United States Secretary of the Air Force

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Secretary of the Air Force
SecAF Seal.png
Seal of the Secretary of the Air Force
Flag of the Secretary of the Air Force.svg
Flag of the Secretary of the Air Force
Heather Wilson Air Force Secretary.jpg
Heather Wilson

since May 16, 2017
Department of the Air Force
StyleMadam Secretary
The Honorable
(formal address in writing)
Reports toSecretary of Defense
Deputy Secretary of Defense
AppointerThe President
with the advice and consent of the Senate
Term lengthNo fixed term
Inaugural holderStuart Symington
FormationSeptember 18, 1947; 70 years ago (1947-09-18)
Succession4th in SecDef succession
DeputyThe Under Secretary
(principal civilian deputy)
The Chief of Staff
(military advisor and deputy)
SalaryExecutive Schedule, Level II
WebsiteOfficial website

The Secretary of the Air Force (SecAF, or SAF/OS) is the head of the Department of the Air Force, a component organization within the Department of Defense of the United States. The Secretary of the Air Force is appointed from civilian life by the President, by and with the advice and consent of the Senate.[1] 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.[2]

The Secretary works closely with his/her civilian deputy, the Under Secretary of the Air Force; and his/her military deputy, the Chief of Staff of the Air Force, who is the senior ranked uniformed officer in the United States Air Force.

The first Secretary of the Air Force, Stuart Symington, was sworn-in on September 18, 1947 upon the re-organization of the Army Air Forces into a military department and a military service of its own, independent of the War Department/Army, with the enactment of the National Security Act.

On May 16, 2017, Heather Wilson was sworn in as the next Secretary of the Air Force. Wilson was nominated by President Donald Trump on January 23, 2017, and confirmed by the US Senate on May 8, 2017.


The Secretary is the head of the Department of the Air Force, analogous to that of a chief executive officer of a corporation. The Department of the Air Force is defined as a Military Department.[3] 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 and the Air National Guard:

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.[4]

The exclusive responsibilities of the Secretary of the Air Force are enumerated in Title 10 Section 8013 (b) of the United States Code. They include, but are not limited to:

(1) Recruiting.
(2) Organizing.
(3) Supplying.
(4) Equipping (including research and development).
(5) Training.
(6) Servicing.
(7) Mobilizing.
(8) Demobilizing.
(9) Administering (including the morale and welfare of personnel).
(10) Maintaining.
(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.[5]

Stuart Symington is sworn-in as Secretary of the Air Force by Chief Justice Fred M. Vinson on September 18, 1947.

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.[6]

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.[7] 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.[8] 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,[9] 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.[10][11]

Office of the Secretary of the Air Force[edit]

Office of the Secretary of the Air Force
Office of the Secretary of the Air Force seal.jpg
Agency overview
Parent agencyDepartment 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:

Chronological list of Secretaries of the Air Force[edit]

No.ImageNameTerm of officeSecretary of DefenseAppointed by President
BeganEndedDays of Service
1Portrait of W. Stuart Symington 97-1844.jpgW. Stuart SymingtonSeptember 18, 1947April 24, 1950949James Forrestal
Louis Johnson
Harry S. Truman
2Thomas K. Finletter.jpgThomas K. FinletterApril 24, 1950January 20, 19531002Louis Johnson
George Marshall
Robert Lovett
3Harold E Talbott.jpgHarold E. TalbottFebruary 4, 1953August 13, 1955920Charles WilsonDwight D. Eisenhower
4Donald A. Quarles.jpgDonald A. QuarlesAugust 15, 1955April 30, 1957624
5James H. Douglas, Jr..jpgJames H. Douglas, Jr.May 1, 1957December 10, 1959953Charles Wilson
Neil McElroy
Thomas Gates
6The Air Force Role In Developing International Outer Space Law (Terrill, 1999) Page 022-1.jpgDudley C. SharpDecember 11, 1959January 20, 1961406Thomas Gates
7Eugene Zuckert.jpgEugene M. ZuckertJanuary 24, 1961September 30, 19651710Robert McNamaraJohn F. Kennedy
8Secretary of the Air Force Harold Brown.jpgHarold BrownOctober 1, 1965February 15, 19691233Robert McNamara
Clark Clifford
Mel Laird
Lyndon B. Johnson
9Robert Seamans.jpgRobert C. Seamans, Jr.February 15, 1969May 15, 19731550Mel Laird
Elliot Richardson
Richard M. Nixon
ActingJohn L McLucas.jpgJohn L. McLucasMay 15, 1973July 18, 197364Elliot Richardson
James Schlesinger
10July 18, 1973November 23, 1975858James Schlesinger
Donald Rumsfeld
ActingJames W. Plummer.jpgJames W. PlummerNovember 24, 1975January 1, 197638Donald RumsfeldGerald Ford
11Thomas C. Reed.jpgThomas C. ReedJanuary 2, 1976April 6, 1977460Donald Rumsfeld
Harold Brown
12John C. Stetson, USAF.JPGJohn C. StetsonApril 6, 1977May 18, 1979772Harold BrownJimmy Carter
ActingHans Mark.jpgHans MarkMay 18, 1979July 26, 197969
13July 26, 1979February 9, 1981564Harold Brown
Caspar Weinberger
14Verneorr.JPGVerne OrrFebruary 9, 1981November 30, 19851755Caspar WeinbergerRonald Reagan
15Russell A. Rourke.jpgRussell A. RourkeDecember 9, 1985April 6, 1986118
ActingEdward C. Aldridge Jr.jpgEdward C. Aldridge Jr.April 6, 1986June 8, 198663
16June 9, 1986December 16, 1988921Caspar Weinberger
Frank Carlucci
ActingJames F. McGovernDecember 16, 1988April 29, 1989134Frank Carlucci
Dick Cheney
ActingJohn J. Welch, Jr.April 29, 1989May 21, 198922Dick CheneyGeorge H. W. Bush
17Donald B. Rice, Secretary of the Air Force.JPEGDonald B. RiceMay 1, 1989January 20, 19931360
ActingMichael Donley official portrait.jpgMichael B. DonleyJanuary 20, 1993July 13, 1993174Les AspinBill Clinton
ActingMerrill McPeak, official military photo.JPEGMerrill A. McPeakJuly 14, 1993August 5, 199322
18Wfm Widnall se1.jpgSheila E. WidnallAugust 6, 1993October 31, 19971547Les Aspin
William Perry
William Cohen
ActingF. Whitten Peters 01.jpgF. Whitten PetersNovember 1, 1997July 30, 1999636William Cohen
19July 30, 1999January 20, 2001540
ActingDr Lawrence J Delaney, Acting Secretary of the Air Force.jpgLawrence J. DelaneyJanuary 21, 2001May 31, 2001130Donald RumsfeldGeorge W. Bush
20James Roche.jpgJames G. RocheJune 1, 2001January 20, 20051329
ActingPeter B. Teets, Under Secretary of the Air Force.jpgPeter B. TeetsJanuary 20, 2005March 25, 200564
ActingMichael Montelongo, Assistant Secretary of the Air Force for Financial Management and Comptroller.jpgMichael MontelongoMarch 25, 2005March 28, 20053
ActingMichael Dominguez.jpgMichael L. DominguezMarch 28, 2005July 29, 2005123
ActingPeter Geren, Under Secretary of the U.S. Army, official photo.jpgPete Geren [12]July 29, 2005November 4, 200598
21Michael Wynne, official portrait.jpgMichael WynneNovember 4, 2005June 20, 2008[13]959Donald Rumsfeld
Robert Gates
ActingMichael Donley official portrait.jpgMichael B. DonleyJune 21, 2008[13]October 2, 2008103Robert Gates
Leon Panetta
Chuck Hagel
Barack Obama
22October 2, 2008June 21, 20131723
ActingEric Fanning.jpgEric FanningJune 21, 2013December 20, 2013182Chuck Hagel
Ash Carter
23Deborah Lee James.JPGDeborah Lee JamesDecember 20, 2013January 20, 20171127
ActingLisa S. Disbrow, USAF, 2014.JPGLisa DisbrowJanuary 20, 2017May 16, 2017116Jim MattisDonald Trump
24Heather Wilson Air Force Secretary (cropped).jpgHeather WilsonMay 16, 2017Incumbent365

See also[edit]



  1. ^ 10 USC 8013 (a)
  2. ^ 10 USC 8013 (a)-(b)
  3. ^ 10 USC 101 (a)(8)
  4. ^ 10 USC 101 (a)(6)
  5. ^ 10 USC 8013 (b)
  6. ^ 10 USC 162 (a)
  7. ^ DODD 5100.1, 6.1.
  8. ^ 10 USC 8013 (f-g)
  9. ^ 10 USC 8013 (d)
  10. ^ DODD 5101.2, 3. MISSION
  11. ^ http://dod-executiveagent.osd.mil/agentListView.aspx?ID=55
  12. ^ DefenseLink News Article: Army Secretary Resigns in Wake of Walter Reed Outpatient-Care Shortfalls
  13. ^ a b Air Force Almanac 2011, Accessed on 2011-09-12

External links[edit]