Rep. Adam Kinzinger throws hat into the ring for Air Force secretary

Kinzinger is a member of the Foreign Affairs Committee and a defense hawk

Republican Rep. Adam Kinzinger said some Republicans suffered losses on Election Day because of backlash to the president. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call file photo)
Republican Rep. Adam Kinzinger said some Republicans suffered losses on Election Day because of backlash to the president. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call file photo)
Posted April 29, 2019 at 9:30am

Rep. Adam Kinzinger, once a frequent critic of President Donald Trump, said this weekend he would be honored to work under the commander-in-chief. 

Kinzinger, who serves in the Air National Guard, said if the president wanted him for the position of U.S. Secretary of the Air Force, he would consider the role. 

“If the president would determine I would be the candidate, the person that he wanted to lead the Air Force, I would certainly strongly consider it,” the Illinois Republican said in an appearance on Fox News. “It’d be an honor to be considered.”

 

Kinzinger is a member of the Foreign Affairs Committee and a major in the Air National Guard who served tours in Afghanistan and Iraq. He is a defense hawk and has been critical of Trump’s military decision-making in appearances on cable news.

“I vehemently disagree,” the Illinois congressman said on MSNBC of Trump’s decision to withdraw U.S. troops from Syria last year.

 

But the lawmaker and the president have mended on the issue of immigration.  Kinzinger has been a vocal supporter in recent months of Trump’s marquee issue: a wall along the southwestern border. 

The congressman met with the White House days after announcing support for the president’s plan to circumvent congressional spending authority to build a wall.

U.S. Secretary of the Air Force Heather Wilson announced in March that she will resign May 31st to become the president of the University of Texas at El Paso.

“The Air Force is going through a lot of transition. I think a new generation of leadership would be great for it,” 41-year-old Kinzinger said.

Aerospace industry watchers expect Matt Donovan, the second-ranking civilian at the Air Force, a former F-15 pilot and policy director for the Senate Armed Services Committee, to step into the role as acting secretary, DefenseNews reported.

Kinzinger announced his support for the wall after flying aerial surveillance missions with his Air National Guard unit along the southern border during a February deployment. Kinzinger remains an active duty member of the Wisconsin Air National Guard.

Wisconsin Gov. Tony Evers recalled the state’s national guard from the border soon after, saying there is not enough evidence to support the president’s contention of a national security crisis.

If Kinzinger resigns from Congress to become Air Force secretary, it could open up his district to a competitive election. Kinzinger was first elected in 2010, defeating Democrat incumbent Rep. Debbie Halvorson in a Republican wave.

Two years later, the Democratic-controlled Illinois legislature used the decennial redistricting process to create a congressional map that placed Kinzinger’s home in the 2nd District, which leans heavily Democratic. He opted to run against Rep. Donald Manzullo, a low-profile and more-conservative Republican, in the more conservative 16th District, which includes some of his old turf.

Kinzinger won his last election in the 16th District against immigration attorney Sara Dady with 59 percent of the vote.