Air Force secretary nominee confirmed, faces challenges

WASHINGTON (Gray DC) -- It’s a big day on Capitol Hill for a South Dakota college president.

The Senate voted 76-22 for Dr. Heather Wilson to become the next Secretary of the Air Force.

“The Air Force has challenges," said Michael O'Hanlon from the Brookings Institution.

Some of the immediate issues Wilson will face are aging equipment and not enough pilots. But O'Hanlon says there are also long-term concerns.

“Artificial intelligence, robotics, unmanned aircrafts, cyber threats, space threats. A lot of what the Air Force has done is really being called into question by the march of technology and the potential for adversaries to make it harder for us to operate how we have in the past," he explained.

Wilson is President Trump’s first service secretary nominee to make it to a Senate vote. Two of his Army secretary nominees and a Navy secretary nominee withdrew because of political opposition.

“There’s no doubt the Trump Administration needs some momentum on appointees. They need a lot of momentum. They need to make up for lost time. Not just to prove to the country that they’re competent, but to actually run the government," said O'Hanlon.

While Wilson is not the first woman to lead the branch, she is the first Air Force Academy graduate. O’Hanlon sees pros and cons.

“I think it can be good for someone who understands the Air Force in her heart and soul. Certainly having a woman who’s done that and a personification of how far the Air Force has come," he said. "But it can also make you biased to some of the traditional ways of doing business.”

No word yet when Wilson would take the oath of office.

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