At the time of the announcement, the Air Force initially estimated a final selection of two “preferred” and two “reasonable” candidates would occur sometime in the spring of this year, but given the Air Force needs to complete its site visits to the candidate bases and the delay in confirming the next Air Force Secretary, it is now likely the decision will be pushed until sometime this summer.
On March 30th, the Senate Armed Services Committee held a hearing for President Donald Trump’s nominee for Secretary of the Air Force, former New Mexico Representative Heather Wilson. During the hearing she supported Secretary Mattis’ review of the F-35 program, but expressed doubts whether the F-18 could replace the F-35 because she believes it cannot be retrofitted to include the F-35’s stealth capabilities. Dr. Wilson was also asked a few questions about whether the F-35 ANG strategic basing process would be moving forward as planned. Although she did not provide a definitive yes or no answer, Dr. Wilson said that she had no knowledge of any Air Force plan to deviate from the current F-35 ANG basing process, nor did she have any plans to reopen the process if confirmed.
The members of the Senate Armed Services Committee voted to approve Dr. Wilson’s nomination by a vote of 22-5, and it is expected that she will be confirmed as the next Secretary of the Air Force soon.