Under the Dome

Duke grad's confirmation to Air Force Secretary on hold

Deborah Lee James, President Barack Obama’s choice to be the next secretary of the Air Force, is a Duke University graduate. James majored in comparative studies and graduated in 1979.

If she’s confirmed by the Senate, James will be responsible for 330,000 active-duty men and women in the Air Force, 176,000 Air National Guard and Air Force Reserve members, and about 186,000 civilian defense workers. She’ll also oversee a budget of more than $110 billion. She'd also be only the second woman to serve as secretary of the Air Force.

But it’s not clear when the Senate will vote on her nomination, even when the shutdown ends and senators can focus on anything else. Sen. Kelly Ayotte, R-N.H., put a hold on her confirmation before the shutdown began. Ayotte said she’d maintain the block until the Air Force told her whether it has decided to eliminate the A-10 military attack aircraft.

James currently is president of the technology and engineering sector at Science Applications International Corp., better known as SAIC. She has a long career related to military affairs, all as a civilian. She told senators at her confirmation hearing in September that she’s served 17 years in government and 15 years in the private sector, mostly at SAIC.

Her government service included a decade on the staff of the House Armed Services Committee and five years as the assistant secretary of defense for reserve affairs. She’s now a member of DACOWITS, the Defense Advisory Committee on Women in the Services, an advisory group that reports to Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel.

James also earned a master’s degree from the School of International and Public Affairs at Columbia University. She is married to Frank Beatty and they have four children.

— Renee Schoof, McClatchy Washington Bureau

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