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San Antonio Veteran Gina Ortiz Jones Confirmed As Air Force Undersecretary

Photo courtesy of Gina Ortiz Jones' campaign

The Senate on Thursday confirmed San Antonio native Gina Ortiz Jones to be the next undersecretary of the Air Force. A Filipina American, she is the first woman of color to become the undersecretary of any military branch and the second member of the LGBTQ+ community.

Jones and five other Defense Department nominees were unanimously approved. The vote came one month after the Senate Armed Services Committee advanced her nomination.

Jones attended John Jay High School and attended college on an ROTC scholarship, after which she became an Air Force intelligence officer and eventually reached the rank of captain.

Under the Bush administration, she deployed to Iraq, where she supported close air support missions.

After leaving active duty, she returned to work as an intelligence analyst for U.S. Africa Command, and later joined the Defense Intelligence Agency. In November 2016, she served under the U.S. Trade Representative during Obama and continued in that role during the Trump administration until 2017, when she decided to run for Congress.

“The type of people that were brought in to be public servants were interested in neither the public nor the service,” Jones told the Huffington Post. “That, to me, was a sign that I’m going to have to serve in a different way.”

She twice became the Democratic nominee for the U.S. House of Representatives from Texas’s 23rd Congressional District, which reaches from El Paso to San Antonio. In the first race in 2018, she lost narrowly to Republican incumbent Will Hurd. Jones was defeated by a larger margin in her 2020 campaign against Republican newcomer Tony Gonzales.

Ana Isabel / Gina Ortiz Jones Campaign
Gina Ortiz Jones Campaign

Jones will take over the duties of the Air Force undersecretary from Anthony Reardon, a member of the Senior Executive Service and the Administrative Assistant to the Secretary of the Air Force.

During her confirmation hearing, Jones said that the Air Force played a key role in meeting the nation’s challenges around the world.

“If confirmed, I will work with the Department of the Air Force leaders to ensure the total force is ready to deter, and if needed, win our nation’s wars,” she said. “Strategic competition requires we fully harness the total force’s talents and courageously invest in modernization efforts that best equip our men and women for the threats they will face.”

She pledged to work closely with the Secretary of the Air Force to evaluate the efforts being made to stand up the U.S. Space Force. Jones also spoke at length about the importance of space acquisition and America’s rivalry with China and Russia in that sphere.

Frank Kendall, the Biden administration’s choice to lead the Air Force, still hasn’t gotten a confirmation vote as several lawmakers haveput a hold on his nomination.

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Carson Frame can be reached carson@tpr.org and on Twitter at @carson_frame