At Air Force Academy Ceremony, New Secretary Puts Emphasis On Space

Dan Boyce/CPR News
Air Force Secretary Barbara Barrett shakes hands with Deputy Secretary of Defense, David Norquist, after being sworn-in at the US Air Force Academy on November 2nd, 2019.

The U.S. Air Force Academy hosted a ceremonial swearing-in for new Air Force Secretary Barbara Barrett Saturday, shortly before the annual rivalry football game between the Air Force Falcons and Army Black Knights.

The Falcons went on to win, 17-13.

Barrett, a former U.S. ambassador to Finland as well as a business executive with deep experience in the aeronautic and space industries, officially took over as the 25th Air Force Secretary on Oct. 18 in Washington, D.C. 

The secretary is the highest civilian position in America’s military branches. While Barrett does not have prior military experience, she is an instrument-rated pilot who trained and was certified for space flight. Air Force Times also reports Barrett was the first civilian woman to land an F/A-18 Hornet on an aircraft carrier.

A number of notable dignitaries attended the Saturday ceremony, including Sen. Cory Gardner and just-former Air Force Secretary Heather Wilson. Barrett was sworn-in by Deputy Secretary of Defense, David Norquist.

Dan Boyce/CPR News
Sen. Cory Gardner and just-former Air Force Secretary Heather Wilson look on during a swearing-in ceremony for new Air Force Secretary Barbara Barrett on November 2nd, 2019.

After taking the oath of office, Barrett told those gathered in the Academy’s Polaris Hall that the Air Force’s principles — Integrity First, Service Before Self and Excellence in All We Do — represent the ‘north star’ of her branch.

“Guided by the core values, the United States Air Force is the best at what we do, defending our nation in air, in space and in cyberspace,” Barrett said.

Barrett has been a firm advocate for the Trump Administration’s plan to create a separate Space Force, a new branch of the military that would operate underneath the Air Force in much the same way the Marines are nested within the Navy. 

"Before your first cup of coffee in the morning, you've used space. We depend upon space for our power, for our information, our navigation, for everything we do, space is involved," Barrett said in a news conference that followed the swearing-in ceremony.

Norquist said Barrett’s background as would be helpful in transitioning the military toward a greater focus on space and reiterated the pitch that a separate branch would be the most effective way to do that.

“We know future wars are going to be very different than the wars of the past and so what we need to do is be investing in not just the equipment, but the people and the warfighting doctrines that allow us to win in those domains,” Norquist said.

Barrett’s Senate confirmation as Secretary was not without its controversy. Some Democratic lawmakers worried Barrett would not do enough to avoid financial relationships between the military and President Trump’s private companies.

Connecticut Democrat Sen. Richard Blumenthal attempted to block her confirmation after Barrett declined to say she would prevent Air Force personnel from staying at Trump properties. Blumenthal’s effort failed and Barrett was ultimately confirmed 85-7 on Oct. 16.

Barrett is the fourth woman to serve as the Air Force Secretary.