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United States Secretary of the Air Force

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]

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 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 U.S. Senate on 8 May 2017. On 9 March 2019, Secretary Wilson announced her resignation which will take effect on 31 May 2019.



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 9013 (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 ForceEdit

Office of the Secretary of the Air Force
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 ForceEdit

No. Image Name Term of office Secretary of Defense Appointed by President
Began Ended Days of Service
1   W. Stuart Symington 18 September 1947 24 April 1950 949 James Forrestal
Louis Johnson
Harry S. Truman
2   Thomas K. Finletter 24 April 1950 20 January 1953 1002 Louis Johnson
George Marshall
Robert Lovett
3   Harold E. Talbott 4 February 1953 13 August 1955 920 Charles Wilson Dwight D. Eisenhower
4   Donald A. Quarles 15 August 1955 30 April 1957 624
5   James H. Douglas, Jr. 1 May 1957 10 December 1959 953 Charles Wilson
Neil McElroy
Thomas Gates
6   Dudley C. Sharp 11 December 1959 20 January 1961 406 Thomas Gates
7   Eugene M. Zuckert 24 January 1961 30 September 1965 1710 Robert McNamara John F. Kennedy
8   Harold Brown 1 October 1965 15 February 1969 1233 Robert McNamara
Clark Clifford
Mel Laird
Lyndon B. Johnson
9   Robert C. Seamans, Jr. 15 February 1969 15 May 1973 1550 Mel Laird
Elliot Richardson
Richard M. Nixon
Acting   John L. McLucas 15 May 1973 18 July 1973 64 Elliot Richardson
James Schlesinger
10 18 July 1973 23 November 1975 858 James Schlesinger
Donald Rumsfeld
Acting   James W. Plummer 24 November 1975 1 January 1976 38 Donald Rumsfeld Gerald Ford
11   Thomas C. Reed 2 January 1976 6 April 1977 460 Donald Rumsfeld
Harold Brown
12   John C. Stetson 6 April 1977 18 May 1979 772 Harold Brown Jimmy Carter
Acting   Hans Mark 18 May 1979 26 July 1979 69
13 26 July 1979 9 February 1981 564 Harold Brown
Caspar Weinberger
14   Verne Orr 9 February 1981 30 November 1985 1755 Caspar Weinberger Ronald Reagan
15   Russell A. Rourke 9 December 1985 6 April 1986 118
Acting   Edward C. Aldridge Jr. 6 April 1986 8 June 1986 63
16 9 June 1986 16 December 1988 921 Caspar Weinberger
Frank Carlucci
Acting James F. McGovern 16 December 1988 29 April 1989 134 Frank Carlucci
Dick Cheney
Acting John J. Welch, Jr. 29 April 1989 21 May 1989 22 Dick Cheney George H. W. Bush
17   Donald B. Rice 1 May 1989 20 January 1993 1360
Acting   Michael B. Donley 20 January 1993 13 July 1993 174 Les Aspin Bill Clinton
Acting   Merrill A. McPeak 14 July 1993 5 August 1993 22
18   Sheila E. Widnall 6 August 1993 31 October 1997 1547 Les Aspin
William Perry
William Cohen
Acting   F. Whitten Peters 1 November 1997 30 July 1999 636 William Cohen
19 30 July 1999 20 January 2001 540
Acting   Lawrence J. Delaney 21 January 2001 31 May 2001 130 Donald Rumsfeld George W. Bush
20   James G. Roche 1 June 2001 20 January 2005 1329
Acting   Peter B. Teets 20 January 2005 25 March 2005 64
Acting   Michael Montelongo 25 March 2005 28 March 2005 3
Acting   Michael L. Dominguez 28 March 2005 29 July 2005 123
Acting   Pete Geren [12] 29 July 2005 4 November 2005 98
21   Michael Wynne 4 November 2005 20 June 2008[13] 959 Donald Rumsfeld
Robert Gates
Acting   Michael B. Donley 21 June 2008[13] 2 October 2008 103 Robert Gates
Leon Panetta
Chuck Hagel
Barack Obama
22 2 October 2008 21 June 2013 1723
Acting   Eric Fanning 21 June 2013 20 December 2013 182 Chuck Hagel
Ash Carter
23   Deborah Lee James 20 December 2013 20 January 2017 1127
Acting   Lisa Disbrow 20 January 2017 16 May 2017 116 Jim Mattis
Patrick Shanahan
Donald Trump
24   Heather Wilson 16 May 2017 (31 May 2019,

See alsoEdit



  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. ^
  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
  14. ^ Lamothe, Dan; Sonne, Paul (8 March 2019). "Air Force Secretary Heather Wilson says she will resign". The Washington Post. Retrieved 8 March 2019.
  15. ^ Morgan, Wesley (8 March 2019). "Air Force secretary is stepping down". Politico. Retrieved 8 March 2019.

External linksEdit