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Trump may fire Air Force Secretary due to ‘undermining’ Space Force efforts, report says

Secretary of the Air Force Heather Wilson on May 16, 2017, at the Pentagon in Washington, D.C. (Air Force Tech. Sgt. Brigitte N. Brantley/Department of Defense)
October 05, 2018

Air Force Secretary Heather Wilson could be soon be fired according to a new report.

President Trump is considering firing Wilson sometime after the Nov. elections as a result of her delaying his Space Force directive, three sources told Foreign Policy on Thursday.

The sources said Wilson had been carrying out efforts “to undermine this part of the president’s agenda from within,” ultimately pushing back on the Space Force directive, and drawing ire from President Trump, as well as Deputy Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan.

“Some senior officials know how to disagree with [the president] without being disagreeable to him. Heather Wilson hasn’t managed to do that. Her opposition to the Space Force has grated on him and I think he permanently sees her as troublesome and ineffective now,” one source said.

One source said she could be replaced as early as next month, and the administration is already seeking out potential candidates for her replacement. Rep. Mike Rogers, a strong supporter of the President’s Space Force entity, is one individual possibly under consideration, one source said.

A memo penned by Wilson was leaked in which she estimated that the Space Force would cost $13 billion over five years, and require a staff of 13,000 people. “By the time [the administration] got this most recent memo with the cost estimate, they’d kind of already had it with her and the Air Force on this, and it just put them over the top,” one of the sources said.

Wilson has publicly said she is in “complete alignment” with the Space Force directive, however. In April, she wrote a Fox News op-ed in which she declared that ensuring the accessibility of space and protecting U.S. space systems was “an urgent national priority.”

She also wrote, “the Air Force is responsible for 90 percent of America’s military space assets,” adding that the space budget was expanding to enhance “concepts and capabilities to deter and defeat any adversary who threatens our ability to freely operate in space.”

White House spokeswoman Lindsay Walters officially refuted the rumors of Wilson’s impending firing, however. “There is no discussion by the president to oust Air Force Secretary Heather Wilson—all reporting to the contrary is simply false,” she said.

Wilson was formerly an Air Force captain and represented New Mexico in Congress before she was confirmed as Air Force Secretary in May 2017. Vice President Mike Pence has referred to her as an “asset to the team.”