Barrett, Five Other Top USAF Civilians to Leave Posts

Six high-ranking Air Force officials will say goodbye to the service Jan. 14 as they prepare to leave their posts when the Trump administration departs next week.

The Department of the Air Force will bid farewell to Secretary Barbara M. Barrett in a ceremony slated for Jan. 14. Also on the way out are acting Air Force Undersecretary Shon J. Manasco, Comptroller John P. Roth, General Counsel Thomas E. Ayres, acquisition boss Will Roper, and Assistant Secretary of the Air Force for Installations, Environment, and Energy John W. Henderson, according to the event’s livestream page.

Their last full day on the job will be Jan. 19, the day before President-elect Joe Biden’s inauguration. An Air Force spokeswoman said the department does not yet have a full slate of acting officials to fill the positions that will be open once the new administration is sworn in Jan. 20.

Biden hasn’t announced his picks for new officials who will take over the Department of the Air Force’s top jobs.

Barrett, the 25th Air Force Secretary and the fourth woman to hold the position, took the oath of office in October 2019. Previously discussed as a potential candidate for the Air Force’s top civilian job, she came to the department from chairing the board of the federally funded research and development center Aerospace Corp. She’s overseen the addition of a Space Force within her department and has run the services during a retention boom and a push to address racism and inequality in the ranks, among other issues.

While service Secretaries typically turn over between presidential administrations like other political appointees, longtime military employees are leaving as well. 

Manasco came to the Air Force in 2017 as assistant secretary of the Air Force for manpower and reserve affairs, and unofficially filled in as Air Force undersecretary for several months when Matthew P. Donovan left to become undersecretary of defense for personnel and readiness. In May 2020, the White House nominated him to permanently serve as Air Force undersecretary, but the Senate never approved the pick after an August 2020 confirmation hearing with the Senate Armed Services Committee. 

Manasco’s nomination sat in limbo throughout the rest of 2020, and lawmakers “received message of withdrawal of nomination from the President” on Dec. 30, according to His official biography again lists him in the top manpower policy job, but Air Force spokeswoman Ann M. Stefanek said he remains as acting undersecretary.

Roper, another longtime military employee, came to the department from the Pentagon’s Strategic Capabilities Office in early 2018. He spearheaded a new embrace of commercial industry and rapid prototyping, and has been the top acquisition official overseeing the push to modernize Air Force and Space Force inventories with multibillion-dollar programs like the B-21 bomber and F-35 Joint Strike Fighter.

Roth has managed Air Force finances since January 2018, following his time as a budget official in the Navy and the Pentagon comptroller’s office. He also stepped in for stints as Air Force undersecretary.

Ayres joined the Air Force in 2018 as a career military legal official who previously served as Deputy Judge Advocate General of the Army. He was confirmed after the Trump administration withdrew its nomination of David G. Ehrhart, its first choice for USAF general counsel.

Henderson became the Air Force’s installations chief in early 2018 after a career with the Army Corps of Engineers, tackling mounting issues around the impact of climate change on USAF facilities as well as an enormous backlog of deferred maintenance.

The turnover offers Biden’s White House a chance to tap new officials at a crucial time for procurement, facilities, discrimination in the legal system, budget stability, and personnel management within the Department of the Air Force.

Editor’s note: This story was updated Jan. 13 at 2:09 p.m. to clarify when the outgoing officials will leave their jobs.