A Conversation with former Air Force Secretary Deborah James

We co-hosted an informal discussion with former Air Force Secretary Deborah James in partnership with the Georgetown Center for Security Studies.

Secretary James served as the 23rd United States Secretary of the Air Force from December 20, 2013 until January 20, 2017, becoming the second women to ever hold this position. During her tenure, she was faced with many challenges, from battling sexual assault in the military, to rebuilding and speeding up the Air Force acquisition process, to addressing the health of the nuclear enterprise, to the future of space.

Prior to becoming Secretary, James was a professional staff member on the House Armed Services Committee from 1983 to 1993. Following this role, from 1993 to 1998, James served in the Pentagon under the Clinton administration as the Assistant Secretary of Defense for Reserve Affairs. Prior to her Senate confirmation in 1993, she served as an assistant to the Assistant Secretary of Defense for Legislative Affairs.

For the better part of a decade, James held a variety of positions with Science Applications International Corporation (SAIC) and from 2000 to 2001, she was Executive Vice President and Chief Operating Officer at Business Executives for National Security. From 1998 to 2000 she was Vice President of International Operations and Marketing at United Technologies. Prior to being named Secretary of the Air Force, she served as President of SAIC’s Technical and Engineering Sector with 8,700 employees. James holds a B.A. in Comparative Area Studies from Duke University in Durham, North Carolina, and a Masters Degree in International Affairs from Columbia University in New York City.