Air Force's new undersecretary sworn in

  • Published
  • By Master Sgt. Russell Petcoff
  • Secretary of the Air Force Public Affairs
The Senate confirmed the nomination of Erin C. Conaton to become the next undersecretary of the Air Force March 4 and she began her transition into the office after being sworn in March 15.

"This is a great day for the Air Force," said Secretary of the Air Force Michael Donley. "Erin will be a tremendous asset. Her extensive congressional background, coupled with her experience on national security matters, will enable her to be an outstanding champion for our Airmen."

The Air Force has been without an undersecretary since Aug. 31, 2007, when then-Undersecretary of the Air Force Ronald M. Sega returned to teaching at Colorado State University in Fort Collins, Colo.

President Obama nominated Ms. Conaton Nov. 10, 2009. At that time, she was serving as staff director of the House Armed Services Committee.

"I am extremely honored and humbled by this opportunity to serve with the tremendous men and women of the Air Force," she said. "And I take it as my charge to be the type of leader they demand and deserve, a leader who reflects the core values of this great institution."

The undersecretary is responsible for Air Force matters on behalf of Secretary Donley to include the organizing, training, equipping and providing for the welfare of its more than 334,000 men and women on active duty; 176,000 members of the Air National Guard and the Air Force Reserve; 170,000 civilians; and their families. She will oversee the service's annual budget of more than $110 billion and serve as acting secretary of the Air Force in Secretary Donley's absence.

Ms. Conaton served as the staff director of the U.S. House of Representatives Committee on Armed Services since 2007. In this job, she was the primary adviser to Chairman Ike Skelton (D-MO) and 61 other members of the HASC. She directed the overall operations, strategic planning and substantive agenda of the committee, including drafting and overseeing the annual defense authorization bill. Prior to this position, she was the minority staff director and served as a professional staff member on the committee.

Earlier in her career, Ms. Conaton served as the research staff director for the U.S. Commission on National Security/21st Century also known as the Hart-Rudman Commission. Then-Secretary of Defense William Cohen charged the commission in 1998 to design a national security strategy for a changing global environment through 2025 and to recommend plans for implementing this strategy. 

She has held several fellowships, including positions at the Central Intelligence Agency and at the National Security Council and also has served with the Council on Foreign Relations. 

Ms. Conaton earned her Bachelor of Arts degree in foreign service at Georgetown University, Washington, D.C., and her Master of Arts degree in law and diplomacy from The Fletcher School at Tufts University, in Medford, Mass.