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 official photo (cropped).jpg
Heather Wilson

since 16 May 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
PrecursorSecretary of War
Inaugural holderStuart Symington
Formation18 September 1947; 71 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
WebsiteOffice of the Secretary

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 United States Department of Defense. 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 or her civilian deputy, the Under Secretary of the Air Force; and his or her military deputy, the Chief of Staff of the Air Force, who is the senior-most uniformed officer in the United States Air Force.

The first Secretary of the Air Force, Stuart Symington, was sworn in on 18 September 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 16 May 2017, Heather Wilson was sworn in as the next Secretary of the Air Force. Wilson was nominated by President Donald Trump on 23 January 2017, and confirmed by the US Senate on 8 May 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 18 September 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 Symington18 September 194724 April 1950949James Forrestal
Louis Johnson
Harry S. Truman
2Thomas K. Finletter.jpgThomas K. Finletter24 April 195020 January 19531002Louis Johnson
George Marshall
Robert Lovett
3Harold E Talbott.jpgHarold E. Talbott4 February 195313 August 1955920Charles WilsonDwight D. Eisenhower
4Donald A. Quarles.jpgDonald A. Quarles15 August 195530 April 1957624
5James H. Douglas, Jr..jpgJames H. Douglas, Jr.1 May 195710 December 1959953Charles Wilson
Neil McElroy
Thomas Gates
6The Air Force Role In Developing International Outer Space Law (Terrill, 1999) Page 022-1.jpgDudley C. Sharp11 December 195920 January 1961406Thomas Gates
7Eugene Zuckert.jpgEugene M. Zuckert24 January 196130 September 19651710Robert McNamaraJohn F. Kennedy
8Secretary of the Air Force Harold Brown.jpgHarold Brown1 October 196515 February 19691233Robert McNamara
Clark Clifford
Mel Laird
Lyndon B. Johnson
9Robert Seamans.jpgRobert C. Seamans, Jr.15 February 196915 May 19731550Mel Laird
Elliot Richardson
Richard M. Nixon
ActingJohn L McLucas.jpgJohn L. McLucas15 May 197318 July 197364Elliot Richardson
James Schlesinger
1018 July 197323 November 1975858James Schlesinger
Donald Rumsfeld
ActingJames W. Plummer.jpgJames W. Plummer24 November 19751 January 197638Donald RumsfeldGerald Ford
11Thomas C. Reed.jpgThomas C. Reed2 January 19766 April 1977460Donald Rumsfeld
Harold Brown
12John C. Stetson, USAF.JPGJohn C. Stetson6 April 197718 May 1979772Harold BrownJimmy Carter
ActingHans Mark.jpgHans Mark18 May 197926 July 197969
1326 July 19799 February 1981564Harold Brown
Caspar Weinberger
14Verneorr.JPGVerne Orr9 February 198130 November 19851755Caspar WeinbergerRonald Reagan
15Russell A. Rourke.jpgRussell A. Rourke9 December 19856 April 1986118
ActingEdward C. Aldridge Jr.jpgEdward C. Aldridge Jr.6 April 19868 June 198663
169 June 198616 December 1988921Caspar Weinberger
Frank Carlucci
ActingJames F. McGovern16 December 198829 April 1989134Frank Carlucci
Dick Cheney
ActingJohn J. Welch, Jr.29 April 198921 May 198922Dick CheneyGeorge H. W. Bush
17Donald B. Rice, Secretary of the Air Force.JPEGDonald B. Rice1 May 198920 January 19931360
ActingMichael Donley official portrait.jpgMichael B. Donley20 January 199313 July 1993174Les AspinBill Clinton
ActingMerrill McPeak, official military photo.JPEGMerrill A. McPeak14 July 19935 August 199322
18Wfm Widnall se1.jpgSheila E. Widnall6 August 199331 October 19971547Les Aspin
William Perry
William Cohen
ActingF. Whitten Peters 01.jpgF. Whitten Peters1 November 199730 July 1999636William Cohen
1930 July 199920 January 2001540
ActingDr Lawrence J Delaney, Acting Secretary of the Air Force.jpgLawrence J. Delaney21 January 200131 May 2001130Donald RumsfeldGeorge W. Bush
20James Roche.jpgJames G. Roche1 June 200120 January 20051329
ActingPeter B. Teets, Under Secretary of the Air Force.jpgPeter B. Teets20 January 200525 March 200564
ActingMichael Montelongo, Assistant Secretary of the Air Force for Financial Management and Comptroller.jpgMichael Montelongo25 March 200528 March 20053
ActingMichael Dominguez.jpgMichael L. Dominguez28 March 200529 July 2005123
ActingPeter Geren, Under Secretary of the U.S. Army, official photo.jpgPete Geren [12]29 July 20054 November 200598
21Michael Wynne, official portrait.jpgMichael Wynne4 November 200520 June 2008[13]959Donald Rumsfeld
Robert Gates
ActingMichael Donley official portrait.jpgMichael B. Donley21 June 2008[13]2 October 2008103Robert Gates
Leon Panetta
Chuck Hagel
Barack Obama
222 October 200821 June 20131723
ActingEric Fanning.jpgEric Fanning21 June 201320 December 2013182Chuck Hagel
Ash Carter
23Deborah Lee James.JPGDeborah Lee James20 December 201320 January 20171127
ActingLisa S. Disbrow, USAF, 2014.JPGLisa Disbrow20 January 201716 May 2017116Jim MattisDonald Trump
24Heather Wilson official photo (2) (cropped).jpgHeather Wilson16 May 2017Incumbent521

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 12 September 2011

External links[edit]