Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel, left, joins Air Force Secretary Michael Donley and his wife, Gail, during Donley's retirment ceremony Friday at Joint Base Andrews. (Thomas Brown/Staff)
Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel pins the Distinguished Public Service Award on Air Force Secretary Michael Donley during Donley's retirement ceremony Friday at Joint Base Andrews. (Thomas Brown/Staff)
Air Force Secretary Michael Donley retired Friday after five years as the service’s top civilian.
At a retirement ceremony at Joint Base Andrews, Md., Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel praised Donley for always recognizing that national security is “above and beyond politics.”
Donley said he was “most grateful to have had this opportunity to meet, to know, and to represent America’s airmen.”
President Obama has not yet named Donley’s replacement.
In the interim, Under Secretary Eric Fanning is acting secretary.
Fanning previously served as deputy under secretary of the Navy and deputy director of the Commission on the Prevention of Weapons of Mass Destruction Proliferation and Terrorism before becoming under secretary of the Air Force on April 29.
Donley thanked Fanning and the other Air Force under secretaries he has worked with for their stewardship during his tenure.
Born in Michigan, Fanning attended high school in Ohio, as did Gen. Janet Wolfenbarger, the highest-ranking woman in the Air Force, a point of pride for Republican Rep. Michael R. Turner, whose district includes Wright-Patterson Air Force Base.
“With this news our community can be proud to have two local high school graduates in the leadership of the Air Force,” Turner said in a statement. “I look forward to working with him in support of the Air Force and their mission at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base.”
Fanning, who is openly gay, takes over at the Air Force just as the Supreme Court is set to rule on the Defense of Marriage Act, which blocks same-sex couples from receiving the same benefits as heterosexual couples. He told the Washington Blade in a recent interview that he hopes the Defense Department will adopt a non-discrimination policy to protect gay and lesbian service members.
“Speaking personally, I always think it’s important to have non-discrimination policies codified to include everyone,” Fanning said in the interview. “The military, because it has a chain of command, has a different attitude about this and a different way to try to go about protecting airmen, sailors, soldiers, Marines — but Eric Fanning? Yes. I personally like to see these things in writing and codified.”