U.S. Air Force Fact Sheet


US Air ForceOrganization of the U.S. Air Force World War II had been over for two years and the Korean War lay three years ahead when the Air Force ended a 40-year association with the U.S. Army to become a separate service. The U.S. Air Force thus entered a new era in which airpower became firmly established as a major element of the nation’s defense and one of its chief hopes for deterring war.

The Department of the Air Force was created when President Harry S Truman signed the National Security Act of 1947. It became effective Sept. 18, 1947, when Chief Justice Fred M. Vinson administered the oath of office to the first secretary of the Air Force, W. Stuart Symington, a position filled by presidential appointment.

Under the National Security Act, the functions assigned to the Army Air Force’s commanding general transferred to the Department of the Air Force. The act provided for an orderly two-year transfer of these functions as well as property, personnel and records.

Later, under the Department of Defense Reorganization Act of 1958, the departments of Army, Navy and Air Force were eliminated from the chain of operational command. Commanders of unified and specified commands became responsible to the president and the secretary of defense through the Joint Chiefs of Staff. The act redefined the functions of the military departments to those of essentially organizing, training, equipping and supporting combat forces for the unified and specified commands. Each military department retained resource management of its service.

Air Force Vision

Global vigilance, reach and power.

Air Force Mission

The mission of the U. S. Air Force is to fly, fight and win … in air, space, and cyberspace.

Air Force Management

The Department of the Air Force incorporates all elements of the U.S. Air Force. It is administered by a civilian secretary appointed by the president and is supervised by a military chief of staff. The Secretariat and Air Staff help the secretary and the chief of staff direct the Air Force mission.

To assure unit preparedness and overall effectiveness of the Air Force, the secretary of the Air Force is responsible for and has the authority to conduct all affairs of the Department of the Air Force. This includes training, operations, administration, logistical support and maintenance, and welfare of personnel. The secretary’s responsibilities include research and development, and any other activity prescribed by the president or the secretary of defense.

The secretary of the Air Force exercises authority through civilian assistants and the chief of staff, but retains immediate supervision of activities that involve vital relationships with Congress, the secretary of defense, other governmental officials and the public.

Principal civilian assistants within the Secretariat are the under secretary of the Air Force, deputy under secretary for international affairs, assistant secretary for acquisition, assistant secretary for space, assistant secretary for manpower, Reserve affairs, installations and environment, and assistant secretary for financial management and comptroller.

The Office of the Secretary of the Air Force includes a general counsel, auditor general, inspector general, administrative assistant, public affairs director, legislative liaison director, small and disadvantaged business utilization director, and certain statutory boards and committees.

The Air Staff

The chief of staff, U.S. Air Force, is appointed by the president, with the consent of the Senate, from among Air Force general officers – normally for a four-year term. The chief of staff serves as a member of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and the Armed Forces Policy Council. In the JCS capacity, the chief is one of the military advisers to the president, the National Security Council and the secretary of defense. Also, the chief is the principal adviser to the secretary of the Air Force on Air Force activities.

The chief of staff presides over the Air Staff, transmits Air Staff plans and recommendations to the secretary of the Air Force and acts as the secretary’s agent in carrying them out. The chief is responsible for the efficiency of the Air Force and the preparation of its forces for military operations. The chief of staff supervises the administration of Air Force personnel assigned to unified organizations and unified and specified commands. Also, the chief supervises support of these forces assigned by the Air Force as directed by the secretary of defense. In addition, the chief of staff has responsibility for activities assigned to the Air Force by the secretary of defense.

Other members of the Air Staff are the vice chief of staff, assistant vice chief of staff, chief master sergeant of the Air Force, deputy chief of staff for personnel, deputy chief of staff for plans and programs, deputy chief of staff for air and space operations, deputy chief of staff for installations and logistics, Air Force historian, chief scientist, chief of the Air Force Reserve, chief of the National Guard Bureau, the U.S. Air Force Scientific Advisory Board, judge advocate general, director of test and evaluation, surgeon general and chief of chaplain service.

Field Organizations

The nine major commands, 35 field operating agencies, four direct reporting units and their subordinate elements constitute the field organization that carries out the Air Force mission. In addition, there are two Reserve components, the Air Force Reserve, which is also a major command, and the Air National Guard.

Major commands are organized on a functional basis in the United States and a geographic basis overseas. They accomplish designated phases of Air Force worldwide activities. Also, they organize, administer, equip and train their subordinate elements for the accomplishment of assigned missions. Major commands generally are assigned specific responsibilities based on functions. In descending order of command, elements of major commands include numbered air forces, wings, groups, squadrons and flights.

The basic unit for generating and employing combat capability is the wing, which has always been the Air Forces prime war-fighting instrument. Composite wings operate more than one kind of aircraft, and may be configured as self-contained units designated for quick air intervention anywhere in the world. Other wings continue to operate a single aircraft type ready to join air campaigns anywhere they are needed. Air base and specialized mission wings such as training, intelligence and test also support the Air Force mission. Within the wing, operations, logistics and support groups are the cornerstones of the organization.

Field operating agencies and direct reporting units are other Air Force subdivisions and report directly to Headquarters U.S. Air Force. They are assigned a specialized mission that is restricted in scope when compared to the mission of a major command. Field operating agencies carry out field activities under the operational control of a Headquarters U.S. Air Force functional manager. Direct reporting units are not under the operational control of a Headquarters U.S. Air Force functional manager because of a unique mission, legal requirements or other factors.

Major Commands

  • Air Combat Command, Langley Air Force Base, Va.
  • Air Education and Training Command, Randolph AFB, Texas
  • Air Force Materiel Command, Wright-Patterson AFB, Ohio
  • Air Force Reserve Command, Robins AFB, Ga.
  • Air Force Space Command, Peterson AFB, Colo.
  • Air Force Special Operations Command, Hurlburt Field, Fla.
  • Air Mobility Command, Scott AFB, Ill.
  • Pacific Air Forces, Hickam AFB, Hawaii
  • United States Air Forces in Europe, Ramstein AB, Germany

Note: Separate U.S. Air Force fact sheets on the major commands are available.

Field Operating Agencies

  • Air Force Audit Agency, Washington, D.C.
  • Air Force Civil Engineer Support Agency, Tyndall AFB, Fla.
  • Air Force Center for Engineering and the Environment, Brooks City-Base, Texas
  • Air Force Communications Agency, Scott AFB, Ill.
  • Air Force Cost Analysis Agency, Arlington, Va.
  • Air Force Flight Standards Agency, Washington, D.C.
  • Air Force Frequency Management Agency, Arlington, Va.
  • Air Force Historical Research Agency, Maxwell AFB, Ala.
  • Air Force Inspection Agency, Kirtland AFB, N.M.
  • Air Force Legal Services Agency, Washington, D.C.
  • Air Force Logistics Management Agency, Maxwell AFB, Gunter Annex, Ala.
  • Air Force Manpower Agency, Randolph AFB, Texas
  • Air Force Medical Operations Agency, Bolling AFB, D.C.
  • Air Force Medical Support Agency, Brooks AFB, Texas
  • Air Force National Security Emergency Preparedness Office, Washington, D.C.
  • Air Force News Agency, San Antonio, Texas
  • Air Force Office of Special Investigations, Andrews AFB, Md.
  • Air Force Nuclear Weapons and Counterproliferation Agency, Washington, D.C.
  • Air Force Operations Group, Washington, D.C.
  • Air Force Pentagon Communications Agency, Washington, D.C.
  • Air Force Personnel Center, Randolph AFB, Texas
  • Air Force Personnel Operations Agency, Washington, D.C.
  • Air Force Real Estate Agency, Bolling AFB, D.C.
  • Air Force Real Property Agency, Washington, D.C.
  • Air Force Review Boards Agency, Washington, D.C.
  • Air Force Safety Center, Kirtland AFB, N.M.
  • Air Force Security Forces Center, Lackland AFB, Texas
  • Air Force Services Agency, San Antonio, Texas
  • Air Force Studies and Analyses, Washington, D.C.
  • Air Force Technical Applications Center, Patrick AFB, Fla.
  • Air Force Weather Agency, Offutt AFB, Neb.
  • Air National Guard Readiness Center, Andrews AFB, Md.

Direct Reporting Units

  • 11th Wing, Bolling AFB, D.C.
  • Air Force Doctrine Development and Education Center, Maxwell AFB, Ala.
  • Air Force Operational Test and Evaluation Center, Kirtland AFB, N.M.
  • United States Air Force Academy, Colorado Springs, Colo.

Courtesy U.S. Air Force. August 2008