CIA Director Michael Hayden announced Wednesday he will retire from the Air Force in July after 39 years in uniform, but he will continue in his intelligence post as a civilian.

Hayden, who holds the rank of four-star general, said he is taking the step because of "practical considerations related to military retirement." He joined the CIA in 2006 but has continued to be paid by the Air Force. He will now be paid by the CIA but will also draw a military pension.

His decision to remain in uniform when he took the reins of the CIA raised some concern in Congress and the intelligence agencies. Among the worries: that he might push intelligence to serve the tactical military agenda at the expense of strategic intelligence for civilian decision makers.

In a message to agency employees Wednesday, Hayden suggested those initial concerns had abated. "I have never sensed that my uniform has been an issue at the nation's premier center of civilian intelligence," he said.