WASHINGTON: Welsh Tapped to Be Next Air Force Chief (Update)
Air Force Chief of Staff Nominee
(Adds Alaskan senator’s delay of Air Force nominations)
Gen. Mark A. Welsh III has been nominated by President Obama to be the next Air Force Chief of Staff.
NOTE: Welsh’s nomination was confirmed by the Senate Aug. 2 and he took command as Air Force Chief of Staff Aug. 10 SEE STORY HERE.
Defense Secretary Leon Panetta announced the White House pick today (May 10) at the Pentagon. If confirmed by the Senate, Welsh would succeed current Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. Norton Schwartz whose four-year tenure ends in August.
But the general’s appointment might be held up because a senator’s unhappiness with the Air Force’s response for his request for information on an unrelated matter. (See more below)
Welsh, 58, a 1976 Air Force Academy graduate, is currently commander of U.S. Air Forces in Europe. Prior to that he served as associate director of the Central Intelligence Agency for military affairs while Panetta headed the CIA.
Welsh Previously served in the Pentagon as chief of the Defense and Space Operations Division on the Joint Staff. He has also been director of Global Power Programs in the Air Force Acquisition Office.
Welsh is a command pilot with more than 3,400 flying hours, mostly in the F-16 Fighting Falcon, an air superiority fighter and the A-10 Thunderbolt I, a ground attack jet also known as the “Warthog,” because of its unusual shape.
Meanwhile, Sen. Mark Begich of Alaska has put a hold on another Air Force general’s promotion and is threatening to hold up all Air Force command nominations until he gets some answers from the service, according to an article in Air Force Times. The hold keeps the Senate from considering confirmation of a presidential appointment like Air Force Chief of Staff.
Begich says he’s taken the drastic action — allowed under Senate rules — because the Air Force has not supplied him with the information he wants about plans to move an F-16 fighter squadron from Eielson Air Force Base, which is located 23 miles south of Fairbanks in central Alaska. The Democrat, who sits on the Senate Armed Services Committee, is steamed that Air Force officials have not provided him with a cost benefit analysis of the proposed move of the aggressor squadron — the pilots who play the bad guys in training missions and exercises — to Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson outside Anchorage. Begich has said the move would affect half of the 3,100 military and civilian jobs at Eielson, according to the Fairbanks Daily News-Miner. The Air Force says the shift would save $32 million over five years.
Begich announced Friday (May 10) that Panetta said the Pentagon will provide the information during a 30-minute meeting in Begich’s Capitol Hill office.