The former US ambassador to Finland and longtime space enthusiast may serve as the next secretary of the Air Force.
Despite how the House Appropriations Committee rejected the Pentagon’s $72.4 million budget request to establish a Space Force headquarters — recommending that it “find alternatives” to the project — it looks like the White House may moving ahead with the plan anyway.
President Trump announced the nomination of former US ambassador to Finland, Barbara Barrett, to serve as the next secretary of the Air Force. The one-time Republican Arizona gubernatorial candidate is a space enthusiast who is expected to oversee the new Space Force.
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Trump made the announcement via Twitter, writing “I am pleased to announce my nomination of Barbara Barrett of Arizona, and former Chairman of the Aerospace Corporation, to be the next Secretary of the Air Force. She will be an outstanding Secretary! #FlyFightWin.”
The announcement officially kicked off the Senate confirmation process. If confirmed, Barrett will become the third woman in history to serve in a top civilian position at the Air Force. With her comes significant experience in space exploration, which may be critical to competing with Russia and China.
Barrett became a certified astronaut after training at the Gagarin Cosmonaut Training Center in Russia and the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan. She was a backup crew member, next in line after Cirque du Soleil co-founder Guy Laliberté, when he traveled to the International Space Station as a tourist. However, she did not actually go up into space.
Additionally, Barrett was chairman of Aerospace Corp., a nonprofit that oversees a federally funded research and development center for space enterprise. On top of that, she has served as a board member of the National Air and Space Museum, the Rand Corp., Sally Ride Science, and the Space Foundation in addition to the Smithsonian’s board of regents.
The wealthy Republican donor, who is married to the former Intel CEO Craig Barrett, would back acting defense secretary Patrick Shanahan in trying to win congressional support for the Space Force. The proposed unit would be operated under the Air Force.
It may be an uphill climb for the Pentagon, given how the House Appropriations Committee denied funding for the project earlier this week.
The committee wrote in the draft bill, “While the Committee appreciates the intent of the proposal, the plan leaves many unanswered questions and lacks important details and supporting analysis to justify the proposed size, scope, cost, roles, and authorities for the new military service.
“Further, the Committee notes that it is fully within the Department’s current authority to make space a higher priority without creating a new military service and is not persuaded that the specific plan proposed justifies the additional overhead cost and disruption across the Department.”