The Air Force has its 23rd secretary after the Senate confirmed Deborah Lee James by a 79 to 6 vote on Friday.
She is the second female secretary for the military branch, which has been under Congressional scrutiny this year for its handling of sexual assaults.
James touched on the issue during her confirmation hearing, telling members of the Senate Armed Services Committee, “Command is an honor and a privilege in this country, it’s not an entitlement, and those who do not live up to our values simply need to be removed from that command,” she said, the Military Times reports.
She used questions submitted to the committee in advance of her September hearing to speak out against a proposal by Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, D-N.Y., that would overhaul how the military handles sexual assaults and other major criminal cases. James noted that she had “not found sufficient evidence” that suggested Gillibrand’s recommendations would “improve sexual assault response or accountability processes.”
Her nomination was momentarily stalled by Sen. Kelly Ayotte, who wanted answers from the Air Force about the fate of the A-10 aircraft. The New Hampshire Republican lifted her hold in mid-October.
She was originally expected to be voted on earlier this week as part of a slate of nominations that started on Tuesday, but Republicans have dragged out the process largely using the debate time to discuss the decision to go nuclear before Thanksgiving and the Affordable Care Act.
James brings a vast array of experience with her. She spent a decade working for the House Armed Services Committee, before serving as the assistant secretary of Defense for reserve affairs. She also has private-sector credentials, spending time at United Technologies and Business Executives for National Security.
James, who has served as the president of the technology and engineering sector at Science Applications International Corporation since February, replaces Michael Donley, who resigned in June after five years of service.