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Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff
Seal of the Joint Chiefs of Staff
Flag of the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff
General Charles Q. Brown Jr., USAF
since 1 October 2023
Joint Chiefs of Staff
Department of Defense
TypeHighest-ranking military officer
Member ofJoint Chiefs of Staff
National Security Council
Reports toPresident
Secretary of Defense
ResidenceQuarters 6, Fort Myer[1]
SeatThe Pentagon, Arlington County, Virginia
NominatorSecretary of Defense
AppointerThe President
with Senate advice and consent
Term length4 years, not renewable
Constituting instrument10 U.S.C. § 152
10 U.S.C. § 153
PrecursorChief of Staff to the Commander in Chief of the Army and Navy
Formation19 August 1949
First holderGeneral of the Army Omar Bradley
DeputyVice Chairman
Director (Joint Staff)
Senior Enlisted Advisor (Enlisted Matters)

The chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff (CJCS) is the presiding officer of the Joint Chiefs of Staff (JCS). The chairman is the highest-ranking and most senior military officer in the United States Armed Forces[2] and the principal military advisor to the president, the National Security Council,[3] the Homeland Security Council,[3] and the secretary of defense.[3][4] While the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff outranks all other commissioned officers, the chairman is prohibited by law from having operational command authority over the armed forces; however, the chairman assists the president and the secretary of defense in exercising their command functions.[5]

The chairman convenes the meetings and coordinates the efforts of the Joint Chiefs, an advisory body within the Department of Defense comprising the chairman, the vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, the chief of staff of the Army, the commandant of the Marine Corps, the chief of naval operations, the chief of staff of the Air Force, the chief of space operations, and the chief of the National Guard Bureau.[3] The post of a statutory and permanent Joint Chiefs of Staff chair was created by the 1949 amendments to the National Security Act of 1947. The 1986 Goldwater–Nichols Act elevated the chairman from the first among equals to becoming the "principal military advisor" to the president and the secretary of defense.

The Joint Staff, managed by the director of the Joint Staff and consisting of military personnel from all the services, assists the chairman in fulfilling his duties to the president and secretary of defense, and functions as a conduit and collector of information between the chairman and the combatant commanders. The National Military Command Center (NMCC) is part of the Joint Staff operations directorate (J-3).

Although the office of Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff is considered very important and highly prestigious, neither the chairman, the vice chairman, nor the Joint Chiefs of Staff as a body has any command authority over combatant forces. The Goldwater–Nichols Act places the operational chain of command from the president to the secretary of defense directly to the commanders of the unified combatant commands.[6] However the service chiefs do have authority over personnel assignments and oversight over resources and personnel allocated to the combatant commands within their respective services (derived from the service secretaries).

The chairman may also transmit communications to the combatant commanders from the president and secretary of defense[7] as well as allocate additional funding to the combatant commanders if necessary.[8] The chairman also performs all other functions prescribed under 10 U.S.C. § 153 or allocates those duties and responsibilities to other officers in the joint staff.

The current chairman is General Charles Q. Brown Jr., who assumed office on 1 October 2023, having been ceremonially sworn in on 29 September.[9]

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Organization and assistants

JCS chairman General George S. Brown with Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld during testimony before the Senate Armed Services Committee on January 15, 1976.

The principal deputy to the chairman is the vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff (VCJCS), another four-star general or admiral, who among many duties chairs the Joint Requirements Oversight Council (JROC).

The chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff is assisted by the Joint Staff, led by the director of the Joint Staff, a three-star general or admiral. The Joint Staff is an organization composed of approximately equal numbers of officers contributed by the Army, Navy, Marine Corps, Air Force, and Space Force who have been assigned to assist the chairman with the unified strategic direction, operation, and integration of the combatant land, naval, air, and space forces. The National Military Command Center (NMCC) is part of the Joint Staff operations directorate (J-3).

The chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff is also advised on enlisted personnel matters by the senior enlisted advisor to the chairman, who serves as a communication conduit between the chairman and the senior enlisted advisors (command sergeants major, command master chief petty officers, and command chief master sergeants) of the combatant commands.


Fleet Admiral William D. Leahy, USN, served as the chief of staff to the commander in chief of the Army and Navy from 20 July 1942 to 21 March 1949. He presided over meetings of what was called the Joint Chiefs of Staff,[10] and Leahy's office was the precursor to the post of Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.

Appointment and rank

Outgoing Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, General Richard Myers swears in the incoming chairman, General Peter Pace as President George W. Bush and Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld look on at the change of command ceremony at Fort Myer, Virginia on September 30, 2005.

The chairman is nominated by the president for appointment from any of the regular components of the armed forces, and must be confirmed via majority vote by the Senate.[2] The chairman and vice chairman may not be members of the same armed force service branch.[11] However, the president may waive that restriction for a limited period of time in order to provide for the orderly transition of officers appointed to serve in those positions.[11] The chairman serves a single four-year term of office[2][12] at the pleasure of the president,[2] with reappointment to additional terms only possible during times of war or national emergency.[2]

Historically, the chairman served two two-year terms, until the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2017 amended the chairman's term of office to a single four-year term.[12] By statute, the chairman is appointed as a four-star general or admiral while holding office[2] and assumes office on 1 October of odd-numbered years.[2]

General George S. Brown is sworn in as chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff by Department of Defense General Counsel Martin Hoffman in the Pentagon on July 1, 1974.

Although the first chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Omar Bradley, was eventually awarded a fifth star, the CJCS does not receive one by right, and Bradley's award was so that his subordinate, General of the Army Douglas MacArthur, would not outrank him.[13][14] In the 1990s, there were proposals in Department of Defense academic circles to bestow on the chairman a five-star rank.[15][16][17]

Previously during the presidency of Harry S. Truman and Dwight D. Eisenhower, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff position was rotated in accordance with the incumbent chairman's armed force service branch. In this rotation, the incoming chairman would be from a different service branch. For example, in 1957, following the retirement of Admiral Arthur Radford as Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, President Eisenhower nominated Air Force general Nathan Twining as Radford's successor. When General Twining retired, Eisenhower nominated Army general Lyman Lemnitzer to succeed Twining as chairman.[18]

In October 1962, when President Kennedy appointed Army general Maxwell Taylor as General Lemnitzer's successor, Kennedy eventually broke the traditional rotation for the position between the Air Force, Navy, Marines, and Army. Kennedy replaced a chairman who was from the Army with another general who was also from the Army. At that time, Kennedy should have appointed either Air Force chief of staff General Curtis LeMay, chief of naval operations Admiral George Anderson Jr., or commandant of the Marine Corps General David Shoup to succeed General Lemnitzer as the fifth chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. Since that, the traditional rotation was abolished.[19][20][18]

The chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff was an Army general for three consecutive terms from 1960 to 1970: General Lemnitzer served as chairman from 1960 until 1962. Lemnitzer was replaced by Army general Maxwell Taylor, who served from 1962 until 1964. Taylor was replaced by Army general Earle Wheeler, who served from 1964 until 1970.[20][21] The chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff was also an Army general for three consecutive terms from 1989 to 2001: Army general Colin Powell served as chairman from 1989 until 1993 and was succeeded by Army general John Shalikashvilli, who served from 1993 until 1997. When General Shalikashvilli retired in 1997, he was also succeeded by Army general Hugh Shelton, who served from 1997 until 2001.[22]

According to the Monthly Rates of Basic Pay for commissioned officers, effective January 1, 2023, basic pay is limited to the rate of basic pay for level II of the Executive Schedule in effect during calendar year 2023, which is $17,675.10 per month for officers at pay grades O-7 through O-10.[23] This includes officers serving as chairman or vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, chief of staff of the Army, chief of naval operations, chief of staff of the Air Force, commandant of the Marine Corps, chief of space operations, commandant of the Coast Guard, chief of the National Guard Bureau, or the commanders of the unified combatant commands.[23]

List of chairmen

Chief of Staff to the Commander in Chief (historical predecessor office)

No. Portrait Chief of Staff to the Commander in Chief Took office Left office Time in office Service branch Secretaries of Defense President
1Leahy, William D.Fleet Admiral
William D. Leahy
20 July 194221 March 19496 years, 244 days

U.S. Navy
Henry L. Stimson
Robert P. Patterson
Kenneth C. Royall
(of War)
Frank Knox
(of Navy)
James V. Forrestal
(1st DOD)
Franklin D. Roosevelt
Harry S. Truman

Chairmen of the Joint Chiefs of Staff

No. Portrait Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Took office Left office Time in office Service branch Secretaries of Defense President
1Bradley, OmarGeneral of the Army
Omar Bradley
19 August 194915 August 19533 years, 361 days

U.S. Army
Louis A. Johnson
George C. Marshall
Robert A. Lovett
Harry S. Truman
Dwight D. Eisenhower
2Radford, Arthur W.Admiral
Arthur W. Radford
15 August 195315 August 19574 years, 0 days

U.S. Navy
Charles Erwin WilsonDwight D. Eisenhower
3Twining, Nathan F.General
Nathan F. Twining
15 August 195730 September 19603 years, 46 days

U.S. Air Force
Charles Erwin Wilson
Neil H. McElroy
Thomas S. Gates
Dwight D. Eisenhower
4Lemnitzer, LymanGeneral
Lyman Lemnitzer
1 October 196030 September 19622 years, 0 days

U.S. Army
Thomas S. Gates
Robert McNamara
Dwight D. Eisenhower
John F. Kennedy
5Taylor, MaxwellGeneral
Maxwell D. Taylor
1 October 19621 July 19641 year, 275 days

U.S. Army
Robert McNamaraJohn F. Kennedy
Lyndon B. Johnson
6Wheeler, EarleGeneral
Earle Wheeler
3 July 19642 July 19705 years, 364 days

U.S. Army
Robert McNamara
Clark Clifford
Melvin Laird
Lyndon B. Johnson
Richard Nixon
7Moorer, ThomasAdmiral
Thomas H. Moorer
2 July 19701 July 19743 years, 364 days

U.S. Navy
Melvin Laird
Elliot Richardson
James R. Schlesinger
Richard Nixon
8Brown, GeorgeGeneral
George S. Brown
1 July 197420 June 19783 years, 354 days

U.S. Air Force
James R. Schlesinger
Donald Rumsfeld
Harold Brown
Richard Nixon
Gerald Ford
Jimmy Carter
9Jones, DavidGeneral
David C. Jones
21 June 197818 June 19823 years, 362 days

U.S. Air Force
Harold Brown
Caspar Weinberger
Jimmy Carter
Ronald Reagan
10Vessey Jr., John WilliamGeneral
John William Vessey Jr.
18 June 198230 September 19853 years, 104 days

U.S. Army
Caspar WeinbergerRonald Reagan
11Crowe, WilliamAdmiral
William J. Crowe
1 October 198530 September 19893 years, 364 days

U.S. Navy
Caspar Weinberger
Frank Carlucci
Dick Cheney
Ronald Reagan
George H. W. Bush
12Powell, ColinGeneral
Colin Powell
1 October 198930 September 19933 years, 364 days

U.S. Army
Dick Cheney
Les Aspin
George H. W. Bush
Bill Clinton
Jeremiah, DavidAdmiral
David E. Jeremiah
1 October 199324 October 199323 days

U.S. Navy
Les AspinBill Clinton
13Shalikashvili, JohnGeneral
John Shalikashvili
25 October 199330 September 19973 years, 341 days

U.S. Army
Les Aspin
William J. Perry
William Cohen
Bill Clinton
14Shelton, HughGeneral
Hugh Shelton
(born 1942)
1 October 199730 September 20013 years, 364 days

U.S. Army
William Cohen
Donald Rumsfeld
Bill Clinton
George W. Bush
15Myers, RichardGeneral
Richard Myers
(born 1942)
1 October 200130 September 20053 years, 364 days

U.S. Air Force
Donald RumsfeldGeorge W. Bush
16Pace, PeterGeneral
Peter Pace
(born 1945)
1 October 200530 September 20071 year, 364 days

U.S. Marine Corps
Donald Rumsfeld
Robert Gates
George W. Bush
17Mullen, MichaelAdmiral
Michael Mullen
(born 1946)
1 October 200730 September 20113 years, 364 days

U.S. Navy
Robert Gates
Leon Panetta
George W. Bush
Barack Obama
18Dempsey, MartinGeneral
Martin Dempsey
(born 1952)
1 October 201130 September 20153 years, 364 days

U.S. Army
Leon Panetta
Chuck Hagel
Ash Carter
Barack Obama
19Dunford, JosephGeneral
Joseph Dunford
(born 1955)
1 October 201530 September 20193 years, 364 days

U.S. Marine Corps
Ash Carter
Jim Mattis
Mark Esper
Barack Obama
Donald Trump
20Milley, MarkGeneral
Mark Milley
(born 1958)
1 October 201930 September 20233 years, 364 days

U.S. Army
Mark Esper
Lloyd Austin
Donald Trump
Joe Biden
21Brown, CharlesGeneral
Charles Q. Brown Jr.
(born 1962)
1 October 2023Incumbent232 days

U.S. Air Force
Lloyd AustinJoe Biden

Chairmen of the Joint Chiefs of Staff by branches of service within the Department of Defense

  • Army: 10
  • Air Force: 5
  • Navy: 4[24]
  • Marine Corps: 2
  • Space Force: 0


Charles Q. Brown Jr.Mark MilleyJoseph DunfordMartin DempseyMichael MullenPeter PaceRichard MyersHugh SheltonJohn ShalikashviliColin PowellWilliam J. CroweJohn William Vessey Jr.David C. JonesGeorge Scratchley BrownThomas Hinman MoorerEarle WheelerMaxwell D. TaylorLyman LemnitzerNathan F. TwiningOmar BradleyArthur W. RadfordWilliam D. Leahy

See also



  1. ^ "Quarters Six, The Official Residence of the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff" (PDF). Retrieved 17 May 2021.
  2. ^ a b c d e f g 10 U.S.C. § 152 Chairman: appointment; grade and rank
  3. ^ a b c d 10 U.S.C. § 151 - Joint Chiefs of Staff: composition; functions
  4. ^ "Joint Chiefs of Staff Official Web Site". Archived from the original on 14 May 2011. Retrieved 24 September 2009. Goldwater–Nichols Act of 1986
  5. ^ 10 U.S.C. § 153 - Chairman: functions
  6. ^ 10 U.S.C. § 162 - Combatant commands: assigned forces; chain of command
  7. ^ 10 U.S.C. § 163 - Role of Chairman of Joint Chiefs of Staff
  8. ^ 10 U.S.C. § 166a - Combatant commands: funding through the Chairman of Joint Chiefs of Staff
  9. ^ "Webcast: Armed Forces Farewell Tribute in Honor of General Mark A. Milley and an Armed Forces Hail in Honor of General Charles Q. Brown Jr". DVIDS. Retrieved 29 September 2023.
  10. ^ "Washington Eats". Life. 5 October 1942. p. 95. Retrieved 20 November 2011.
  11. ^ a b 10 U.S.C. § 154 - Vice Chairman
  12. ^ a b Public Law 114–328 - The National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2017 increased the term length Chairman and the Vice Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff from two years to four years.
  13. ^ Abrams, Jim (22 March 1991). "Higher rank not in the stars for nation's top generals". Associated Press. Bradley received his fifth star in 1950 when he became chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff so he would not be outranked by MacArthur.
  14. ^ Tillman, Barrett (2004). Brassey's D-Day encyclopedia: the Normandy invasion A-Z. Brassey's. p. 48. ISBN 978-1-57488-760-0. Retrieved 22 February 2011. MacArthur, having been army chief of staff before World War II, was senior to everyone on the Joint Chiefs, and some observers felt that Bradley was given his fifth star in order to deal with the vainglorious field commander on an equal footing.
  15. ^ Organizing for National Security: The Role of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. Institute for Foreign Analysis. January 1986. p. 11. ISBN 9780895490742. Retrieved 21 February 2011. There was some discussion of the proposal to grant the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs five-star rank, as a symbol of his status as the most senior officer in the armed forces.
  16. ^ Jones, Logan (February 2000). Toward the Valued Idea of Jointness: The Need for Unity of Command in U.S. Armed Forces (PDF). Defense Technical Information Center (Report). Naval War College. p. 2. ADA378445. Archived from the original on 1 June 2022. Retrieved 21 February 2011. Promoting the Chairman to the five-star rank and ceding to him operational and administrative control of all U.S. Armed Forces would enable him to provide a unifying vision...
  17. ^ Owsley, Robert Clark (June 1997). Goldwater-Nichols Almost Got It Right: A Fifth Star for the Chairman (PDF) (Report). Naval War College. p. 14. ADA328220. Archived from the original on 17 September 2021. Retrieved 21 February 2011. ...Chairman's title be changed to Commander of the Armed Forces and commensurate with the title and authority he be assigned the grade of five stars.
  18. ^ a b Rearden, Steven L. (30 July 2012). Council of War: A History of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, 1942-1991. Military Bookshop. ISBN 978-1780398877.
  19. ^ McMaster, Herbert Raymond (8 May 1998). Dereliction of Duty: Johnson, McNamara, the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and the Lies That Led to Vietnam. Harper Perennial. p. 22. ISBN 978-0060929084.
  20. ^ a b Perry, Mark (1 March 1989). Four-Stars: The Inside Story of The Forty-Year Battle Between The Joint Chiefs of Staff and America's Civilian Leaders. Houghton Mifflin. ISBN 978-0395429235.
  21. ^ McMaster, Herbert Raymond (9 May 1998). Dereliction of Duty: Johnson, McNamara, the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and the Lies That Led to Vietnam. Harper Perennial. ISBN 978-0060929084.
  22. ^ Perry, Mark (24 October 2017). The Pentagon's Wars: The Military's Undeclared War Against America's Presidents. Basic Books. ISBN 978-0465079711.
  23. ^ a b "Defense Finance and Accounting Service > MilitaryMembers > payentitlements > Pay Tables > Basic Pay > CO". Retrieved 8 August 2023.
  24. ^ Excluding Leahy, who served in a precursor position, and Jeremiah, who served as acting Chairman.

General sources

External links

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