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The U.S. Air Force's top civilian will resign from her post at the Department of Defense at the end of May, a U.S. defense official told CNBC.
U.S. Air Force Secretary Heather Wilson, rumored to be a top candidate for secretary of defense, is slated to become the next president of the University of Texas at El Paso.
The University of Texas System Board of Regents selected Wilson on Friday as the finalist for the top job at the school. However, under Texas state law there is a required waiting period before the Board of Regents can approve and hire Wilson.
"Since there is a state mandated 21-day waiting period, she will likely take that [time] to meet with faculty, students and staff," a UT System spokeswoman told CNBC.
"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 restoring our nation's defense," Wilson said in a statement. "We have improved the readiness of the force; we have cut years out of acquisition schedules and gotten better prices through competition; we have repealed hundreds of superfluous regulations; and we have strengthened our ability to deter and dominate in space."
In her resignation letter to President Donald Trump, Wilson cites her previous service as a university president and her love for the Southwest as part of her decision to step down.
"As you know, I left a university presidency to become Secretary of the Air Force and our family home is in New Mexico, a few hundred miles north of El Paso on the Rio Grande. If approved by the Regents, I look forward to returning to the west to help lead this fine institution," Wilson wrote to Trump.
Trump acknowledged Wilson's resignation in a tweet Friday saying, "Heather has done an absolutely fantastic job as Secretary of the Air Force, and I know she will be equally great in the very important world of higher education. A strong thank you to Heather for her service."
Wilson, 58, came to the Pentagon in 2017 to become the 24th Secretary of the Air Force. Prior to joining the Trump administration, Wilson served as a congresswoman from New Mexico from 1998 to 2009. She also was president of the South Dakota School of Mines and Technology for four years.
Her resignation comes as the Air Force deals with a fresh scandal involving sexual assault. Earlier this week, Sen. Martha McSally dramatically disclosed that she was raped by a superior officer while serving in the Air Force. "Like many victims, I felt like the system was raping me all over again," McSally said during the hearing when explaining why she did not come forward.
"We are appalled and deeply sorry for what Senator McSally experienced and we stand behind her and all victims of sexual assault. We are steadfast in our commitment to eliminate this reprehensible behavior and breach of trust in our ranks," the Air Force said in a statement.
Following the announcement of Wilson's departure, McSally wrote on Twitter that she was grateful for her service and that "her successor will have a big jet stream to fill."
What's more, the Air Force is still working to create Trump's proposed Space Force.
Currently the U.S. Air Force manages the space domain through the U.S. Space Command. Space Force would stand alongside the Army, Navy, Air Force and Marine Corps. However, the newest branch is expected to be akin to the structure of the Marine Corps, which is a component of the U.S. Department of the Navy but has separate representation on the Joint Chiefs.
The new sister service branch will be represented on the Joint Chiefs of Staff and overseen by an Air Force undersecretary for space.
Read Secretary Wilson's resignation letter to Trump: