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Arizona diplomat Barbara Barrett confirmed to lead Air Force

(AP Photo/Andrew Harnik, File)

PHOENIX — An Arizona businesswoman and diplomat was confirmed by the U.S. Senate on Wednesday as the civilian leader of the Air Force.

Barbara Barrett is the third consecutive woman to lead the military branch, following Heather Wilson and Deborah James. Wilson resigned from the post in May to serve as the president of University of Texas at El Paso.

Barrett was confirmed as the 25th secretary of the Air Force by an 85-7 vote.

Both of Arizona’s senators, Republican Martha McSally and Democrat Kyrsten Sinema, voted in favor of confirming Barrett.

“Ambassador Barrett’s confirmation is a win for Arizona, our Air Force, and our nation,” McSally said in a statement. “She is the perfect fit to lead the Air Force in these dangerous and uncertain times.”

Barrett was most recently the chairwoman of the Aerospace Corporation, which is a federally funded research-and-development organization focused on space.

Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey said Barrett’s experience made her a perfect fit for the position.

“[Barrett] brings a wealth of knowledge, experience and expertise and is immensely qualified to serve in this capacity,” Ducey said in a statement. “With Barbara’s capable leadership, our nation’s Air Force will be in good hands, and Arizona couldn’t be prouder.”

In 1994, Barrett became the first female Republican candidate for Arizona governor.

Barrett also served as the U.S. ambassador to Finland in 2008 and 2009, under President George W. Bush.

“Barbara is supremely qualified for this role and will do a phenomenal job as head of the Department of the Air Force,” Republican U.S. Rep. Debbie Lesko said in a statement. “I look forward to working with her to protect Luke Air Force Base located in my district and the F-35 program, modernize our military, and keep our nation safe.”

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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