David L. Goldfein

David Lee Goldfein (born December 21, 1959) is a retired United States Air Force four-star general who last served as the 21st chief of staff of the Air Force. He previously served as the vice chief of staff of the Air Force and, prior to that, he served as the director of the Joint Staff, a position within the Joint Chiefs of Staff who assists the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.[1] Goldfein retired from the Air Force on October 1, 2020,[2] after over 37 years of service.[3][4]

David L. Goldfein
Goldfein CSAF.jpg
Goldfein in 2016
Born (1959-12-21) December 21, 1959 (age 62)
Laon-Couvron Air Base, France
AllegianceUnited States
Service/branchUnited States Air Force
Years of service1983–2020
Commands heldChief of Staff of the Air Force
Vice Chief of Staff of the Air Force
United States Air Forces Central Command
49th Fighter Wing
52nd Fighter Wing
366th Operations Group
555th Fighter Squadron
Battles/warsGulf War
Operation Allied Force
AwardsDefense Distinguished Service Medal (3)
Air Force Distinguished Service Medal
Legion of Merit (3)
Alma materUnited States Air Force Academy (BS)
Oklahoma City University (MBA)
Air War College

Early life and educationEdit

Born at Laon-Couvron Air Base in France, Goldfein is the son of William Michael "Goldie" Goldfein (November 26, 1931 – June 19, 2019) and Mary Vanni Goldfein.[5] His paternal grandfather, Boatswain's mate second class Joseph William Goldfein (June 25, 1896 – June 19, 1974), served in World War I with the United States Navy, and his father was a colonel in the Air Force from 1949 to 1982 and fought in the Vietnam War.[6] His elder brother, Stephen M. Goldfein also served in the Air Force from 1978 to 2008, retiring as a major general; Stephen Goldfein also served as Director of the Joint Staff, a position his brother David would later hold.[7] David Goldfein received his commission from the United States Air Force Academy, where he received a Bachelor of Science degree in philosophy in 1983.[8] He is also a graduate of the U.S. Air Force Weapons School at Nellis AFB. He is a Distinguished Eagle Scout and former ranger at the Philmont Scout Ranch.[9]

Military careerEdit

Goldfein gives his first "Air Force Update" at the Air Force Association in September 2016.

Goldfein is a Command Pilot with more than 4,200 flying hours with the T-37, T-38, F-16C/D, F-117A, MC-12W, and MQ-9.[1]

Goldfein commanded United States Air Forces Central, Shaw AFB, SC and Al Udeid AB, Qatar; 49th Fighter Wing, Holloman AFB, NM; 52d Fighter Wing, Spangdahlem AB, Germany; 366th Operations Group, Mountain Home AFB, ID; and the 555th Fighter Squadron, Aviano AB, Italy.

Goldfein flew combat missions during the Gulf War, and later deployed to the Vicenza Combined Air Operations Center for Operation Deliberate Force. As commander of the 555th Fighter Squadron, he led his squadron flying an F-16 fighter in Operation Allied Force. During that operation, on 2 May 1999, Goldfein's F-16 was shot down[10] over western Serbia by a S-125 surface-to-air missile fired by the 3rd Battery of the 250th Air Defense Missile Brigade of the Yugoslav Air Force. Goldfein successfully ejected, and was subsequently rescued by NATO helicopters.[11]

Chief of Staff of the U.S. Air ForceEdit

Goldfein is sworn in as the 21st chief of staff of the Air Force by Secretary of the Air Force Deborah Lee James, July 1, 2016.

On April 26, 2016, Defense Secretary Ash Carter announced that President Obama had nominated Goldfein to succeed General Mark Welsh as the 21st Chief of Staff of the Air Force.[12][13] Goldfein's experience as a consensus builder, as well as his role in formulating the Air Force's contributions to the Defense Department's third offset strategy[14] were cited by Carter and Secretary of the Air Force Deborah Lee James as reasons for his selection.[12] His confirmation hearing took place on June 16, and he succeeded Welsh on July 1, two days after his confirmation.[15][16]

As CSAF, Goldfein spearheaded the Joint All Domain Command and Control (JADC2) and Advanced Battle Management (ABMS) systems, designed to connect service-level networks, platforms and sensors into a network for communicating battle information across the joint force.[17] He prioritized restoring the squadron as the principal warfighting unit of the Air Force,[18] giving squadron commanders greater autonomy over their units, standardizing squadron command responsibilities and delegating more financial resources to squadron-level activities.[17][19] Goldfein also led a proposal to increase from 312 to 386 operational squadrons.[20][21] In September 2016, Goldfein personally selected the name "Raider" from more than 2000 naming submissions for the prototype B-21 bomber, in honor of the Doolittle Raiders.[22][23]

Goldfein initially opposed the creation of an independent space force, concerned that the creation of a new service branch would, through competition for a larger share of the Defense budget, compromise joint warfighting capability in the space domain.[17][19] He remarked that establishing the Space Force would create a "balancing act" of building a service branch based on joint warfighting capability while simultaneously developing its own service culture.[24] He eventually became supportive of the plan upon engagement with field commanders at Maxwell Air Force Base, many of whom supported the need for a separate service branch.[19] Goldfein said in an interview with National Defense that "a service chief singularly focused on space, space operations and space integration" could expedite military profitability in the space domain more efficiently than under the umbrella of the Air Force.[19]

In August 2017, Goldfein joined other members of the Joint Chiefs of Staff in condemning racism in the wake of the Unite the Right rally in Charlottesville, which was organized by an ex-Marine.[25][26] In June 2020, Goldfein publicly denounced the killing of George Floyd in a memo, calling the killing a "national tragedy" and adding that Americans "should be outraged" at the brutality shown during the incident.[27][28][29] He supported his senior enlisted advisor, Chief Kaleth O. Wright, who responded to the killing on social media.[28][30] Alongside Air Force secretary Barbara Barrett, Goldfein subsequently directed an inspector general investigation into racial inequality and advancement opportunities for African-Americans in the Air Force.[28][31]

Goldfein's term as Air Force chief of staff ended on August 6, 2020, and he was succeeded by General Charles Q. Brown Jr., who was confirmed in June.[32][33] He retired in October of the same year.[34]

Candidate for Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of StaffEdit

Goldfein was a candidate to replace General Joseph Dunford as Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff in 2019. He was favored for the appointment by both Dunford and Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis.[35][36][37] President Donald Trump, who was feuding with Mattis, nominated General Mark Milley instead.[37][36][35][38] Goldfein did not have any rancor over not being selected, stating that the president had "the absolute right and responsibility to pick the principal military adviser that he wants."[39]


Three and a half months after retiring, Goldfein joined the investment firm Blackstone.[40]


Goldfein with Secretary of Defense Ash Carter and Secretary of the Air Force Deborah Lee James at the Pentagon, April 2016.
Goldfein during a visit to Israel in August 2017.
Tail and canopy of Goldfein's F-16CG, shot down during Operation Allied Force, at the Museum of Aviation, Belgrade
  1. October 1983 – October 1984, student, undergraduate pilot training, Sheppard AFB, Texas
  2. October 1984 – February 1988, T-38 instructor pilot, 90th Flying Training Squadron, Sheppard AFB, Texas
  3. February 1988 – January 1992, F-16 instructor pilot and flight commander, 17th Tactical Fighter Squadron, Shaw AFB, S.C.
  4. January 1992 – June 1992, student, USAF Fighter Weapons Instructor Course, Nellis AFB, Nev.
  5. June 1992 – July 1994, squadron weapons officer and Chief, Wing Weapons and Tactics, 366th Composite Wing, Mountain Home AFB, Idaho
  6. July 1994 – June 1995, student, Air Command and Staff College, Maxwell AFB, Ala.
  7. June 1995 – May 1996, special assistant to the Commander, Allied Air Forces Southern Europe and Sixteenth Air Force, Naples, Italy
  8. May 1996 – August 1997, executive officer to the Commander, U.S. Air Forces in Europe, Ramstein Air Base, Germany
  9. August 1997 – June 1998, operations officer, 555th Fighter Squadron, Aviano AB, Italy
  10. June 1998 – July 2000, Commander, 555th Fighter Squadron, Aviano AB, Italy
  11. July 2000 – June 2001, student, National Defense Fellow, State Department Senior Seminar, Arlington, Va.
  12. July 2001 – July 2002, Deputy Division Chief, Combat Forces, Headquarters U.S. Air Force, Washington, D.C.
  13. August 2002 – July 2004, Commander, 366th Operations Group, Mountain Home AFB, Idaho
  14. July 2004 – June 2006, Commander, 52d Fighter Wing, Spangdahlem AB, Germany
  15. June 2006 – January 2008, Commander, 49th Fighter Wing, Holloman AFB, N.M.
  16. January 2008 – August 2009, Deputy Director of Programs, Office of the Deputy Chief of Staff for Strategic Plans and Programs, Headquarters U.S. Air Force, Washington D.C.
  17. August 2009 – August 2011, Director of Operations, Air Combat Command, Joint Base Langley-Eustis, Va.
  18. August 2011 – July 2013, Commander, U.S. Air Forces Central Command, Southwest Asia
  19. August 2013 – August 2015, Director, Joint Staff, the Pentagon, Washington, D.C.
  20. August 2015 – July 2016, Vice Chief of Staff of the U.S. Air Force, Washington, D.C.
  21. July 2016 – August 2020, Chief of Staff of the U.S. Air Force, Washington, D.C.

Awards and decorationsEdit

Personal decorations
    Defense Distinguished Service Medal with two bronze oak leaf clusters
  Air Force Distinguished Service Medal
    Legion of Merit with two bronze oak leaf clusters
    Distinguished Flying Cross with Valor device and oak leaf cluster
    Meritorious Service Medal with two bronze oak leaf clusters
    Air Medal with one silver and one bronze oak leaf clusters
Aerial Achievement Medal with oak leaf cluster
  Joint Service Commendation Medal
Air Force Commendation Medal with oak leaf cluster
  Air Force Achievement Medal
Unit awards
  Joint Meritorious Unit Award
     Air Force Outstanding Unit Award with three bronze oak leaf clusters
Service Awards
    Combat Readiness Medal with two bronze oak leaf clusters
Campaign and service medals
National Defense Service Medal with bronze service star
Armed Forces Expeditionary Medal with one service star
    Southwest Asia Service Medal with two service stars
  Global War on Terrorism Service Medal
  Humanitarian Service Medal
Nuclear Deterrence Operations Service Medal with oak leaf cluster
Service, training, and marksmanship awards
  Air Force Overseas Short Tour Service Ribbon
  Air Force Overseas Long Tour Service Ribbon
      Air Force Longevity Service Award with silver and three bronze oak leaf clusters
  Air Force Longevity Service Award (second ribbon to denote tenth award)
  Small Arms Expert Marksmanship Ribbon
  Air Force Training Ribbon
Foreign awards
  Order of Australia, Honorary Officer (AO) in the Military Division[41]
  Air Force Cross of Aeronautical Merit, Grand Cross (Colombia)[42]
  Grand Cordon of the Order of the Rising Sun (Japan)[43]
  Chief of Staff Medal of Appreciation (Israel)[44]
  NATO Medal for Former Yugoslavia
  Kuwait Liberation Medal (Saudi Arabia)
  Kuwait Liberation Medal (Kuwait)
Other accoutrements
  US Air Force Command Pilot Badge
  Basic Parachutist Badge
  Office of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Identification Badge
  Headquarters Air Force Badge

Effective dates of promotionEdit

Insignia Rank Date
  General August 17, 2015
  Lieutenant General August 3, 2011
  Major General July 3, 2010
  Brigadier General October 1, 2007
  Colonel April 1, 2001
  Lieutenant Colonel January 1, 1998
  Major November 1, 1994
  Captain June 1, 1987
  First Lieutenant June 1, 1985
  Second Lieutenant June 1, 1983


  1. ^ a b "General David L. Goldfein". United States Air Force. Archived from the original on 2015-09-06. Retrieved 2015-08-20.   This article incorporates text from this source, which is in the public domain.
  2. ^ "General David L. Goldfein".
  3. ^ U.S. Air Force Twitter - General Goldfein honored in a July 31 ceremony
  4. ^ AF.mil - Goldfein honored for service as Chief of Staff
  5. ^ Guibert, Nathalie (April 21, 2016). "Air Force Vice Chief pays tribute to the centennial of the Lafayette Escadrille's Aces". Le Monde. Retrieved December 10, 2019.
  6. ^ Christensen, Sig (July 2, 2019). "William 'Goldie' Goldfein, 87, raised family of Air Force leaders". San Antonio Express-News. Retrieved December 10, 2019.
  7. ^ "Interview with William Goldfein [3/23/2010] - Veterans History Project". Library of Congress. March 23, 2010. Retrieved December 10, 2019.
  8. ^ "GENERAL DAVID L. GOLDFEIN > U.S. Air Force > Biography Display". www.af.mil. Retrieved 2020-04-21.
  9. ^ Oprihory, Jennifer-Leigh (25 February 2020). "CSAF Receives Prestigious Scouting Award". Air Force Magazine. Retrieved 7 August 2020.
  10. ^ "Airframe Details for F-16 #88-0550". f-16.net. Archived from the original on 2016-11-04. Retrieved 2016-10-10.
  11. ^ Roberts, Chris (February 7, 2007). "Holloman commander recalls being shot down in Serbia". F16.net. Retrieved March 28, 2019.
  12. ^ a b Maucione, Scott (April 29, 2016). "Former war pilot picked as next Air Force chief of staff". Federal News Network.
  13. ^ "Goldfein nominated as 21st CSAF". AETC. April 26, 2016.
  14. ^ "US Air Force Key to Third Offset Strategy". Defense News. November 8, 2016.
  15. ^ "PN1388 — Gen. David L. Goldfein — Air Force, 114th Congress (2015-2016)". U.S. Congress. Retrieved June 29, 2016.
  16. ^ Gibson, Alyssa. "Goldfein swears in as 21st CSAF". U.S. Air Force.
  17. ^ a b c Tirpak, John (August 5, 2020). "The Goldfein Years". Air Force Magazine.
  18. ^ John A. Ausink, Miriam Matthews, Raymond E. Conley, Nelson Lim. "Improving the Effectiveness of Air Force Squadron Commanders: Assessing Squadron Commander Responsibilities, Preparation, and Resources" (PDF). RAND Corporation. Retrieved November 8, 2021.CS1 maint: multiple names: authors list (link)
  19. ^ a b c d "EXCLUSIVE: Q&A with Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. David Goldfein". National Defense. August 4, 2020.
  20. ^ Losey, Stephen (February 25, 2020). "The Air Force we can afford: The 386-squadron goal appears out of reach". Air Force Times.
  21. ^ Tirpak, John (September 23, 2019). "One Year Later, Air Force Looks to Network its Way to 386 Operational Squadrons". Air Force Magazine.
  22. ^ "B-21 Raider Frequently Asked Questions". Northrop Grumman. Retrieved November 8, 2021.
  23. ^ Martin, Mike (September 19, 2016). "The B-21 has a name: Raider". U.S. Air Force. Secretary of the Air Force Public Affairs. Retrieved September 21, 2016.
  24. ^ Maucione, Scott (2020-01-27). "Goldfein: Building Space Force is a balancing act of independence". Federal News Network.
  25. ^ Gen. Dave Goldfein [@GenDaveGoldfein] (August 16, 2017). "I stand with my fellow service chiefs in saying we're always stronger together" (Tweet) – via Twitter.
  26. ^ Klimas, Jacqueline (August 16, 2017). "Joint Chiefs close ranks in condemning racism". Politico.
  27. ^ Goldfein, David (June 1, 2020). "Memo on the Killing of George Floyd" (PDF). Air Force Magazine. Retrieved November 8, 2021.
  28. ^ a b c Cohen, Zachary (June 2, 2020). "Air Force commander calls George Floyd's death 'a national tragedy'". CNN. Retrieved November 8, 2021.
  29. ^ Losey, Stephen (June 3, 2020). "Goldfein: 'Every American should be outraged' at police conduct in death of George Floyd". Air Force Times.
  30. ^ "Chief Wright: 'I am George Floyd,' promises review of Air Force justice system". Air Force Times. June 2, 2020.
  31. ^ Everstine, Brian (June 2, 2020). "Goldfein on Racial Unrest: 'We Will Not Shy Away from This'". Air Force Magazine.
  32. ^ Broadwater, Luke (June 9, 2020). "Senate Confirms First Black Air Force Chief". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved June 14, 2020.
  33. ^ Kampeas, Ron (August 8, 2020). "US Air Force commander David Goldfein retires". The Times of Israel.
  34. ^ "Former CSAF retires in San Antonio". Joint Base San Antonio. 502nd Air Base Wing Public Affairs. October 6, 2020.
  35. ^ a b "Trump chooses new Joint Chiefs of Staff chairman, against Mattis wishes". outlookindia.com. Retrieved July 7, 2020.
  36. ^ a b "Mattis Quits Over Differences With Trump". foreignpolicy.com. Retrieved July 7, 2020.
  37. ^ a b "Trump chooses new Joint Chiefs of Staff chairman, against Mattis wishes". South China Morning Post. 9 December 2018. Retrieved July 7, 2020.
  38. ^ "Gen. David Goldfein, bypassed to be Trump's top military adviser, retires". washingtonpost. Retrieved August 6, 2020.
  39. ^ Pawlyk, Oriana (July 22, 2020). "'I Never Looked Back': Goldfein Says Trump's Joint Chiefs Chairman Pick Wasn't Personal". Military Times.
  40. ^ "Former Air Force Chief Goldfein Joins Blackstone". Defense One. Retrieved 2021-01-22.
  41. ^ "Gazette - C2020G00628". Federal Register of Legislation. Government of Australia. 4 August 2020. Retrieved 11 January 2021.
  42. ^ @GenDaveGoldfein (18 November 2018). "Our recent #USAF trip to Colombia is symbolic of our Nation's #EnduringPromise of friendship, partnership & solidar…" (Tweet) – via Twitter.
  43. ^ "令和3年春の外国人叙勲 受章者名簿" (PDF). Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Japan. Retrieved April 29, 2021.
  44. ^ Rockney, Noga (17 November 2019). "The Israeli Air Force : USAF Commander Visits Israel". www.iaf.org.il. Retrieved 1 July 2021.

External linksEdit

Military offices
Preceded by Commander of the 49th Fighter Wing
Succeeded by
Preceded by Director of Operations of the Air Combat Command
Succeeded by
Preceded by Commander of the United States Air Forces Central Command
Succeeded by
Preceded by Director of the Joint Staff
Succeeded by
Preceded by Vice Chief of Staff of the United States Air Force
Succeeded by
Preceded by Chief of Staff of the United States Air Force
Succeeded by