United States Secretary of the Air Force
|Secretary of the Air Force|
Seal of the Secretary of the Air Force
Flag of the Secretary of the Air Force
|Department of the Air Force|
(formal address in writing)
|Reports to||Secretary of Defense|
Deputy Secretary of Defense
with the advice and consent of the Senate
|Term length||No fixed term|
|Precursor||Secretary of War|
|Inaugural holder||Stuart Symington|
|Formation||September 18, 1947|
|Succession||4th in SecDef succession|
|Deputy||The Under Secretary|
(principal civilian deputy)
The Chief of Staff
|Salary||Executive Schedule, Level II|
|Website||Office of the Secretary|
The Secretary of the Air Force (SecAF, or SAF/OS) is the head of the Department of the Air Force, a military department within the United States Department of Defense. The Secretary of the Air Force is a civilian appointed by the President, by and with the advice and consent of the Senate. The Secretary reports to the Secretary of Defense and/or the Deputy Secretary of Defense, and is by statute responsible for and has the authority to conduct all the affairs of the Department of the Air Force.
The Secretary works closely with their civilian deputy, the Under Secretary of the Air Force; and their military deputy, the Chief of Staff of the Air Force, who is the head of the United States Air Force.
The first Secretary of the Air Force, Stuart Symington, was sworn in on September 18, 1947 upon the split and re-organization of the Department of War and Army Air Forces into a air military department and a military service of its own, with the enactment of the National Security Act.
Matthew Donovan has been serving as the acting secretary since June 1, 2019.
The Secretary is the head of the Department of the Air Force. The Department of the Air Force is defined as a Military Department. It is not limited to the Washington headquarter staffs, rather it is an entity which includes all the components of the United States Air Force, including its reserve components:
The term 'department', when used with respect to a military department, means the executive part of the department and all field headquarters, forces, reserve components, installations, activities, and functions under the control or supervision of the Secretary of the department.
The exclusive responsibilities of the Secretary of the Air Force are enumerated in Title 10 Section 9013 (b) of the United States Code. They include, but are not limited to:
(4) Equipping (including research and development).
(9) Administering (including the morale and welfare of personnel).
(11) The construction, outfitting, and repair of military equipment.
(12) The construction, maintenance, and repair of buildings, structures, and utilities and the acquisition of real property and interests in real property necessary to carry out the responsibilities specified in this section.
By direction of the Secretary of Defense, the Secretary of the Air Force assigns military units of the Department of the Air Force, other than those who carry out the functions listed in 10 USC 8013 (b), to the Unified and Specified Combatant Commands to perform missions assigned to those commands. Air Force units while assigned to Combatant Commands may only be reassigned by authority of the Secretary of Defense.
However, the chain of command for Air Force units for other purposes than the operational direction goes from the President to the Secretary of Defense to the Secretary of the Air Force to the Commanders of Air Force Commands. Air Force Officers have to report on any matter to the Secretary, or the Secretary's designate, when requested. The Secretary has the authority to detail, prescribe the duties, and to assign Air Force service members and civilian employees, and may also change the title of any activity not statutorily designated. The Secretary has several responsibilities under the Uniform Code of Military Justice (UCMJ) with respect to Air Force service members, including to authority to convene General Courts Martial and to commute sentences.
The Secretary of the Air Force may also be assigned additional responsibilities by the President or the Secretary of Defense, e.g. the Secretary is designated as the "DoD Executive Agent for Space", and as such:
... shall develop, coordinate, and integrate plans and programs for space systems and the acquisition of DoD Space Major Defense Acquisition Programs to provide operational space force capabilities to ensure the United States has the space power to achieve its national security objectives.
Office of the Secretary of the Air Force
|Parent agency||Department of the Air Force|
The Secretary of the Air Force's principal staff element, the Office of the Secretary of the Air Force, has responsibility for acquisition and auditing, comptroller issues (including financial management), inspector general matters, legislative affairs, and public affairs within the Department of the Air Force. The Office of the Secretary of the Air Force is one of the Department of the Air Force's two headquarter staffs at the seat of government, the other one is the Air Staff.
The Office of the Secretary of the Air Force is composed of:
- Under Secretary of the Air Force
- The Deputy Under Secretary of the Air Force for International Affairs
- The Deputy Under Secretary of the Air Force for Space Programs
- Assistant Secretary of the Air Force for Acquisition, Technology and Logistics
- Assistant Secretary of the Air Force for Financial Management and Comptroller
- Assistant Secretary of the Air Force for Installations, Environment and Logistics
- Assistant Secretary of the Air Force for Manpower and Reserve Affairs
- General Counsel of the Department of the Air Force
- Inspector General of the Air Force
- Chief of Legislative Liaison
- Administrative Assistant to the Secretary of the Air Force
- Auditor General of the Department of the Air Force
- Air Reserve Forces Policy Committee
Chronological list of Secretaries of the Air Force
|No.||Image||Name||Term of office||Secretary of Defense||Appointed by President|
|Began||Ended||Days of Service|
|1||W. Stuart Symington||September 18, 1947||April 24, 1950||949||James Forrestal
|Harry S. Truman|
|2||Thomas K. Finletter||April 24, 1950||January 20, 1953||1002||Louis Johnson|
|3||Harold E. Talbott||February 4, 1953||August 13, 1955||920||Charles Wilson||Dwight D. Eisenhower|
|4||Donald A. Quarles||August 15, 1955||April 30, 1957||624|
|5||James H. Douglas, Jr.||May 1, 1957||December 10, 1959||953||Charles Wilson|
|6||Dudley C. Sharp||December 11, 1959||January 20, 1961||406||Thomas Gates|
|7||Eugene M. Zuckert||January 24, 1961||September 30, 1965||1710||Robert McNamara||John F. Kennedy|
|8||Harold Brown||October 1, 1965||February 15, 1969||1233||Robert McNamara
|Lyndon B. Johnson|
|9||Robert C. Seamans, Jr.||February 15, 1969||May 15, 1973||1550||Mel Laird
|Richard M. Nixon|
|Acting||John L. McLucas||May 15, 1973||July 18, 1973||64||Elliot Richardson|
Bill Clements Acting
|10||July 18, 1973||November 23, 1975||858||James Schlesinger|
|Acting||James W. Plummer||November 24, 1975||January 1, 1976||38||Donald Rumsfeld||Gerald Ford|
|11||Thomas C. Reed||January 2, 1976||April 6, 1977||460||Donald Rumsfeld|
|12||John C. Stetson||April 6, 1977||May 18, 1979||772||Harold Brown||Jimmy Carter|
|Acting||Hans Mark||May 18, 1979||July 26, 1979||69|
|13||July 26, 1979||February 9, 1981||564||Harold Brown|
|14||Verne Orr||February 9, 1981||November 30, 1985||1755||Caspar Weinberger||Ronald Reagan|
|15||Russell A. Rourke||December 9, 1985||April 6, 1986||118|
|Acting||Edward C. Aldridge Jr.||April 6, 1986||June 8, 1986||63|
|16||June 9, 1986||December 16, 1988||921||Caspar Weinberger|
|Acting||James F. McGovern||December 16, 1988||April 29, 1989||134||Frank Carlucci|
William Howard Taft IV Acting
|Acting||John J. Welch, Jr.||April 29, 1989||May 21, 1989||22||Dick Cheney||George H. W. Bush|
|17||Donald B. Rice||May 1, 1989||January 20, 1993||1360|
|Acting||Michael B. Donley||January 20, 1993||July 13, 1993||174||Les Aspin||Bill Clinton|
|Acting||Merrill A. McPeak||July 14, 1993||August 5, 1993||22|
|18||Sheila E. Widnall||August 6, 1993||October 31, 1997||1547||Les Aspin|
|Acting||F. Whitten Peters||November 1, 1997||July 30, 1999||636||William Cohen|
|19||July 30, 1999||January 20, 2001||540|
|Acting||Lawrence J. Delaney||January 21, 2001||May 31, 2001||130||Donald Rumsfeld||George W. Bush|
|20||James G. Roche||June 1, 2001||January 20, 2005||1329|
|Acting||Peter B. Teets||January 20, 2005||March 25, 2005||64|
|Acting||Michael Montelongo||March 25, 2005||March 28, 2005||3|
|Acting||Michael L. Dominguez||March 28, 2005||July 29, 2005||123|
|Acting||Pete Geren ||July 29, 2005||November 4, 2005||98|
|21||Michael Wynne||November 4, 2005||June 20, 2008||959||Donald Rumsfeld|
|Acting||Michael B. Donley||June 21, 2008||October 2, 2008||103||Robert Gates
|22||October 2, 2008||June 21, 2013||1723|
|Acting||Eric Fanning||June 21, 2013||December 20, 2013||182||Chuck Hagel|
|23||Deborah Lee James||December 20, 2013||January 20, 2017||1127|
|Acting||Lisa Disbrow||January 20, 2017||May 16, 2017||116||Jim Mattis
Patrick M. Shanahan Acting
|24||Heather Wilson||May 16, 2017||May 31, 2019||745|
|Acting||Matthew Donovan||June 1, 2019||Incumbent||23||Patrick M. Shanahan|
- Air Force Cross (United States)
- Department of the Air Force Decoration for Exceptional Civilian Service
- Title 10 United States Code
- Subtitle A – General Military Law
- CHAPTER 1 – DEFINITIONS
- § 101. Definitions
- CHAPTER 1 – DEFINITIONS
- Subtitle D – Air Force
- CHAPTER 6 – COMBATANT COMMANDERS
- § 162. Combatant command: assigned forces; chain of command
- CHAPTER 803 – DEPARTMENT OF THE AIR FORCE
- § 8011. Organization.
- § 8013. Secretary of the Air Force.
- § 8014. Office of the Secretary of the Air Force.
- § 8015. Under Secretary of the Air Force.
- CHAPTER 805 – THE AIR STAFF
- § 8032. The Air Staff: general duties
- § 8033. Chief of Staff
- CHAPTER 6 – COMBATANT COMMANDERS
- Subtitle A – General Military Law
- Executive Order 12909, Order of Succession of Officers To Act as Secretary of the Air Force
- Department of Defense Directive (DODD) 5100.1, Functions of the Department of Defense and Its Major Components, August 1 2002.
- Department of Defense Directive (DODD) 5101.2, DoD Executive Agent for Space, June 3 2003.
- 10 USC 8013 (a)
- 10 USC 8013 (a)-(b)
- 10 USC 101 (a)(8)
- 10 USC 101 (a)(6)
- 10 USC 8013 (b)
- 10 USC 162 (a)
- DODD 5100.1, 6.1.
- 10 USC 8013 (f-g)
- 10 USC 8013 (d)
- DODD 5101.2, 3. MISSION
- DefenseLink News Article: Army Secretary Resigns in Wake of Walter Reed Outpatient-Care Shortfalls
- Air Force Almanac 2011, Accessed on September 12, 2011