Deborah Lee James (SAIC)
US President Barack Obama has nominated Deborah Lee James as the next US Air Force Secretary, the White House announced Thursday night.
“Deborah’s strong record of public service and leadership in the private sector makes her uniquely qualified to be my nominee for Secretary of the Air Force,” Obama said in a news release. “I look forward to working with her to keep our Air Force the very best in the world and to keep faith with our extraordinary Air Force personnel and their families.”
If confirmed, James would be the second female secretary in the Air Force’s history. The first was Sheila Widnall, who was secretary between 1993 and 1997.
James has been the president of the technology and engineering sector at Science Applications International Corporation since 2013. Before that, she served assistant secretary of defense for Reserve Affairs from 1993 to 1998 and she has experience as a staffer on the US House Armed Services Committee.
Her nomination comes as the Air Force is dealing with steep budget cuts and the fallout from sexual assault scandals. So far, 24 military training instructors at Joint Base San Antonio-Lackland have been convicted of sexual misconduct. Lt. Gen. Craig Franklin, commander of Third Air Force, also created a furor when he overturned the sexual assault conviction of lieutenant colonel stationed at Aviano Air Base, Italy.
Former Air Force Secretary Michael Donley retired in June after five years as the service’s top civilian. Eric Fanning has been serving as acting secretary since then.