Air Force Secretary Donley to retire

During his five years in the the post, Donley was 'outstanding leader,' Hagel says.

Michael Donley

Michael Donley

The Air Force got a new under secretary on April 29, but will have less than two months before facing a bigger vacancy as the service's longtime secretary retires.

Air Force Secretary Michael Donley plans to step down from public service June 21, after nearly five years in the position. Before that, he served as acting secretary for four months, and also filled in during a seven-month stint in 1993 – making him the longest-serving Secretary of the Air Force in the service's history.

In an April 26 statement, Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel praised Donley's leadership and dedication.

"Mike has been an invaluable adviser during my first two months as Secretary of Defense and has been an outstanding leader of the Air Force for nearly five years," Hagel said.  "His leadership came during a challenging time for the Air Force, and he helped instill a culture of responsibility, initiative, and professionalism to the service. Mike has been an unwavering champion for our airmen, their families, and for American airpower."

Prior to his Air Force post, Donley worked in the Office of the Secretary of Defense as the director of administration and management, overseeing Pentagon organizational and management planning for the Pentagon and all of its administration, facility, IT and security matters, his bio states. Prior to that, he jumped between the private sector, a think tank position and other roles within DOD.

There is no word on Donley's post-Air Force plans. However, AOL Defense reports that he may be succeeded as secretary by Debbie Lee James, executive vice president for communications and government affairs at SAIC. James is a former professional staff member at the House Armed Services Committee and a former assistant defense secretary under President Bill Clinton.

The announcement of Donley's departure came just before the swearing-in of Eric Fanning as Air Force under secretary.

Fanning previously served as the Navy's deputy under secretary and deputy chief management officer. He fills a second-in-command post that has been vacant since last June, when Erin Conaton was appointed as under secretary of defense for personnel and readiness. Dr. Jamie Morin has been filling in during the interim.

"I come from a family with a long history of service in uniform -- two uncles graduated from West Point and made careers in the Army, another uncle served a career in the Air Force, a cousin flew helicopters in the Marine Corps," Fanning said during his February confirmation hearing before the Senate Armed Services Committee. "I learned from an early age the importance of service and developed early on a deep respect and admiration for those who serve in uniform."

According to the Air Force News Service, Donley praised Fanning's background in national security as well as his congressional experience.

Outside of the Pentagon, meanwhile, Fanning is being celebrated for a different reason: as DOD's highest-ranking openly gay official.

The Human Rights Council and the Gay and Lesbian Victory Fund, where Fanning reportedly is a former board member, were among numerous websites and blogs that posted news of the appointment. Fanning's appointment comes more than a year and a half after the official repeal of Don't Ask, Don't Tell.

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