Acting SECAF’s Goals: Sustain Momentum, Then Pass the Baton

Acting Air Force Secretary John P. Roth is focused on ensuring continuity in the department until a Senate-confirmed successor is secured, championing Air Force and Space Force priorities as the 2022 defense budget takes shape, and “telling the Department of the Air Force’s story,” according to a Jan. 28 departmental release

“My plan, in whatever time period required, is to hand the baton off to somebody else,” Roth said in the release. “My goal is to ensure that the enterprise is able to continue to operate in its normal, outstanding fashion and that I support the Airmen and the Guardians in terms of getting them what they need to do their jobs.”

Roth also said he’s dedicated to helping the department sustain its “momentum on both the air side and the space side,” and keeping its eyes fixed on reaching goals laid out by the 2018 National Defense Strategy. 

“We can’t afford to sit idle,” he said in the release.

Roth served as the Air Force’s comptroller until the Biden transition team tapped him to pick up where outgoing SECAF Barbara M. Barrett left off following her departure from the Pentagon. Before being chosen for the interim job, he planned to retire from federal service, the release noted.

“If I can help, I’m happy to serve,” he said in the release. “That’s what I’ve done for 40-plus years; so a matter of perhaps a few more months, I’m all in.”

But his additional experience performing the duties of the Air Force under secretary—first from June 2019 to October 2019, and then again from May 2020 to December 2020—have uniquely equipped him to tackle more than just numbers.

“A lot of the things that go to the Secretary run past the under’s inbox,” he noted in the release. “I’m a trained budgeteer, and that’s my sweet spot, but I did get involved in manpower issues and things like promotion boards, department-wide studies, and disciplinary matters. All of that, which I personally found fascinating, exposed me to other issues across the department.”