After multiple holds and months of delay, the Senate confirmed Deborah Lee James early Friday to be the 23rd Secretary of the Air Force. She is the second woman to hold the position. The 79-6 vote, which came nearly two months after her Sept. 19 nomination hearing before the Senate Armed Services Committee, was made possible by November’s nuclear option—a controversial decision to change the 60-vote majority required for final vote on Presidential nominations to a simple majority of 51 votes. James, nominated by President Obama in August, will replace Acting Secretary Eric Fanning, who has led the service since the retirement of Michael Donley in June. “I’ve seen a number of Secretaries, and I think she and (Chief of Staff Gen. Mark) Welsh will be the strongest team I have ever seen and great advocates for airpower,” Fanning told Pentagon reporters on Dec. 13. “I’m very excited to go back to my day job as undersecretary,” Fanning added. Welsh said he was excited about what James will bring to the service, and thanked Fanning for his time as USAF’s top civilian. “He never acted like the Acting Secretary,” Welsh said, adding Fanning made tough decisions and has worked tirelessly on the behalf of all airmen. (AFA release on James confirmation)
U.S. Air Force F-35s and F-22s regularly deploy deep into the Pacific region from Alaska, Utah, and Hawaii. In the future, though, the head of U.S. Indo-Pacific Command would like to see the Air Force permanently station fifth-generation aircraft west of the international date line—closer to China.