The Senate on Tuesday unanimously confirmed Gen. Charles "CQ" Brown Jr. as the next Air Force chief of staff – marking the first time an African-American officer has served as chief of staff of a military service.
Brown, the current commander of U.S. Pacific Air Forces, was confirmed 98-0 in a Senate vote presided over by Vice President Mike Pence. He was nominated to be the 22nd Air Force chief of staff by President Trump in March.
Brown has a long and distinguished career in the Air Force, with 2,900 flying hours, including 130 combat hours, primarily in F-16 Fighting Falcons. He also commanded a fighter squadron and two fighter wings, and served as the deputy commander for U.S. Central Command.
“The United States Air Force will be well served by the formidable talents of CQ Brown,” Secretary of the Air Force Barbara Barrett said following his nomination in March. “He has unmatched strategic vision and operational expertise. His leadership will be instrumental as the service continues to focus on the capabilities and talent we need to implement the National Defense Strategy.”
Trump also weighed in on Brown’s confirmation Tuesday, calling it “a historic day” and praising Brown as “a Patriot and Great Leader.”
“My decision to appoint @usairforce General Charles Brown as the USA’s first-ever African American military service chief has now been approved by the Senate,” Trump tweeted. “A historic day for America! Excited to work even more closely with Gen. Brown, who is a Patriot and Great Leader!”
The confirmation of Brown to Air Force chief of staff comes as the military – along with the rest of the country – is doing some soul searching when it comes to racial fairness in the wake of the killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis police custody.
Although the military historically has prided itself on diversity, some leaders have acknowledged that black troops often are disproportionately subject to military legal punishment and are impeded in promotions.
“I struggle with the Air Force's own demons that include the racial disparities in military justice and discipline among our youngest black male airmen,” Chief Master Sergeant of the Air Force Kaleth O. Wright, an African-American and the service's top enlisted airman, wrote in a social media post this week.
Wright was the first senior military leader to speak out after Floyd's death. He was followed by an outpouring of anger and anxiety — some directed at the services' own racial failings — from senior leaders throughout the military. Few concrete proposals for improvement have been offered, though, reflecting the difficulty of rapid change in such a large and tradition-bound institution.
The military, with African-Americans making up a little over 17 percent of its active-duty ranks, is more racially diverse than the country, which is 13 percent African American, according to 2019 Census estimates. The Army is the most diverse with more than 21 percent African Americans, while the Marine Corp is the least, with 10 percent. Blacks make up about 17 percent of the Navy and less than 15 percent of the Air Force.
But there is a much greater racial divide within the active-duty military based on rank.
Fully 19 percent of active-duty enlisted troops are black, but they make up only 9 percent of the officer corps. Of those, there are just 71 who are general or flag officers, wearing one to four stars, including only two who have attained the top four-star rank.
Fox News' Chad Pergram and The Associated Press contributed to this report.