|President of University of Texas at El Paso|
August 15, 2019
|24th United States Secretary of the Air Force|
May 16, 2017 - May 31, 2019
|Deborah Lee James|
|Matthew Donovan (acting)|
|President of the South Dakota School of Mines and Technology|
June 17, 2013 - May 10, 2017
|Member of the U.S. House of Representatives|
from New Mexico's 1st district
June 25, 1998 - January 3, 2009
Heather Ann Wilson
December 30, 1960
|Education||United States Air Force Academy (BS)|
Jesus College, Oxford (MPhil, DPhil)
|Branch/service||United States Air Force|
|Years of service||1982-1989|
Heather Ann Wilson (born December 30, 1960) is the President of the University of Texas at El Paso. She served as the 24th Secretary of the United States Air Force from 2017 through 2019. Wilson was the president of the South Dakota School of Mines and Technology in Rapid City from 2013 to 2017, and she was the first female military veteran elected to a full term in Congress. She was a Republican member of the United States House of Representatives for New Mexico's 1st congressional district from 1998 to 2009.
While Secretary of the Air Force, Wilson focused on restoring the readiness of the force which had declined after years of combat and budget constraints. She proposed and supported three straight years of double-digit budget increases for military space capability and publicly acknowledged that space is likely to be contested in any future conflict. Wilson also guided implementation of acquisition reform to reduce the time to get military capability to the warfighter and increase competition by making it easier for innovative companies to supply the Air Force. Wilson was honored by the Air Force, Army, Navy, and Department of Defense for her superior service upon her retirement.
While in the U.S. House of Representatives, Wilson focused on national security issues, serving on the United States House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence and the United States House Committee on Armed Services. She also focused on health care, energy, manufacturing and trade, and telecommunications, serving on the United States House Committee on Energy and Commerce. She opted not to run for re-election in 2008 and sought the U.S. Senate seat of retiring Senator Pete Domenici but finished second in the Republican primary to Congressman Steve Pearce, who then lost the general election to Democrat Tom Udall. On March 7, 2011, she announced another run for Senate in 2012 to replace retiring Senator Jeff Bingaman, but lost the general election to Democrat Martin Heinrich, her successor in the House of Representatives.
In April 2013 she was selected to be president of the South Dakota School of Mines and Technology by the South Dakota Board of Regents. She was the eighteenth president, and first female president, of SD Mines. On January 23, 2017, President Donald Trump announced that he would nominate Wilson as Secretary of the Air Force. The US Senate confirmed her nomination on May 8, 2017. On March 8, 2019, Wilson said that she would resign as Secretary, effective May 31, 2019, in order to assume the office of President of the University of Texas at El Paso. On March 2nd, President Trump appointed Wilson to be a member of the National Science Board.
Wilson was born on December 30, 1960 in Keene, New Hampshire, the daughter of Martha Lou, nurse, and George Douglas "Doug" Wilson, a commercial pilot and member of the Experimental Aircraft Association. Wilson grew up around aviation and hoped to become a pilot like her father and grandfather before her. Her paternal grandparents were born in Scotland. Her grandfather, George Gordon "Scotty" Wilson, flew for the Royal Air Force in World War I and emigrated to America in 1922 where he was a barnstormer and airport operator in the 1920s and 1930s. He served as a courier pilot during World War II and started the New Hampshire Civil Air Patrol where he was a Wing Commander. Her father started flying at age 13 and enlisted in the United States Air Force after high school.
The United States Air Force Academy began admitting women during Wilson's junior year at Keene High School (Keene, New Hampshire). She applied and was appointed to the Academy. At the Academy, she was the first woman to command basic training and the first woman Vice Wing Commander. She graduated in 1982 as a Distinguished Graduate (magna cum laude equivalent). Wilson earned a Rhodes Scholarship to study at the University of Oxford and continued her education at Jesus College, earning an M.Phil. and D.Phil. in international relations by 1985.
In 1990, Oxford University Press published her book, International Law and the Use of Force by National Liberation Movements, which won the 1988 Paul Reuter Prize of the International Committee of the Red Cross. The Paul Reuter Prize is awarded for a major work in the sphere of international humanitarian law. Wilson won the second Reuter prize ever awarded.
An Air Force officer for seven years, Wilson was a negotiator and political adviser to the U.S. Air Force in the United Kingdom, and a defense planning officer for NATO in Belgium, where her work included arms control negotiations.
Wilson served in the United States Air Force until 1989 when she was chosen to serve as director for European Defense Policy and Arms Control on the National Security Council staff, "the President's principal forum for considering national security and foreign policy matters with his senior national security advisors and cabinet officials. Since its inception under President Truman, the Council's function has been to advise and assist the President on national security and foreign policies. The Council also serves as the President's principal arm for coordinating these policies among various government agencies." She worked for Republican President George H. W. Bush. Her principal responsibilities included guiding the U.S. position on the Conventional Forces in Europe (CFE) negotiations and NATO affairs during the period of the fall of the Berlin Wall and the collapse of the Warsaw Pact.
In 1995, Governor Gary Johnson appointed Wilson to be Cabinet Secretary for Children Youth & Families Department, New Mexico, a $200 million state agency with 2,000 employees, where she led efforts to: reform child welfare laws; modernize the juvenile justice system; and improve early childhood education. This position led her to take an intense interest in Medicare and Medicaid and the ways in which the system can be improved to ensure the health of the American people and the American healthcare industry. Under her leadership, the department opened a juvenile work camp and a secure facility for young, non-violent offenders. It eliminated the wait for state-subsidized child care, revamped the foster care program and made adoptions faster. She also was an architect and the chief lobbyist for the governor's education agenda, including a law allowing charter schools, annual testing, and more budget authority for local school boards.
Five-term Republican Congressman Steven Schiff declared he would not run for re-election in February 1998 because of his battle with squamous cell carcinoma. Wilson resigned her cabinet post to enter the Republican primary. She won the support of Schiff and U.S. Senator Pete Domenici. Domenici called Wilson "the most brilliantly qualified House candidate anywhere in the country." After Congressman Schiff's death in March, a special election on June 23 was announced. Wilson won the Republican primary for the general election with 62 percent of the vote, "propelling her to a sizable win in the June 2 primary for the fall election against conservative state senator William F. Davis."
Three weeks after winning the primary, Wilson won the special election with 44 percent of the vote in a four-way race against Democratic state senator Phil Maloof, Green Party candidate Robert L. Anderson, and Libertarian Party candidation Bruce Bush. She was sworn into office on June 25, 1998, making her the first woman since Georgia Lusk in 1946, and the first Republican woman ever, to represent New Mexico.
The special election set a record for the infusion of party money. For the June 23 special election, Maloof spent $3.1 million, approximately $1.5 million of which came from the Maloof family fortune and $1 million from committees. Wilson received $1 million from various GOP committees and raised an additional $1.5 million herself.
The special election also raised awareness of a 1996 occurrence when Wilson had her family's foster parent records relocated to a more secure location. After completing an investigation, Former District Attorney Bob Schwartz confirmed that the file was intact, accessible to the Department, and had not been tampered with. It remained in the custody of the Department, available for any official use but unavailable to her other than through the process all foster parents must use to get access to their records. Wilson produced an affidavit from the Department that the file remained intact and unavailable to her for the duration of her time as Cabinet Secretary.
Less than five months later in the general election, Wilson faced Phil Maloof again. This time, she won a full term, defeating Maloof 48 percent to 41 percent. Maloof far outspent Wilson again, spending an additional $5 million to Wilson's $1.1 million, making it the most expensive House race in New Mexico's history.
In 2004, Wilson faced Romero again. Outside spending on the election was the 15th highest of all House races that year, totaling $2,499,980. The National Republican Congressional Committee spent $1,085,956 in the race. The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee spent $1,296,402.
Wilson and 66 other candidates received $10,000 donations from then-U.S. House Majority Leader Tom DeLay's Americans for a Republican Majority (ARMPAC) political action committee. ARMPAC filed termination papers with the Federal Election Commission on April 24, 2007. Wilson returned the $10,000 donation from ARMPAC.
During Wilson's reelection campaign in 2004, Romero ran advertisements that made the suggestion that her votes in Congress aided Osama bin Laden because she had voted against a bill to require the screening of cargo holds. Wilson's campaign countered with a policy ad stating Romero "voted against the death penalty for child molesters who murder their victims."
Wilson won the election by eight points.
In the 2006 elections, Heather Wilson faced New Mexico Attorney General Patricia A. Madrid, and a poll taken from October 24-29 prior to the election by Reuters/Zogby showed Madrid leading Wilson 53-44. Wilson won the election by 875 (out of 211,000) votes, or 0.4%
Wilson was the first woman to represent New Mexico since Georgia Lusk in the 1940s. Wilson was a member of the Republican Main Street Partnership, a coalition of centrist Republican leaders. Wilson has appeared on HBO's Real Time with Bill Maher.
On October 10, 2002, together with 213 other Republicans and 81 Democrats, Wilson voted in favor of authorizing the use of military force against Iraq.
The Albuquerque Journal reported several instances in 2004 when Wilson acted in opposition to Republican interests: requiring the Bush administration to release cost figures for his prescription drug plan, lecturing Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld about the importance of the Geneva Conventions during an Abu Ghraib hearing, and opposing a move by House Republicans to protect Tom DeLay from his fundraising scandal. Critics said these were calculated moves to moderate her image for her upcoming election. Later, she lost her seat on the House Armed Services Committee due to the actions of Republican Joe Barton, an ally of DeLay.
In 2003, Wilson joined 221 Republicans and 1 Democrat in voting against a Motion to Recommit the Medicare Prescription Drug, Improvement, and Modernization Act of 2003 (HR 1). The motion would have deleted entire sections of the joint House and Senate compromise bill and replaced them with the respective Senate version.
On January 21, 2004, legislation was introduced by Congressman Fred Upton to increase the fines and penalties for violating the prohibitions against the broadcast of obscene, indecent, or profane language. On February 11, 2004, the United States House Energy Subcommittee on Telecommunications and the Internet held a hearing on the bill, at which representatives of the Federal Communications Commission, major broadcasting corporations, and the National Football League testified. During the hearing, Wilson denounced Karmazin saying, "You knew what you were doing. You knew what kind of entertainment you're selling, and you wanted us all to be abuzz, here in this room and on the playground in my kids' school, because it improves your ratings. It improves your market share, and it lines your pockets." The bill, H.R. 3717, passed the House of Representatives on March 26, 2004 by a vote of 391-22-1.
On February 7, 2006, Wilson, while serving as Chairwoman of the House Intelligence Subcommittee on Technical and Tactical Intelligence, called for a full congressional inquiry into the NSA warrantless surveillance. Eric Lichtblau of The New York Times said that "the congresswoman's discomfort with the operation appears to reflect deepening fissures among Republicans over the program's legal basis and political liabilities." In an interview for the article, Wilson said, "The president has his duty to do, but I have mine too, and I feel strongly about that."
Wilson was accused of and later cleared of influencing the termination of a U.S. Attorney. In February 2007, former U.S. Attorney David Iglesias alleged that Wilson's competitive 2006 campaign for re-election to the House was a significant reason for his dismissal from the Justice Department. In a March 2007 statement, Wilson said an October call to Iglesias was to resolve an allegation of ethical impropriety made against Iglesias, which Iglesias denied. Iglesias never reported the contact, as he was required to do by DOJ rules. In July 2007, the United States House Committee on Ethics decided not to proceed with any investigation of Wilson. The Justice Department also did a review and the matter was thereafter closed.
Wilson, along with 80 Democrats and 215 other Republicans, supported House passage of the conference report on the Healthy Forests Restoration Act, which opponents argued would "reduce and expedite (speed up) environmental and judicial reviews of forest thinning projects.
Wilson, 36 Democrats, and 192 other Republicans supported House passage of the Threatened and Endangered Species Recovery Act of 2005, which would have amended and reauthorized the Endangered Species Act of 1973 to provide greater results conserving and recovering listed species, and for other purposes.
The League of Conservation Voters (LCV) Action Fund, the political advocacy group's Political Action Committee (PAC), named Wilson to its 2006 "Dirty Dozen" list of members of Congress targeted for defeat by the LCV in the 2006 elections. The LCVAF also issued a press release in which Wilson was criticized for voting against a $58 million fund for voluntary conservation measures in the state.
Wilson was defeated in a June 3, 2008 primary against Congressman Steve Pearce by a margin of 51% to 49%. Wilson immediately endorsed Pearce's candidacy, saying that Republicans have "no time for disappointment or for bitterness. Republicans have made their choice and I gladly accept it." In the general election, Pearce was overwhelmingly defeated by Congressman Tom Udall, 61% to 39%.
On November 6, 2012, incumbent Democratic U.S. Senator Jeff Bingaman decided to retire instead of running for reelection to a sixth term. Wilson won the Republican nomination to succeed him, and faced Democrat Martin Heinrich, who had succeeded Wilson in Congress. In the general election, Heinrich defeated Wilson 51% to 45%.
Wilson served as President of the South Dakota School of Mines and Technology from 2013 to 2017, leaving to accept the appointment of Secretary of the Air Force. She returned to academia as the President of the University of Texas at El Paso following her resignation as Secretary of the Air Force.
This section needs expansion. You can help by adding to it. (March 2019)
Wilson was sworn in as Secretary of the Air Force on May 16, 2017.
She is the 24th Secretary of the Air Force and in this position responsible for the matters of the Air Force Department, including the organization, training, equipping and supplying 685,000 active, guard, reserve and civilian personnel and their families. She supervises the Air Force's yearly budget of more than $ 138 billion and leads strategy and policy development, risk management, weapons procurement, technology investments and human resources management within a global enterprise.
Wilson was the head of the consulting firm, Heather Wilson & Company after leaving Congress.
During her Senate campaign, the Department of Energy began a review of her contracts with national laboratories. In June 2013, a Department of Energy Inspector General report claimed that Wilson collected $450,000 from four Department of Energy facilities between January 2009 and March 2011. The report criticized the labs for maintaining unsatisfactory documentation on the work performed. The labs disagreed with the report.
Sandia Corp., one of the laboratories, reimbursed the federal government for the fees paid to Heather Wilson & Company. There was a settlement agreement with the Justice Department, and Wilson was not mentioned in that agreement. In addition, Wilson stated that she "was not a lobbyist for Sandia and [she] was not a member of the Contract Strategy Team criticized by the Inspector General's report."
|U.S. House of Representatives|
| Member of the U.S. House of Representatives
from New Mexico's 1st congressional district
|Party political offices|
| Republican nominee for U.S. Senator from New Mexico
| President of the South Dakota School of Mines and Technology
| President of the University of Texas at El Paso
Deborah Lee James
| United States Secretary of the Air Force