SEPTEMBER 13, 2019 – The Senate Armed Services Committee profoundly understands the threats great-power competition presents to U.S. interests as properly prioritized in the National Defense Strategy, the president’s choice to serve as the next Air Force secretary said at a committee hearing considering her nomination.
Barbara M. Barrett is a pilot who served as U.S. ambassador to Finland during President George W. Bush’s administration.
“China and Russia continually challenge free and open international order, impose their authoritarian model beyond their borders and attempt to undermine long-standing alliances,” Barrett told the committee.
A recent independent, bipartisan strategy commission appointed by Congress concluded that the Air Force will be at the forefront of any future conflict, she added.
“We cannot afford to lose our competitive edge. If confirmed, I would work with Congress and the administration to build upon our manpower resources to meet our national defense needs. The Air Force must not only retain its technical edge over potential adversaries, but we must expand it,” Barrett emphasized.
If confirmed, she said, she will continue investments in modernization and advanced capabilities to better equip U.S. airmen so they can prevail in the high-end fight.
“While attending to readiness, modernization and reform, I will also work closely with our allies and deepen global partnerships,” she said.
And standing up the Space Force would be a key imperative, Barrett said. “I believe we need a Space Force,” she told the senators. “In fact, in my opinion, a domain-specific service organized to train and equip space forces is overdue.”
Most Americans use space before having their first cup of coffee in the morning, she pointed out. “Space controls our electricity, our water, our financial transactions and of course, navigation, information and communication,” Barrett noted. “While space is ubiquitous, it is also invisible, and often underappreciated.”
U.S. national power depends upon space, and its potential adversaries know it, she said, adding that the United States must be prepared to defend critical space assets, increase the resilience of its space enterprise and be prepared to fight and win should deterrence fail.
“Finally, as we focus on organizing, training and equipping for combat, we cannot ignore the readiness challenges close to home,” Barrett said. The nation must support its airmen by addressing suicides, sexual assault, housing and quality of life, she added.
“Much work has been done to address these serious issues, and if confirmed, I would support and fortify those efforts,” the Air Force secretary nominee said.
Barrett said she looks forward to leading the nation’s airmen if confirmed.
“Most Americans tuck their kids in bed at night without a thought about foreign threat, because brave men and women in uniform stand ready,” she told the Senate panel. “It is because of their sacrifices that we all sleep well. As an aviator, I have a deep love and respect for the Air Force and the men and women — uniformed and civilian — who serve, and their families.”
BY TERRI MOON CRONK