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Heather Wilson to depart as U.S. Air Force secretary for university post

Wilson said she plans to accept a position as president of the University of Texas at El Paso and is expected to leave the Air Force in May.

By Ed Adamczyk and Allen Cone
Heather Wilson to depart as U.S. Air Force secretary for university post
U.S. Air Force Secretary Heather Wilson, L, introduces Vice President Mike Pence at the Kennedy Space Center, Fla., on Dec. 18, 2018. Wilson announced her resignation on Friday. File Photo by Joe Marino-Bill Cantrell/UPI | License Photo

March 8 (UPI) -- Secretary of the Air Force Heather Wilson on Friday announced her resignation, effective May 31, to become president of the University of Texas at El Paso.

The University of Texas System Board of Regents unanimously approved a decision on Friday to name Wilson the sole finalist for the position. The board still needs to officially approve Wilson as president.

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"Secretary Wilson is a unique candidate with her background of academic and government service," said Regent Steve Hicks at a meeting of the Board of Regents.

Wilson previously worked at the National Security Council and the U.S. Mission to NATO, as well as in the U.S. Congress from 1998 to 2009 as a representative from New Mexico. She was also president of the South Dakota School of Mines and Technology from 2013 to 2017 before President Donald Trump chose her to lead the Air Force.

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"It has been a privilege to serve alongside our airmen over the past two years, and I am proud of the progress that we have made restoring our nation's defense," Wilson said in her resignation letter. "We have improved the readiness of the force; we have cut years out of acquisition schedules and gotten better prices through competition; we have repealed hundreds of superfluous regulations; and we have strengthened our ability to deter and dominate in space."

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Trump congratulated Wilson on Friday, posting on Twitter she "has done an absolutely fantastic job as Secretary of the Air Force, and I know she will be equally great in the very important world of higher education."

Her resignation comes four months after former Defense Secretary James Mattis resigned, citing policy disagreements with the president.

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Wilson has been a critic of Trump's plans for a separate branch of the military he has dubbed Space Force. But she supports the Pentagon's decision to put the new Space Force under the Air Force. She said the new change will cost "substantially less" than as a separate branch and instead will become similar to the Marine Corps, which is part of the Navy Department.

She became the first Air Force secretary to graduate from the U.S. Air Force Academy and the third class to include women in 1982.

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