WASHINGTON (AP) — President Donald Trump nominated an aerospace executive and former ambassador to Finland to be the next secretary of the Air Force on Tuesday.
Trump said in a tweet that he has chosen Barbara Barrett, former chairman of The Aerospace Corporation, to replace Heather Wilson when she steps down at the end of this month after two years on the job.
Barrett, 68, of Arizona, served as ambassador to Finland in 2008 during President George W. Bush’s administration. She also previously served as deputy administrator of the Federal Aviation Administration and was vice chairman of the U.S. Civil Aeronautics Board.
This is the second time she’s been picked for the Air Force job. In 2003, Bush announced he intended to nominate Barrett to replace John Roche, who was to become Army secretary. But when Roche’s nomination was blocked in the Senate, he went back to his Air Force post, so Barrett was never confirmed for the position.
If confirmed by the Senate, Barrett would step into the center of the debate over the launch of a new U.S. Space Force, a Trump proposal that has hit widespread resistance on Capitol Hill.
A trained civilian pilot who also was certified for space travel, Barrett was mentioned last year as a possible replacement for Sen. Jon Kyl, an Arizona Republican, who resigned his Senate seat. The appointment, however, went to Martha McSally, a U.S. House member who had run unsuccessfully for the U.S. Senate in 2018.
McSally, a former fighter pilot, tweeted her congratulations to Barrett, thanking Trump “for taking my recommendation on this important role and selecting an incredibly talented leader as next AF Secretary!”
Barrett holds the distinction of being the first Republican woman to run for governor in Arizona. In 1994, she challenged the incumbent Republican, Fife Symington, in the primary and spent more than $1 million of her own money, but was soundly defeated.
Barrett, an attorney, serves on a number of boards, including for RAND Corporation, the Smithsonian Institution and the California Institute of Technology, and she’s held a number of senior executive positions for Fortune 500 companies.
She and her husband, Craig, former CEO of Intel Corp., own Triple Creek Ranch, a luxury resort in Montana’s Bitterroot Valley.