US Air Force Secretary Heather Wilson, who was considered a top candidate to become the next secretary of defense, said on Friday she has decided to resign and return to academia, leaving another vacant post at the top level of the Pentagon.
Wilson confirmed the news, first reported by Reuters, saying she had informed President Donald Trump of her plans to become president of the University of Texas at El Paso. She plans to step down on May 31.
The resignation leaves another senior Pentagon job open and follows the December departure of Defense Secretary Jim Mattis, who quit over policy differences with Trump and who had hand-picked Wilson for the post.
Like Mattis, Wilson was a staunch advocate of alliances like NATO and firmly supported Mattis' push to refocus the US military on higher-end competition with China and Russia after more than a decade-and-a-half of counterinsurgency campaigns.
"It has been a privilege to serve alongside our Airmen over the past two years and I am proud of the progress that we have made in restoring our nation's defenses," Wilson, 58, said in her resignation letter to Trump.