President Joe Biden on Thursday named Melissa Dalton as his pick to serve as the next under secretary of the Air Force, a shift from her current Pentagon post as the top civilian defense leader on homeland security issues.
If confirmed, Dalton would replace Gina Ortiz Jones, who left the second highest service post in March. Kristyn Jones, the assistant secretary of the Air Force, has been serving as the Air Force’s acting undersecretary since Jones’ departure.
Dalton has served multiple roles in Biden’s Pentagon as well as defense roles in the administrations of former Presidents Barack Obama and George W. Bush. Before being named assistant secretary of defense for homeland defense in March 2022, she served as principal deputy assistant secretary of defense for strategy.
Dalton also previously worked as deputy director at the Center for Strategic and International Studies’ International Security Program and as an intelligence analyst at the Defense Intelligence Agency.
She will need to be confirmed by the Senate before assuming her new role, putting a timeline for her start in doubt. Defense nominations have been stalled for seven months in the chamber amid a fight between Pentagon leaders and Alabama Republican Sen. Tommy Tuberville over the department’s abortion access policies.
The Senate confirmed three members of the Joint Chiefs of Staff this week, including new Joint Chiefs Chairman Gen. CQ Brown, the former top uniformed officer in the Air Force. But more than 300 others — including Brown’s replacement, Gen. David Allvin — are still awaiting a resolution to the political fight.
Leo covers Congress, Veterans Affairs and the White House for Military Times. He has covered Washington, D.C. since 2004, focusing on military personnel and veterans policies. His work has earned numerous honors, including a 2009 Polk award, a 2010 National Headliner Award, the IAVA Leadership in Journalism award and the VFW News Media award.