WASHINGTON: Senate Confirms Obama Pick for Air Force Chief (UPDATE)
Updates to add Welsh taking over as 20th Air Force Chief of Staff and include photo
Clearing Political Turbulence
Gen. Mark Welsh has made it through the politically bumpy election year Senate confirmation process to become the new head of the U.S. Air Force.
The Senate voted to confirm Welsh as Air Force chief of staff Thursday (Aug. 2) just hours after a one senator – dissatisfied with the Air Force’s response to a sex abuse scandal at the service’s primary basic training facility – removed his objection to Welsh’s nomination, known as a “hold.”
Sen. John Cornyn, a Texas Republican, had no objection to Welsh — a highly-regarded 36-year veteran of the Air Force and most recently commander of U.S. Air Forces in Europe. But Cornyn blocked the general’s nomination from going forward until he got assurances the Air Force would adequately address the sex assault scandal at Lackland Air Force Base outside San Antonio, Texas where several training instructors have been accused of assaulting female recruits. A former instructor at the base was sentenced last month to 20 years in prison after a court martial found him guilty of rape and sexual assault. The investigation continues.
After meeting with Welsh, Cornyn issued a statement saying he believed Welsh “shares my grave concern” about the situation at the training base, part of Joint Base San Antonio, and “demonstrated a genuine resolve to improving Air Force-wide policies to prevent a recurrence.” Cornyn lifted his hold.
In May, another senator threatened to hold up all Air Force command nominations – including Welsh’s – in a dispute over the costs of transferring an F-16 fighter squadron from one Alaskan air base to another. That dispute cooled after Air Force officials arranged a meeting with Sen. Mark Begich, an Alaska Democrat.
President Obama nominated Welsh, 58, for the top Air Force command position May 10. A 1976 Air Force Academy graduate, 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, a ground attack jet also known as the “Warthog.”
As head of Air Force operations in Europe, Welsh was responsible for an area of operations that included 51 countries in Europe, Asia and the Middle East. He also had administrative control for U.S. Air Forces Africa, which provides logistical support and aircraft for U.S. Africa Command (AFRICOM). Previously, Welsh served as associate director for military affairs at the Central Intelligence Agency.
Entry filed under: Africa, National Security and Defense, News Developments, Washington. Tags: Africa, AFRICOM, Air Force, Air Force Chief of Staff, Air Force Gen. Mark Welsh, Air Force Gen. Norton Schwartz, Defense, military aviation.