Secretary of the Air Force
Seal of the Department of the Air Force
Flag of the secretary
Frank Kendall III
since July 28, 2021
Department of the Air Force
StyleMr. 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
FormationSeptember 18, 1947; 75 years ago (1947-09-18)
Succession3rd in SecDef succession
DeputyThe Under Secretary
(principal civilian deputy)
The Chief of Staff
(military deputy)
The Chief of Space Operations (military deputy)
SalaryExecutive Schedule, Level II
WebsiteOffice of the Secretary
Stuart Symington is sworn-in as the first Secretary of the Air Force by Chief Justice Fred M. Vinson on September 18, 1947.

The secretary of the Air Force, sometimes referred to as the secretary of the Department of the Air Force,[1] (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.[2] 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][3]

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 as the 26th Secretary of the Air Force.


The secretary is the head of the Department of the Air Force. The Department of the Air Force is defined as a Military Department.[4] 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.[5]

The exclusive responsibilities of the secretary of the Air Force are enumerated in 10 U.S.C. § 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.[3]

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 U.S.C. § 9013(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.[6]

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.[7] 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.[8] 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,[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 Force

Office of the Secretary of the Air Force
Agency overview
Parent agencyDepartment of the Air Force
Secretary of The Air Force Verne Orr with Chairman of The Joint Chiefs of Staff General David C. Jones and  Air Force Chief of Staff General Lew Allen and Air Force Vice Chief of Staff General Robert C. Mathis at Bolling Air Force Base on May 28, 1982.

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:

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
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
Bill Clements Acting
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
William Howard Taft IV Acting
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 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
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 days Robert Gates
Leon Panetta
Chuck Hagel
Barack Obama
22 October 2, 2008 June 21, 2013 1723
Acting Eric Fanning June 21, 2013 December 20, 2013 182 days Chuck Hagel
Ash Carter
23 Deborah Lee James December 20, 2013 January 20, 2017 3 years, 31 days
Lisa Disbrow
January 20, 2017 May 16, 2017 116 days Jim Mattis
Patrick M. Shanahan Acting
Donald Trump
24 Heather Wilson May 16, 2017 May 31, 2019 2 years, 15 days
Matthew Donovan
June 1, 2019 October 18, 2019 139 days Patrick M. Shanahan Acting
Mark Esper Acting
Richard V. Spencer Acting
Mark Esper
25 Barbara Barrett October 18, 2019 January 20, 2021 1 year, 94 days Mark Esper
Christopher C. Miller Acting
John P. Roth
January 20, 2021 July 28, 2021 189 days David Norquist Acting
Lloyd Austin
Joe Biden
26 Frank Kendall III[15] July 28, 2021 Present 2 years, 18 days Lloyd Austin

See also



  1. ^[bare URL PDF]
  2. ^ a b 10 U.S.C. § 9013(a)
  3. ^ a b 10 U.S.C. § 9013(b)
  4. ^ 10 U.S.C. § 101(a)(8)
  5. ^ 10 U.S.C. § 101(a)(6)
  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. ^ "DoD Executive Agent".
  13. ^ DefenseLink News Article: Army Secretary Resigns in Wake of Walter Reed Outpatient-Care Shortfalls
  14. ^ a b Air Force Almanac 2011, Accessed on September 12, 2011
  15. ^ Joe Gould, Rachel S Cohen (27 Jul 2021) Kendall confirmed as Air Force secretary after senators lift procedural holds