Air Force Secretary Heather Wilson is reportedly on the chopping block and could be fired after the midterm elections for attempting to “undermine” President Trump’s “Space Force” initiative, according to reports.
Foreign Policy reported Thursday, citing sources, that the Trump administration – including Deputy Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan -- is exasperated with Wilson for “trying to undermine this part of the president’s agenda from within.”
Wilson, who appears -- at least on the surface -- to support the proposal, said in September she was in “complete alignment” with Trump’s plans, according to the magazine.
But shortly after, a memo from Wilson was leaked estimating that the launch of Space Force would involve 13,000 people and cost $13 billion over five years, according to the report.
“By the time [the administration] got this most recent memo with the cost estimate, they’d kind of already had it with her and the Air Force on this, and it just put them over the top,” a source told the magazine.
Todd Harrison, a defense-budget expert at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, called the estimate an “example of malicious compliance” and an attempt to “shift the debate into how expensive this is going to be,” according to the Hill.
Trump first voiced his desire for creating a sixth branch of the military in March, before ordering the Pentagon in June during a speech at a meeting of the National Space Council to establish a national “space force.”
“We are going to have a space force,” Trump said in Washington D.C. “An Air Force and a Space Force. Separate, but equal.”
Vice President Mike Pence said in speech to the Defense Department in August that the Trump administration is eyeing 2020 to create the agency.
Wilson penned an opinion piece for Fox News in April in which she called the matters regarding space “an urgent national priority.”
She said the Air Force was “responsible for 90 percent of America’s military space assets” and the military was “dramatically increasing” its space budget this year.
Although no decision has been made regarding Wilson’s future, the administration has tossed around potential replacements – including Rep. Mike Rogers, an Alabama Republican who has been a vocal advocate for a separate military branch looking into space, according to Foreign Policy.
In response to the report, the White House told the magazine: “There is no discussion by the president to oust Air Force Secretary Heather Wilson — all reporting to the contrary is simply false.”
The report notes that while Wilson’s days might be numbered, she still has the support of Pence and has been called an “asset to the team,” according to a source. Pence and Wilson served together in Congress -- Pence representing districts in Indiana from 2001 to 2013, and New Hampshire-born Wilson representing New Mexico's 1st Congressional District from 1998 to 2009.