Chief of Staff of the United States Air Force

The Chief of Staff of the Air Force (acronym: CSAF, or AF/CC) is a statutory office (10 U.S.C. § 9033) 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 Air Force unless the Chairman and/or the Vice Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff are Air Force officers.

Chief of Staff of the Air Force
Seal of the Chief of Staff
Flag of the Chief of Staff
General David L. Goldfein

since 1 July 2016
Department of the Air Force
The Air Staff
AbbreviationCSAF or CC/AF
Member ofJoint Chiefs of Staff
Reports toSecretary of Defense
Secretary of the Air Force
AppointerThe President
with Senate advice and consent
Term length4 years
Constituting instrument10 U.S.C. § 8033
PrecursorCommanding General, United States Army Air Forces
Formation18 September 1947
First holderCarl A. Spaatz
DeputyVice Chief of Staff of the Air Force
WebsiteOfficial Website

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 26 September 1947 29 April 1948 216 Fighters Stuart Symington James Forrestal
2 Hoyt S. Vandenberg 30 April 1948 29 June 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* 30 June 1953 30 June 1957 1461 Fighters and Bombers Harold E. Talbott
Donald A. Quarles
James H. Douglas, Jr.
Charles E. Wilson
4 Thomas D. White 1 July 1957 30 June 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 30 June 1961 31 January 1965 1311 Bombers Eugene M. Zuckert Robert S. McNamara
6 John P. McConnell 1 February 1965 31 July 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 1 August 1969 31 July 1973 1460 Bombers Robert C. Seamans, Jr.
John L. McLucas
Melvin R. Laird
Elliot Richardson
James R. Schlesinger
8 George S. Brown* 1 August 1973 30 June 1974 333 Bombers John L. McLucas James R. Schlesinger
9 David C. Jones* 1 July 1974 20 June 1978 1450 Bombers John L. McLucas
Thomas C. Reed
John C. Stetson
James R. Schlesinger
Donald H. Rumsfeld
Harold Brown
10 Lew Allen Jr. 1 July 1978 30 June 1982 1460 Bombers John C. Stetson
Hans Mark
Verne Orr
Harold Brown
Caspar Weinberger
11 Charles A. Gabriel 1 July 1982 30 June 1986 1460 Fighters Verne Orr
Russell A. Rourke
Edward C. Aldridge Jr.
Caspar Weinberger
12 Larry D. Welch 1 July 1986 30 June 1990 1460 Fighters Edward C. Aldridge Jr.
Donald B. Rice
Caspar Weinberger
Frank Carlucci
Dick Cheney
13 Michael J. Dugan 1 July 1990 17 September 1990 78 Fighters Donald B. Rice Dick Cheney
(Acting) John M. Loh 18 September 1990 29 October 1990 41 Fighters
14 Merrill A. McPeak 30 October 1990 25 October 1994 1456 Fighters Donald B. Rice
Sheila E. Widnall
Dick Cheney
Les Aspin
William J. Perry
15 Ronald R. Fogleman 26 October 1994 1 September 1997 1041 Fighters Sheila E. Widnall William J. Perry
William S. Cohen
(Acting) Ralph E. Eberhart 2 September 1997 5 October 1997[3] 33 Fighters William S. Cohen
16 Michael E. Ryan 6 October 1997 5 September 2001 1430 Fighters Sheila E. Widnall
F. Whitten Peters
James G. Roche
William S. Cohen
Donald H. Rumsfeld
17 John P. Jumper 6 September 2001 2 September 2005 1457 Fighters James G. Roche Donald H. Rumsfeld
18 T. Michael Moseley 2 September 2005 12 July 2008[4][5] 1044 Fighters Michael Wynne Donald H. Rumsfeld
Robert M. Gates
(Acting) Duncan J. McNabb 12 July 2008 12 August 2008[5] 31 Airlift Michael B. Donley Robert M. Gates
19 Norton A. Schwartz 12 August 2008 10 August 2012 1459 Airlift and Special Operations aircraft Michael B. Donley Robert M. Gates
Leon Panetta
20 Mark A. Welsh III 10 August 2012 24 June 2016 1414 Attack and Fighters Michael B. Donley
Deborah Lee James
Leon Panetta
Chuck Hagel
Ashton Carter
21 David L. Goldfein 1 July 2016 Incumbent 1262 Fighters Deborah Lee James
Heather Wilson
Barbara Barrett
Ashton Carter
James Mattis
Mark Esper

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

  • Twining served as the Chairman from August 1957 to September 1960.
  • Brown served as the Chairman from July 1974 to June 1978.
  • Jones served as the Chairman from June 1978 to June 1982.
  • The fourth Air Force officer to have served as the Chairman, General Richard B. Myers, did not serve as Chief of Staff of the Air Force.

McPeak is the only Chief of Staff of the Air Force to date who has served as Acting Secretary of the Air Force (from 14 July 1993 to 5 August 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


  • Department of Defense Key Officials 1947–2015 (PDF). Washington, D.C.: Office of the Secretary of Defense, Historical Office. 2015.
  • HAF MISSION DIRECTIVE 1-4 - CHIEF OF STAFF OF THE AIR FORCE (PDF). Washington, D.C.: Secretary of the Air Force. 7 March 2012.
  • Headquarters United States Air Force Key Personnel (PDF). Washington, D.C.: Air Force Historical Studies Office. January 2013.


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