Frank Kendall was sworn in as the 26th Air Force secretary on Wednesday morning, two days after the Senate confirmed him in a voice vote following a six-week delay over lawmakers’ parochial concerns.
Kendall, an Army veteran who has served as Pentagon acquisition chief and a Raytheon executive, will manage an annual budget of more than $205 billion and nearly 700,000 military and civilian employees across the Air Force and Space Force.
In a statement Wednesday, he previewed his relationship with Undersecretary Gina Ortiz Jones — who was sworn in on Monday as the first woman of color and out lesbian to hold the No. 2 post — as well as Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. Charles “CQ” Brown and Chief of Space Operations Gen. Jay Raymond.
“I am both honored and humbled to serve as the incoming Secretary of the Air Force,” Kendall said. “I will be totally focused on ensuring that our Air and Space Forces can fulfill their missions to defend the nation against our most challenging threats, today and into the future. I will do everything I can to strengthen and support the great teams of American airmen and guardians who have dedicated themselves to protecting our country.”
The new civilian leader takes over at a critical time in Washington, as Congress begins to craft its spending and policy bills for fiscal 2022 that will decide whether the Air Force can move forward with plans to revamp its aging inventory and further evolve its air, space and cyber operations for the modern era.
Kendall has also pledged to address a range of issues plaguing the service, from lackluster pilot retention to subpar military housing. He’s likewise in charge of maturing the young Space Force into a full-fledged branch of the armed forces with its own way of waging war in the final frontier.
President Joe Biden announced he would nominate Kendall for the job on April 27. He replaces acting Air Force Secretary John Roth, who temporarily took over Jan. 20 when former civilian boss Barbara Barrett left at the end of the Trump administration.
Military and civilian leaders congratulated Kendall upon his return to the Pentagon. The new secretary will be an “unmatched asset for the challenges we face today,” Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin said on Twitter. “No doubt, our airmen, guardians and their families will be served well.”
“Welcome to the world’s greatest Air Force!” Brown said in a tweet. “We’re looking forward to your leadership as the USAF accelerates the change needed in defense of our nation.”
Kendall “brings over four decades of experience in defense and national security to a critical leadership role,” the House Armed Services Committee added on social media. “HASC Democrats look forward to working with him on the service’s current and future challenges.”
Rachel Cohen joined Air Force Times as senior reporter in March 2021. Her work has appeared in Air Force Magazine, Inside Defense, Inside Health Policy, the Frederick News-Post (Md.), the Washington Post, and others.