President Trump intends to nominate Heather Wilson, a former New Mexico representative and a graduate of the Air Force Academy, to be the next Air Force secretary.
Wilson is now president of the South Dakota School of Mines and Technology in Rapid City, South Dakota, a position she has held since 2013.
"Heather Wilson is going to make an outstanding secretary of the Air Force," Trump said in a statement Monday announcing his planned nomination. "Her distinguished military service, high level of knowledge, and success in so many different fields gives me great confidence that she will lead our nation's Air Force with the greatest competence and integrity."
In the statement, Wilson, a Keene, New Hampshire, native, pledged to help make a stronger Air Force.
"America and our vital national interests continue to be threatened," Wilson said. "I will do my best, working with our men and women in the military, to strengthen American air and space power to keep the country safe."
If confirmed, Wilson would be the first Air Force Academy graduate to ever serve as secretary. She graduated in 1982, as part of the third class to admit women in academy history. She also was a Rhodes Scholar at Oxford University in England, where she studied international relations and earned masters and doctoral degrees.
She would replace former Air Force Secretary Deborah Lee James, who left office on Friday with the Obama administration.
The Trump administration statement said Wilson, who comes from a family of aviators, served as an officer in Europe, and is an instrument rated private pilot.
According to her House biography, Wilson left the Air Force in 1989 to join the National Security Council as its director for European defense policy and arms control. She represented New Mexico in the House of Representatives from 1998 to 2009, and chaired the House Subcommittee on Technical and Tactical Intelligence. She also served on the House Armed Services Committee and was a senior member of the House Energy and Commerce Committee.
She tried to run for former New Mexico Sen. Pete Domenici's seat in 2008, but lost the Republican primary and retired from the House when the 110th Congress concluded.
But controversy has also followed Wilson in her career. In 2007, she was connected to the scandal involving the firing of U.S. attorneys when it emerged that she had contacted one of those prosecutors, New Mexico U.S. Attorney David Iglesias, during a corruption probe of Democratic officials in that state.
Iglesias alleged Wilson pressured him to speed up the investigation, but she denied his accusations. In a statement to the Washington Post, Wilson called her conversation with Iglesias "brief and professional" and said she did not ask him about the timing of indictments, tell him what he should do, or pressure him.
After leaving Congress, Wilson formed a firm called Heather Wilson and Company, which entered into contracts with four Energy Department contractor-operated sites for "advice and consultation": the Los Alamos National Laboratory, Oak Ridge National Laboratory, Sandia National Laboratories, and the Nevada National Security Site.
But according to a 2013 Energy Department inspector general report, although Wilson's company was paid roughly $450,000, the facilities did not receive evidence that the work agreed upon had been completed. The IG said the government fully reimbursed the contractors for those payments.
The White House did not respond to an emailed request for comment by press time.
Wilson has three grown children with her husband, Jay Hone, who is a retired Air Force colonel.
Trump has not yet announced his pick for Navy secretary. His choice to head the Army,
, has not yet been confirmed.
Stephen Losey covers leadership and personnel issues as the senior reporter for Air Force Times. He comes from an Air Force family, and his investigative reports have won awards from the Society of Professional Journalists. He has traveled to the Middle East to cover Air Force operations against the Islamic State.