Frank Kendall won confirmation from the Senate July 26 to be the 26th Secretary of the Air Force, placing an official with decades-long service in defense issues in the top civilian job at a time when the department is navigating new global challenges and wide-reaching modernization efforts.
The vote reflected both Kendall’s well-known record in previous active duty and policy jobs and his philosophy for leading the Department of the Air Force.
With his confirmation, Kendall will be able to more fully articulate his priorities and policy preferences for how best to position the Air and Space Forces to contend with China, Russia and other strategic competitors, as well as continue to modernize the force and adapt to budget pressures.
The broad strokes, however, are already known.
“If confirmed, my priorities would be straightforward and mirror precisely those articulated by Secretary of Defense (Lloyd) Austin as they apply to the Department of the Air Force – taking care of our people, mission performance and building teams. Our military is people first and foremost,” Kendall told the Senate Armed Services Committee during his confirmation hearing May 25.
“With regard to mission performance, I believe the range and severity of the threats that we face and will face, the rapid pace of technological innovation, and the need to rapidly harness that technology in new operational concepts demand a sense of urgency and a like focus on getting our choices right,” he said during that hearing.
Kendall also committed during his confirmation hearing that he would ensure the U.S. Space Force’s continued growth and evolution.
The two-year-old Space Force, Kendall said in May, is “a critical contributor to our national security. If confirmed, I’ll be honored to have a role in making it a success.”
While the Senate’s action marks the first time Kendall will work directly within the Department of the Air Force, he is hardly unfamiliar with the mission, the Department of the Defense and national security.
He previously served in a number of senior positions for the Department of Defense, including as the Pentagon’s No. 3 official for four years during the Obama administration.
Kendall assumes the seat occupied by John Roth, who has served as Acting Air Force Secretary since Jan. 20.
A graduate of the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, New York, Kendall served 10 years on active duty in the Army, a tenure that also included a stint teaching engineering at West Point. Kendall spent time in the Pentagon as director of the tactical warfare program before moving to become assistant deputy undersecretary for Strategic Defense Systems. Kendall also worked in the private sector in defense-related jobs, most notably as Raytheon’s vice president of engineering during the mid-1990s.
In addition to graduating from West Point, Kendall earned a master’s degree in aerospace engineering from The California Institute of Technology. He earned his law degree from Georgetown University Law Center as well as an MBA from C.W. Post Campus of Long Island University.