Defense Media Network

Deborah James Named to Become Air Force Secretary

Advertisement

Deborah James is the White House’s choice to become Secretary of the Air Force, President Barack Obama announced on August 1.

“Deborah’s strong record of public service and leadership in the private sector makes her uniquely qualified to be my nominee,” said Obama in a statement. “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.”

At a time when the Air Force needs fuel, flying time, a new bomber and a new focus on the Pacific region, some in Washington wonder whether James – who has worked in the field in the past – was chosen because of the Air Force’s ongoing scandal over sexual assault in the ranks. Supporters of the appointment see a healthy relationship between the public and private sectors and note that James seems well qualified for her new job. Critics see a “revolving door” between government and industry, with too much familiarity between the two sectors.

James is a former assistant defense secretary and House of Representatives staffer who comes from being technical and engineering president at the defense contractor Science Applications International Corp., known as SAIC. The Chairman and CEO of SAIC is former Air Force chief of staff Gen. John P. Jumper. If confirmed by the Senate, James will work with current Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. Mark Welsh.

Deborah James

Deborah James answers a question posed to her during a hearing of the Senate Armed Services Committee Sept. 19, 2013, in Washington, D.C. James will be the next secretary of the Air Force, according to a Senate confirmation vote held Dec 13. U.S. Air Force photo

James has held various positions during a 30-year career in government and the private sector. She serves on the Defense Department Advisory Committee on Women in the Services.

If confirmed by the Senate, James will replace Michael Donley, who announced his retirement on April 28 and left office June 30. Some Washington pundits praised Obama for filling the slot quickly while others wondered why it took fully three months to choose a candidate. Eric Fanning has been serving as acting secretary.

Some Washington pundits praised Obama for filling the slot quickly while others wondered why it took fully three months to choose a candidate. Eric Fanning has been serving as acting secretary.

At a time when the Air Force needs fuel, flying time, a new bomber and a new focus on the Pacific region, some in Washington wonder whether James – who has worked in the field in the past – was chosen because of the Air Force’s ongoing scandal over sexual assault in the ranks. Supporters of the appointment see a healthy relationship between the public and private sectors and note that James seems well qualified for her new job. Critics see a “revolving door” between government and industry, with too much familiarity between the two sectors.

Lawmakers blasted the Air Force this spring after a senior officer overturned a guilty verdict in a sexual assault case. A bipartisan group in the Senate wants to overhaul the military justice system to deter sexual assault. It’s not known whether James has a position on the lawmakers’ controversial proposal to take away from commanding officers the authority to reverse court-martial findings.

By

Robert F. Dorr is an author, U.S. Air Force veteran, and retired American diplomat who...