By Debbie Gregory.
New Air Force Secretary Heather Wilson thinks the Air Force has too much bureaucracy, too many regulations and too many people stuck doing busy work. And she wants to breathe some fresh air into the branch.
The Air Force is currently facing a crisis-level shortage in fighter pilots as well as an aging fleet, and the Rhodes Scholar is looking to improve all aspects of the service branch.
Wilson, 56, feels that this may happen by relieving airmen of undue bureaucratic and training requirements, which many believe has driven Air Force pilots into commercial aviation.
Wilson’s attitude is: “Let’s not try to tell them how to do everything. Let’s tell them what to do, and let them surprise us with their ingenuity.”
The Air Force has 660,000 airmen, but is struggling to keep up with its demands. Wilson is advocating for adding additional aircraft and people.
The Keene, N.H. native was recruited for the job by Defense Secretary Jim Mattis from the South Dakota School of Mines and Technology, a science and engineering university where Wilson served as president.
“Heather Wilson is a leader for all seasons,” Mattis said in a statement. “She distinguished herself as an active-duty Air Force officer and as the president of a university. Her experience in Congress and the private sector made her the ideal choice to lead the Air Force.”
Wilson was one of the first women to join the Air Force Academy when classes were opened up to women. She graduated in 1982 from the Air Force in Colorado Springs. She had secured a slot in flight school, but was surprised to learn she also had been accepted as a Rhodes Scholar.
She earned her doctoral degree at Oxford University. She worked as a planning officer at the headquarters of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization and at the Pentagon.
“To me, I work for General Mattis and the United States Air Force, and I am here to serve the Air Force and organize, train and equip the Air Force and make sure it sustain combat operations in air and space,” she said. “My role is to focus on securing that, and that’s what General Mattis has asked me to do. That’s a mission that can and am happy to do.”