New Air Force Secretary Barbara Barrett has strong ASU ties

Barrett was confirmed as the new Air Force Secretary by the U.S. Senate Wednesday

The U.S. Senate confirmed former Sun Devil Barbara Barrett as the next Secretary of the Air Force on Wednesday. 

Barrett will be the fourth woman to hold the position, and the 25th person to hold the title, replacing acting Secretary Matt Donovan, who held the position since June. 

The Senate voted overwhelmingly to confirm her in an 85-7 vote. 

The University congratulated Barrett in a tweet on Thursday, mentioning her three degrees from ASU and that her and her husband, Craig Barrett, are the namesakes for Barrett, The Honors College. 

Barrett spoke to The Arizona Republic about her aspirations for the position after the vote on Wednesday. 

"This will be an instance where Arizonans can know that someone who understands the American West: the water issues, the space issues, the arid lands issue, the topics of diversity, things that are Arizona topics are familiar to me and will be applied," Barrett told The Republic

Barrett has an extensive background in the aeronautical field. She is the former chairwoman of the non-profit Aerospace Corporation, which conducts space research and development from rockets to solar panels. She has also sat on the board of companies such as Raytheon, Piper Aircraft and the non-profit Space Foundation.

Her experience is also practical. Barrett is a licensed pilot, and the first woman to ever land a F-18 on an aircraft carrier. She is also trained and certified for space travel.

Barrett’s expertise in the space sector will be valuable in the case that the Space Force is created as a sixth branch of the United States military, a move she supports. 

While the infrastructure has not been finalized yet, it is likely that the department would fall under the command of the Air Force. She is a proponent of this new branch, and emphasized its importance during her Senate confirmation hearing.

Despite her resumé, several senators had concerns. There has been some controversy surrounding the Air Force as of late, with aircrews having been reportedly staying at President Donald Trump's Turnberry resort in Scotland. This has raised concerns throughout the halls of Congress about conflict of interest, particularly if the president's company has been profiting from these stays. 

Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) pressed Barrett on this issue, trying to get a commitment from her that the hotel stays would end.

"I think there should be a commitment to seek to stop Air Force spending at Trump properties. It’s really pretty simple," Blumenthal told a reporter for Defense News on Monday. 

When he did not get the commitment, Blumenthal placed a hold on Barrett's nomination, which was undone by Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.).

In the end, Blumenthal and six other senators voted against Barrett. 

Both Arizona Sens. Kyrsten Sinema, a Democrat, and Republican Martha McSally voted to confirm Barrett. 

"Ambassador Barrett's confirmation is a win for Arizona, our Air Force, and our nation,” McSally said in a statement released by her office Wednesday. “She is the perfect fit to lead the Air Force in these dangerous and  uncertain times. 

"Her confirmation is well overdue, but I am thrilled to finally  support her on the Senate floor today. I look forward to hosting her back in Arizona at our amazing Air Force bases as she leads our Airmen," McSally's statement said. 

Sinema voted to confirm Barrett, but did not release a statement. 

While Barrett is headed to Washington D.C., she has roots at ASU. Barrett received her bachelor's, master's and law degrees from ASU. 

She was a trustee and interim president at the Thunderbird School of Global Management, which is now a part of ASU, and has received an honorary doctorate in International Law from the school.

Most notably, however, is the large presence she has on the campus to this day. After a $10 million endowment, the honors college at ASU was named after her and her husband Craig Barrett, who was then the CEO at Intel.

Editor's note: Due to editor error, Barbara Barrett's name was previously misspelled in the headline. The story has been updated to reflect this change.


Reach the reporter at  jadamso8@asu.edu and follow @jadamson333 on Twitter. 

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