The Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff (CJCS) is, by U.S. law, the highest-ranking and senior-most 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, he 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 Chief of Naval Operations, the Chief of Staff of the Air Force, the Commandant of the Marine Corps, 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 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 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. He 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 name.
|Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff|
Seal of the Joint Chiefs of Staff
Flag of the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff
|Department of Defense
The Joint Staff
|Member of||Joint Chiefs of Staff|
|Reports to||The President
Secretary of Defense
|Seat||The Pentagon, Arlington County, Virginia, U.S.|
|Nominator||Secretary of Defense|
with Senate advice and consent
|Term length||2 years
|Constituting instrument||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)
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 and Air Force, who have been assigned to assist the Chairman with the unified strategic direction, operation, and integration of the combatant land, naval, and air 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 July 20, 1942 to March 21, 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 1942.
The Chairman is nominated by the President for appointment 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 two-year term of office at the pleasure of the President, but can be reappointed to serve two additional terms for a total of six years, as long as the Chairman has not previously served a term as Vice Chairman, in which case the Chairman would be limited to serving up to two terms. However, in a time of war or national emergency, there is no limit to how many times an officer can be reappointed to serve as Chairman. Historically, the Chairman has served two terms. 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.
According to the 2017 Military Pay Table (effective 1 January 2017), basic pay for flag officers is limited by Level II of the Executive Schedule, which is $15,583.20 per month. 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, Commandant of the Coast Guard, Chief of the National Guard Bureau, or commander of a unified or specified combatant command.
Beginning in 2019, the Chairman's statutory term length will increase from two years to a single four-year term and cannot be reappointed unless in times of war or national emergency.
|No.||Image||Name||Branch||Term of Office||Secretaries||President|
|1.||Fleet Admiral William D. Leahy||USN||July 20, 1942||March 21, 1949||2436||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
|No.||Image||Name||Branch||Term of Office||Secretaries||President|
|1.||General of the Army Omar Bradley||US Army||August 19, 1949||August 15, 1953||1457||Louis A. Johnson
George C. Marshall
Robert A. Lovett
|Harry S. Truman|
|Dwight D. Eisenhower|
|Charles Erwin Wilson|
|2.||Admiral Arthur W. Radford||USN||August 15, 1953||August 15, 1957||1461|
|3.||General Nathan F. Twining||USAF||August 15, 1957||September 30, 1960||1142|
|Neil H. McElroy|
|Thomas S. Gates|
|4.||General Lyman Lemnitzer||US Army||October 1, 1960||September 30, 1962||729|
|Robert S. McNamara|
|John F. Kennedy|
|5.||General Maxwell D. Taylor||US Army||October 1, 1962||July 1, 1964||639|
|Lyndon B. Johnson|
|6.||General Earle Wheeler||US Army||July 3, 1964||July 2, 1970||2190|
|Clark M. Clifford|
|Melvin R. Laird|
|7.||Admiral Thomas H. Moorer||USN||July 2, 1970||July 1, 1974||1460|
|James R. Schlesinger|
|8.||General George S. Brown||USAF||July 1, 1974||June 20, 1978||1450|
|9.||General David C. Jones||USAF||June 21, 1978||June 18, 1982||1458|
|10.||General John W. Vessey Jr.||US Army||June 18, 1982||September 30, 1985||1200|
|11.||Admiral William J. Crowe, Jr.||USN||October 1, 1985||September 30, 1989||1460|
|George H.W. Bush|
|12.||General Colin Powell||US Army||October 1, 1989||September 30, 1993||1460|
|(acting)||Admiral David E. Jeremiah||USN||October 1, 1993||October 24, 1993||23|
|13.||General John Shalikashvili||US Army||October 25, 1993||September 30, 1997||1436|
|William J. Perry|
|William S. Cohen|
|14.||General Hugh Shelton||US Army||October 1, 1997||September 30, 2001||1460|
|George W. Bush|
|15.||General Richard B. Myers||USAF||October 1, 2001||September 30, 2005||1460|
|16.||General Peter Pace||USMC||October 1, 2005||September 30, 2007||729|
|Robert M. Gates|
|17.||Admiral Michael Mullen||USN||October 1, 2007||September 30, 2011||1460|
|18.||General Martin Dempsey||US Army||October 1, 2011||September 25, 2015||1455|
|19.||General Joseph Dunford||USMC||October 1, 2015||Present||876|
|James Mattis||Donald Trump|
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...
...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.