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It’s Official: Barbara Barrett Will Be Air Force’s 4th Female Leader

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The U.S. Senate has confirmed President Donald Trump‘s nominee to be the 25th Air Force secretary.

Lawmakers voted 85-7 in favor of Barbara Barrett, a former chair of the Aerospace Corporation, who also served as the U.S. ambassador to Finland under President George W. Bush.

Democrat Sens. Ron Wyden and Jeff Merkley of Oregon; Ed Markey of Massachusetts; Kirsten Gillibrand of New York; Tina Smith of Minnesota; and Richard Blumenthal of Connecticut all voted against Barrett; Illinois Democrat Tammy Duckworth from Illinois, a former Army lieutenant colonel, also voted no.

Some lawmakers expressed concerns that Barrett wouldn’t take action to prevent the appearance of impropriety between the military and the Trump organization.

Last month Blumenthal announced he intended to place a hold on Barrett over concerns about Air Force stopovers at Scotland’s Glasgow Prestwick airport and subsequent overnight lodging stays by U.S. airmen at the president’s Turnberry resort.

In March, a C-17 Globemaster III crew, consisting of seven active-duty and National Guard crew members from Alaska, stayed at Turnberry while en route to Kuwait, and landed at Prestwick on the return trip to the U.S.

That stop prompted the House Committee on Oversight and Reform to investigate whether U.S. military stays have boosted Turnberry’s revenue.

The service separately launched an internal investigation to review its travel logs to see where and how often its aircrew members stayed on those layovers in Scotland. Officials last week concluded the Air Mobility Command-led investigation, which still awaits sign-off from Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. David Goldfein and Acting Secretary Matt Donovan.

The confirmation makes Barrett the service’s fourth female secretary, following Heather Wilson, who also served under Trump. Deborah Lee James held the post under President Barack Obama; Sheila E. Widnall served in President Bill Clinton’s administration.

Related: SecAF Nominee’s Top Priority: Creating a ‘Warfighting Ethos’ Within Space Force

Trump announced via Twitter in May that Barrett was his pick to fill the job after Wilson vacated the position weeks earlier to take a university position in Texas. Barrett was previously nominated to be Air Force secretary in 2003, but was never confirmed, according to a report from Defense News.

Though Barrett hasn’t made many public remarks awaiting the Senate’s final vote, she previously detailed her priorities.

In written answers to questions from the Senate Armed Services Committee before her hearing Sept. 12, Barrett said she was committed to the U.S. Space Force’s creation under the Department of the Air Force.

“Today’s Air Force must solidify readiness gains and continue prioritized, cost-effective modernization,” Barrett said in the 69-page survey, provided to Military.com.

In light of emerging threats from Russia and China, Barrett said space may need even more attention.

“Reliable access to our space assets is essential to our national defense,” she said. “To meet the needs of the future, the Department of the Air Force must continue today’s mission while building the operational Space Force, which will be pivotal to America’s future defense.”

— Oriana Pawlyk can be reached at oriana.pawlyk@military.com. Follow her on Twitter at @oriana0214.

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