Dr. Wilson: Budget, training decisions at forefront for Air Force

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Wilson has been confirmed. DETAILS

RAPID CITY, S.D. - U.S. Air Force Secretary nominee Dr. Heather Wilson believes budgetary decisions will be the toughest challenge ahead if she’s confirmed.

Nearly two weeks ago, the South Dakota School of Mines and Technology president testified before a senate committee regarding her nomination for Secretary of the Air Force. She was praised by U.S. Sens. John Thune and Mike Rounds, but she also took tough questions from committee democrats.

NewsCenter1 sat down with Wilson in her first chance to speak on her nomination.

"It's certainly an honor. I didn't anticipate returning to federal service, and I very much like being a university president,” Wilson said. “But sometimes you're asked to serve your country, and the right thing to do is to serve."

Hailing from a family with a history in aviation, Wilson called the Air Force Secretary nomination an honor.

She faced tough questions from the Senate Armed Services Committee in her confirmation hearing, like how the United States should counter China and other countries that invest heavily in their military.

"They are developing stealth capability, and I don't see how we can stop modernizing and expect to win a near-pier fight. And I'd rather have that fight be unfair and on our side," Wilson said, in her confirmation hearing March 30.

Wilson would be the first U.S. Air Force Academy graduate to take control of the agency, but she recognizes the challenges ahead.

"If we were designing a training space for fighters 50 years ago, you'd need something completely different today,” she said. “So, I think we'll be focused on readiness, modernization and development of the next generation of leaders in the Air Force. 

According to Wilson, half of the Air Force's combat aircraft are not properly equipped for missions.

And since the passing of the Budget Control Act of 2011, there's an increase in demand for air power, but a decline in available airmen — prompting another hurdle if she's confirmed.

"There are plenty of challenges there. The first and biggest one of course being the budget, and the fact that the Air Force is too small of what the nation expects of it,” Wilson said.

Wilson was approved by the Senate Armed Services Committee in a 22 to 5 vote. The full senate confirmation vote has not yet been scheduled.

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