Chief of Staff of the United States Air Force

Chief of Staff of the Air Force

Seal of the Chief of Staff

Flag of the Chief of Staff
General David L. Goldfein

since July 1, 2016
Department of the Air Force
The Air Staff
Member of Joint Chiefs of Staff
Reports to Secretary of Defense
Secretary of the Air Force
Appointer The President
with Senate advice and consent
Term length 4 years
Constituting instrument 10 U.S.C. § 8033
Precursor Commanding General, United States Army Air Forces
Formation September 18, 1947
First holder Carl A. Spaatz
Deputy Vice Chief of Staff of the Air Force
Website Official Website

The Chief of Staff of the Air Force (acronym: CSAF, or AF/CC) is a statutory office (10 U.S.C. § 8033) held by a four-star general in the United States Air Force, and is the most senior uniformed officer assigned to serve in the Department of the Air Force, and as such is the principal military advisor and a deputy to the Secretary of the Air Force; and is in a separate capacity a member of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and thereby a military adviser to the National Security Council, the Secretary of Defense, and the President. The Chief of Staff is typically the highest-ranking officer on active-duty in the U.S. Air Force unless the Chairman and/or the Vice Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff are Air Force officers.

The Chief of Staff of the Air Force is an administrative position based in the Pentagon, and while the Chief of Staff does not have operational command authority over Air Force forces (that is within the purview of the Combatant Commanders who report to the Secretary of Defense), the Chief of Staff does exercise supervision of Air Force units and organizations as the designee of the Secretary of the Air Force.

The current Chief of Staff of the Air Force is General David L. Goldfein.


Department of the Air Force

Under the authority, direction and control of the Secretary of the Air Force, the Chief of Staff presides over the Air Staff, acts as the Secretary's executive agent in carrying out approved plans, and exercises supervision, consistent with authority assigned to Commanders of the Combatant Commands, over organizations and members of the Air Force as determined by the Secretary. The Chief of Staff may also perform other duties as assigned by either the President, the Secretary of Defense or the Secretary of the Air Force.[1]

The Vice Chief of Staff of the Air Force, also a four-star general, is the Chief of Staff's principal deputy.[2]

Member of the Joint Chiefs of Staff

The Chief of Staff of the Air Force is a member of the Joint Chiefs of Staff as prescribed by 10 U.S.C. § 151. When performing his JCS duties the Chief of Staff is responsible directly to the Secretary of Defense. Like the other members of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, the CSAF is an administrative position, with no operational command authority over the United States Air Force.

Appointment and rank

The CSAF is nominated for appointment by the President and must be confirmed via majority vote by the Senate.[1] By statute, the CSAF is appointed as a four-star general.[1]

Special uniform cap

The Chief of Staff is also authorized to wear a special service cap with clouds and lightning bolts around the band of the hat. This cap is different from those worn by other general officers of the Air Force and it is for use by the Chief of Staff and Air Force officers serving as Chairman or Vice Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.

List of Chiefs of Staff, U.S. Air Force (1947–present)

Prior to the creation of this position, General Henry H. Arnold was designated first Chief of the Army Air Forces and Commanding General of the Army Air Forces during World War II.

No. Image Name Term of Office Primary Background Secretaries served under:
Began Ended Days of Service Air Force Defense
1 Carl A. Spaatz September 26, 1947 April 29, 1948 216 Fighters Stuart Symington James Forrestal
2 Hoyt S. Vandenberg April 30, 1948 June 29, 1953 1887 Attack and Fighters Stuart Symington
Thomas K. Finletter
Harold E. Talbott
James Forrestal
Louis A. Johnson
George C. Marshall
Robert A. Lovett
Charles E. Wilson
3 Nathan F. Twining* June 30, 1953 June 30, 1957 1461 Fighters and Bombers Harold E. Talbott
Donald A. Quarles
James H. Douglas, Jr.
Charles E. Wilson
4 Thomas D. White July 1, 1957 June 30, 1961 1460 Observation aircraft and Staff James H. Douglas, Jr.
Dudley C. Sharp
Eugene M. Zuckert
Charles E. Wilson
Neil H. McElroy
Thomas S. Gates
Robert S. McNamara
5 Curtis E. LeMay June 30, 1961 January 31, 1965 1311 Bombers Eugene M. Zuckert Robert S. McNamara
6 John P. McConnell February 1, 1965 July 31, 1969 1641 Fighters Eugene M. Zuckert
Harold Brown
Robert C. Seamans, Jr.
Robert S. McNamara
Clark M. Clifford
Melvin R. Laird
7 John D. Ryan August 1, 1969 July 31, 1973 1460 Bombers Robert C. Seamans, Jr.
John L. McLucas
Melvin R. Laird
Elliot Richardson
James R. Schlesinger
8 George S. Brown* August 1, 1973 June 30, 1974 333 Bombers John L. McLucas James R. Schlesinger
9 David C. Jones* July 1, 1974 June 20, 1978 1450 Bombers John L. McLucas
Thomas C. Reed
John C. Stetson
James R. Schlesinger
Donald H. Rumsfeld
Harold Brown
10 Lew Allen Jr. July 1, 1978 June 30, 1982 1460 Bombers John C. Stetson
Hans Mark
Verne Orr
Harold Brown
Caspar Weinberger
11 Charles A. Gabriel July 1, 1982 June 30, 1986 1460 Fighters Verne Orr
Russell A. Rourke
Edward C. Aldridge Jr.
Caspar Weinberger
12 Larry D. Welch July 1, 1986 June 30, 1990 1460 Fighters Edward C. Aldridge Jr.
Donald B. Rice
Caspar Weinberger
Frank Carlucci
Dick Cheney
13 Michael J. Dugan July 1, 1990 September 17, 1990 78 Fighters Donald B. Rice Dick Cheney
(Acting) John M. Loh September 18, 1990 October 29, 1990 41 Fighters
14 Merrill A. McPeak October 30, 1990 October 25, 1994 1456 Fighters Donald B. Rice
Sheila E. Widnall
Dick Cheney
Les Aspin
William J. Perry
15 Ronald R. Fogleman October 26, 1994 September 1, 1997 1041 Fighters Sheila E. Widnall William J. Perry
William S. Cohen
(Acting) Ralph E. Eberhart September 2, 1997 October 5, 1997[3] 33 Fighters William S. Cohen
16 Michael E. Ryan October 6, 1997 September 5, 2001 1430 Fighters Sheila E. Widnall
F. Whitten Peters
James G. Roche
William S. Cohen
Donald H. Rumsfeld
17 John P. Jumper September 6, 2001 September 2, 2005 1457 Fighters James G. Roche Donald H. Rumsfeld
18 T. Michael Moseley September 2, 2005 July 12, 2008 [4][5] 1044 Fighters Michael Wynne Donald H. Rumsfeld
Robert M. Gates
(Acting) Duncan J. McNabb July 12, 2008 August 12, 2008[5] 31 Airlift Michael B. Donley Robert M. Gates
19 Norton A. Schwartz August 12, 2008 August 10, 2012 1459 Airlift and Special Operations aircraft Michael B. Donley Robert M. Gates
Leon Panetta
20 Mark A. Welsh III August 10, 2012 June 24, 2016 1414 Attack and Fighters Michael B. Donley
Deborah Lee James
Leon Panetta
Chuck Hagel
Ashton Carter
21 David L. Goldfein July 1, 2016 160 Fighters Deborah Lee James Ashton Carter

*Three former chiefs of staff would later serve as Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff:

McPeak is the only Chief of Staff of the Air Force to date who has served as Acting Secretary of the Air Force (from July 14, 1993 to August 5, 1993 before Sheila Widnall took office as Secretary), thus being the only uniformed Air Force officer to have truly been the "head of the Air Force".

See also



  1. 1 2 3 10 USC 8033. Chief of Staff
  2. 10 USC 8034. Vice Chief of Staff
  3. , Accessed on 2011-09-12
  4. 1 2
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