United States Secretary of the Air Force
The secretary of the Air Force, sometimes referred to as the secretary of the Department of the Air Force, (SecAF, or SAF/OS) is the head of the Department of the Air Force and the service secretary for the United States Air Force and United States Space Force. 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.
|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
The Chief of Space Operations (military deputy)
|Salary||Executive Schedule, Level II|
|Website||Office of the Secretary|
The secretary works closely with their civilian deputy, the under secretary of the Air Force; and their military deputies, the chief of staff of the Air Force and the chief of space operations.
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 an air military department and a military service of its own, with the enactment of the National Security Act.
On July 26, 2021 the United States Senate confirmed Frank Kendall III as the next Secretary of the Air Force. On July 28, 2021, Kendall was sworn in.
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 headquarters staffs, rather it is an entity which includes all the components of the United States Air Force and United States Space Force, including their 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 Air Force and Space 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 and Space 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 and Space 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 and Space Force Commands. Air Force and Space 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 and Space 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 and Space Force service members, including the 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:
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 three headquarter staffs at the seat of government, with the others being the Air Staff and the Office of the Chief of Space Operations.
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 Energy
- Assistant Secretary of the Air Force for Manpower and Reserve Affairs
- Assistant Secretary of the Air Force for Space Acquisition and Integration
- 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 21, 1989||January 20, 1993||1340|
|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 days||Robert Gates
|22||October 2, 2008||June 21, 2013||1723|
|Acting||Eric Fanning||June 21, 2013||December 20, 2013||182 days||Chuck Hagel|
|23||Deborah Lee James||December 20, 2013||January 20, 2017||3 years, 31 days|
|January 20, 2017||May 16, 2017||116 days||Jim Mattis
Patrick M. Shanahan Acting
|24||Heather Wilson||May 16, 2017||May 31, 2019||2 years, 15 days|
|June 1, 2019||October 18, 2019||139 days||Patrick M. Shanahan Acting|
Mark Esper Acting
Richard V. Spencer Acting
|25||Barbara Barrett||October 18, 2019||January 20, 2021||1 year, 94 days||Mark Esper|
|–||John P. Roth
|January 20, 2021||July 28, 2021||189 days||David Norquist Acting
|26||Frank Kendall||July 28, 2021||Present||6 days||Lloyd Austin||Joe Biden|
- 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
- Joe Gould, Rachel S Cohen (27 Jul 2021) Kendall confirmed as Air Force secretary after senators lift procedural holds