all reporting to the contrary is simply false,” White House spokeswoman Lindsay Walters said in an email.

In a separate statement, chief Pentagon spokeswoman Dana White called the report “nonsense.”

“The Department of Defense leadership team is focused on defending our great nation and working together to be worthy of the blood, treasure and faith entrusted to us by the American people,” White added.

Rumors have also swirled about Mattis’s potential departure after the midterm elections, which Mattis has dismissed. The departure of both Mattis and Wilson would represent a major shakeup at the Pentagon.

No final decisions have been made about Wilson, according to Foreign Policy, but a source told the publication the administration has been exploring options to replace her. One name floated as a replacement was Rep. Mike Rogers (R-Ala.), who has been a key backer of Space Force on Capitol Hill.

Trump ordered the Pentagon in June to begin planning to stand up a Space Force and in an August speech at the Pentagon, Vice President Pence outlined the steps the administration is taking to carry that out. Shanahan is the Pentagon official that has been tasked with overseeing the effort.

Wilson opposed the idea of a separate branch of the military for space when Congress proposed a similar plan last year.

But since Trump’s push on Space Force, Wilson has refrained from criticizing the proposal, saying last month that she is in “complete alignment” with the president.

“As airmen, we have a responsibility to develop a proposal for the president that is bold and that carries out his vision,” she said during a speech at an Air Force Association conference in September.

That same day, a widely leaked memo from Wilson estimated that it could cost $13 billion to stand up Space Force in its first five years. The memo also estimated the service would need about 13,000 new personnel.

One top defense budget expert called the memo “an example of malicious compliance.”

One source told Foreign Policy that the White House had “already had it with her and the Air Force” before the memo, but that it “just put them over the top.”

Still, the publication noted, Wilson still has an ally in Pence. As a former congresswoman, she served with Pence in the House.

–Updated at 9:51 p.m.

Tags Donald Trump Mike Rogers secretary of the Air Force Space force

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