There has been a setback for President Trump’s vision of waging celestial war through a military Space Force.
Air Force Secretary Heather Wilson, one of the key architects and driving leaders of the president’s program, has submitted her resignation and intends to return to an academic role later this year, CNN reports. Wilson will be the next president of the University of Texas El Paso beginning in September, provided the school votes accordingly to approve her stepping into the new leadership role.
“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. 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of the force; we have cut years out of acquisition schedules and gotten better prices through competition; we have repealed hundreds of superfluous regulations; and we have strengthened our ability to deter and dominate in space,” Wilson wrote in her letter of resignation, which was obtained by CNN.
Trump took to Twitter to express his appreciation for the work Wilson has done and to wish her well. The president indicated that she was the sole finalist for the job in El Paso and predicted that she would do great things in the academic world.
— CNN Politics (@CNNPolitics) March 2, 2019
Despite speculation to the contrary, a senior official familiar with the decision said that Wilson’s resignation was not due to any problems or controversies taking place at the Pentagon related to Space Force or otherwise.
It is true, however, that Wilson had long been a skeptic of Trump’s original proposal for Space Force, which would have created a new standalone independent military entity which would be added to the existing branches, which are the Army, Navy, Marines, Air Force, and Coast Guard. Wilson felt that the plan was misguided considering that much of the proposed new entity would be made up of existing Air Force units and resources. It was also largely agreed upon that a president would not have the unilateral authority to create a new branch of the military independent of Congress, a roadblock unlikely to be overcome in the current political climate, particularly after the Democrats overtook the House in the 2018 midterms.
After the recent resignation of Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis, Wilson was rumored as being under consideration to fill that role in contrast to another top contender, acting secretary Patrick Shanahan. The two were known to clash on a number of high profile issues related to the Pentagon, including the ultimate costs associated with setting up Space Force.