|Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff|
|Joint Chiefs of Staff|
|Type||Highest-ranking military officer|
|Member of||Joint Chiefs of Staff|
National Security Council
|Reports to||President of the United States|
Secretary of Defense
|Residence||Quarters 6, Fort Myer|
|Seat||The Pentagon, Arlington County, Virginia|
|Nominator||Secretary of Defense|
with Senate advice and consent
|Term length||4 years|
|Constituting instrument||10 U.S.C. § 152|
10 U.S.C. § 153
|Precursor||Chief of Staff to the Commander in Chief of the Army and Navy|
|Formation||August 19, 1949|
|First holder||General of the Army Omar Bradley|
|Deputy||Vice Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff|
Director of the Joint Staff (Joint Staff)
Senior Enlisted Advisor to the Chairman (Enlisted Matters)
Assistant to the Chairman (Personal Matters)
The chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff (CJCS) is the highest-ranking and most senior military officer in the United States Armed Forces and is the principal military advisor to the president, the National Security Council, the Homeland Security Council, and the secretary of defense. 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 does assist the president and the secretary of defense in exercising their command functions.
The chairman convenes the meetings and coordinates the efforts of the Joint Chiefs of Staff (JCS), 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. 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. However the services 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 as well as allocate additional funding to the combatant commanders if necessary. 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 under his or her name.
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 from 20 July 1942 to 21 March 1949. He presided over meetings of what was called the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and Leahy's office was the precursor to the post of Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, created in 1949.
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. The chairman and vice chairman may not be members of the same armed force service branch. 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. The chairman serves a single four-year term of office at the pleasure of the president, with reappointment to additional terms only possible during times of war or national emergency. Historically, the chairman has 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. By statute, the chairman is appointed as a four-star general or admiral while holding office and assumes office on October 1 of odd-numbered years.
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. In the 1990s, there were proposals in Department of Defense academic circles to bestow on the office of Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff a five-star rank.
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 W. Radford as Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, President Eisenhower nominated United States Air Force general Nathan F. Twining as Radford's successor. When General Twining retired, Eisenhower nominated Army general Lyman Lemnitzer to succeed Twining as Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.
However, in October 1962, when President Kennedy appointed Army general Maxwell Taylor as General Lemnitzer's successor, Kennedy eventually broke the traditional rotation for the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff position between the Air Force, Navy, Marines, and Army. Kennedy replaced a chairman who was from the Army with a general who was also from the Army. At that time, Kennedy should have appointed either Air Force chief of staff General Curtis E. LeMay, Chief of Naval Operations Admiral George Whelan Anderson Jr., or Commandant of the Marine Corps General David M. Shoup to succeed General Lemnitzer as the fifth chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. Since that, the traditional rotation was abolished.
The chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff was an Army general for three consecutive terms from 1960 to 1970: Army general Lyman 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. 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. With Army general Mark Milley assuming the position of chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff in October 2019, exactly half of the chairmen—10 out of 20—have been Army generals.
According to the 2020 Monthly Rates of Basic Pay (Commissioned Officer) - (effective January 1, 2020), basic pay is limited to the rate of basic pay for level II of the Executive Schedule in effect during calendar year 2020, which is $16,441.80 per month for officers at pay grades O-7 through O-10. 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, chief of space operations, commandant of the Marine Corps, commandant of the Coast Guard, chief of the National Guard Bureau, or commander of a unified or specified combatant command.
|No.||Portrait||Chief of Staff to the Commander in Chief||Took office||Left office||Time in office||Service branch||Secretaries of Defense||President|
William D. Leahy
|July 20, 1942||March 21, 1949||6 years, 244 days|
|Henry L. Stimson|
Robert P. Patterson
Kenneth C. Royall
James V. Forrestal
|Franklin D. Roosevelt|
Harry S. Truman
|No.||Portrait||Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff||Took office||Left office||Time in office||Service branch||Secretaries of Defense||President|
|1||General of the Army|
|August 19, 1949||August 15, 1953||3 years, 361 days|
|Louis A. Johnson|
George C. Marshall
Robert A. Lovett
|Harry S. Truman|
Dwight D. Eisenhower
Arthur W. Radford
|August 15, 1953||August 15, 1957||4 years, 0 days|
|Charles Erwin Wilson||Dwight D. Eisenhower|
Nathan F. Twining
|August 15, 1957||September 30, 1960||3 years, 46 days|
U.S. Air Force
|Charles Erwin Wilson|
Neil H. McElroy
Thomas S. Gates
|Dwight D. Eisenhower|
|October 1, 1960||September 30, 1962||2 years, 0 days|
|Thomas S. Gates|
|Dwight D. Eisenhower|
John F. Kennedy
Maxwell D. Taylor
|October 1, 1962||July 1, 1964||1 year, 275 days|
|Robert McNamara||John F. Kennedy|
Lyndon B. Johnson
|July 3, 1964||July 2, 1970||5 years, 364 days|
|Lyndon B. Johnson|
Thomas H. Moorer
|July 2, 1970||July 1, 1974||3 years, 364 days|
James R. Schlesinger
George S. Brown
|July 1, 1974||June 20, 1978||3 years, 354 days|
U.S. Air Force
|James R. Schlesinger|
David C. Jones
|June 21, 1978||June 18, 1982||3 years, 362 days|
U.S. Air Force
John William Vessey Jr.
|June 18, 1982||September 30, 1985||3 years, 104 days|
|Caspar Weinberger||Ronald Reagan|
William J. Crowe
|October 1, 1985||September 30, 1989||3 years, 364 days|
George H.W. Bush
|October 1, 1989||September 30, 1993||3 years, 364 days|
|George H.W. Bush|
David E. Jeremiah
|October 1, 1993||October 24, 1993||23 days|
|Les Aspin||Bill Clinton|
|October 25, 1993||September 30, 1997||3 years, 341 days|
William J. Perry
William S. Cohen
|October 1, 1997||September 30, 2001||3 years, 364 days|
|William S. Cohen|
George W. Bush
|October 1, 2001||September 30, 2005||4 years, 0 days|
U.S. Air Force
|Donald Rumsfeld||George W. Bush|
|October 1, 2005||September 30, 2007||1 year, 364 days|
U.S. Marine Corps
Robert M. Gates
|George W. Bush|
|October 1, 2007||September 30, 2011||3 years, 364 days|
|Robert M. Gates|
|George W. Bush|
|October 1, 2011||September 25, 2015||3 years, 359 days|
|October 1, 2015||September 30, 2019||3 years, 364 days|
U.S. Marine Corps
Mark A. Milley
|October 1, 2019||Incumbent||2 years, 14 days|
General Henry H. Shelton hosted on 1 December 2000 a conference in the Pentagon for former Chairmen of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. Standing from left to right are: Gen. Colin L. Powell, USA (Ret); Gen. John W. Vessey, USA (Ret); Adm. Thomas H. Moorer, USN (Ret); Gen. Shelton, USA; Gen. David C. Jones, USAF (Ret); Adm. William J. Crowe, Jr., USN (Ret); and Gen. John M. Shalikashvili, USA (Ret).
The Joint Chiefs of Staff photographed in the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gold Room, also known as "The Tank," in The Pentagon on 2001. The chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Air Force General Richard B. Myers and the vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Marine general Peter Pace seated in the middle, in between all of the service chiefs.
Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff General David C. Jones with former Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff General of the army Omar Bradley on January 20, 1981.
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.
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.
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.
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...Cite journal requires
...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.Cite journal requires
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