United States Secretary of the Air Force

Secretary of the Air Force

Seal of the Secretary of the Air Force

Flag of the Secretary of the Air Force
Deborah Lee James

since December 20, 2013
Department of the Air Force
Style Madam Secretary
The Honorable
(formal address in writing)
Reports to Secretary of Defense
Deputy Secretary of Defense
Appointer The President
with the advice and consent of the Senate
Term length No fixed term
Inaugural holder Stuart Symington
Formation September 18, 1947 (1947-09-18)
Succession 4th in SecDef succession
Deputy The Under Secretary
(principal civilian deputy)
The Chief of Staff
(military advisor and deputy)
Salary Level II of the Executive Schedule
Website Official Website

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

The first Secretary of the Air Force, Stuart Symington, was sworn-in on September 18, 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. The salary of SECAF IS $179,700, Level II.

On December 13, 2013, Deborah Lee James was confirmed by the United States Senate to be the next Secretary of the Air Force. She was sworn in by Timothy Beyland on December 20.[3] Undersecretary of the Air Force Eric Fanning assumed the role of acting secretary when then-Secretary of the Air Force Michael B. Donley stepped down in June.

President Obama nominated James on August 1, 2013. At that time, she was serving as president of the technology and engineering sector at Science Applications International Corporation.


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.[4] 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.[5]

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.[6]

Stuart Symington is sworn-in as Secretary of the Air Force by Chief Justice Fred M. Vinson on September 18, 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.[7]

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.[8] 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.[9] 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,[10] 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.[11][12]

Office of the Secretary of the Air Force

Office of the Secretary of the Air Force
Agency overview
Formed 1947
Headquarters Pentagon
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 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

No. Image Name Term of Office Secretaries of Defense serving under: President appointed by:
Began Ended Days of Service
1 W. Stuart Symington September 18, 1947 April 24, 1950 949 James Forrestal
Louis Johnson
Harry S. Truman
2 Thomas K. Finletter April 24, 1950 January 20, 1953 1002 Louis Johnson
George Marshall
Robert Lovett
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
Neil McElroy
Thomas Gates
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
Clark Clifford
Mel Laird
Lyndon B. Johnson
9 Robert C. Seamans, Jr. February 15, 1969 May 15, 1973 1550 Mel Laird
Elliot Richardson
Richard M. Nixon
(acting) John L. McLucas May 15, 1973 July 18, 1973 64 Elliot Richardson
James Schlesinger
10 July 18, 1973 November 23, 1975 858 James Schlesinger
Donald Rumsfeld
(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
Harold Brown
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
Caspar Weinberger
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
Frank Carlucci
(acting) James F. McGovern December 16, 1988 April 29, 1989 134 Frank Carlucci
Dick Cheney
(acting) John J. Welch, Jr. April 29, 1989 May 21, 1989 22 Dick Cheney George H. W. Bush
17 Donald B. Rice May 1, 1989 January 20, 1993 1360
(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
William Perry
William Cohen
(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 [13] July 29, 2005 November 4, 2005 98
21 Michael Wynne November 4, 2005 June 20, 2008[14] 959 Donald Rumsfeld
Robert Gates
(acting) Michael B. Donley June 21, 2008[14] October 2, 2008 103 Robert Gates
Leon Panetta
Chuck Hagel
22 October 2, 2008 June 21, 2013 1723
(acting) Eric Fanning June 21, 2013 December 20, 2013 182 Chuck Hagel
Ashton Carter
Barack Obama
23 Deborah Lee James December 20, 2013 Incumbent 1096

See also



  1. 10 USC 8013 (a)
  2. 10 USC 8013 (a)-(b)
  3. New USAF Secretary Sworn In
  4. 10 USC 101 (a)(8)
  5. 10 USC 101 (a)(6)
  6. 10 USC 8013 (b)
  7. 10 USC 162 (a)
  8. DODD 5100.1, 6.1.
  9. 10 USC 8013 (f-g)
  10. 10 USC 8013 (d)
  11. DODD 5101.2, 3. MISSION
  12. http://dod-executiveagent.osd.mil/agentListView.aspx?ID=55
  13. DefenseLink News Article: Army Secretary Resigns in Wake of Walter Reed Outpatient-Care Shortfalls
  14. 1 2 Air Force Almanac 2011, Accessed on 2011-09-12
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