WASHINGTON Aug 1 President Barack Obama intends
to nominate defense industry executive and former congressional
aide Deborah Lee James as secretary of the U.S. Air Force, the
White House said on Thursday.
James heads the technology and engineering sector at Science
Applications International Corp and has been an
executive with the company since 2004, the White House said.
She was assistant secretary of defense for reserve affairs
from 1993 to 1998.
"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 statement.
Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel called James "an outstanding
leader with deep experience in the Department of Defense, the
private sector, and non-profit organizations that support the
men and women of our armed services."
If confirmed, James would become the second woman to head
the Air Force since its founding in 1947. The first was Sheila
Widnall, who served in the job from August 1993 to October 1997.
James currently serves on a Pentagon advisory committee on women
in the services.
She previously worked for Business Executives for National
Security, a non-profit group that advocates for homeland
security programs. In addition to 10 years of service on the
House Armed Services Committee, James also worked at United
Mackenzie Eaglen, an analyst with the American Enterprise
Institute, said she was encouraged that the White House had
quickly chosen a successor for former Air Force Secretary
Michael Donley after his departure at the end of June.
"The Air Force has too many senior billets vacant and it's
hurting all of the service's priorities, including budget,
strategy and readiness," she said.
Eaglen said tighter budgets were squeezing the Air Force
nearly as much as the Army, which appears to be bearing the
brunt of big budget reductions in recent years.
"The service needs a competent leader who can be confirmed
quickly and start throwing their weight around in the Pentagon
budget debates," she said.
The Air Force has had a turbulent time in recent years,
dealing with an array of acquisition problems and sexual assault