Flag Officer Assignments 2012 Presidential Candidates

The Chief of Naval Operations (CNO) is a statutory office (10 U.S.C. § 5033) held by a four-star admiral in the United States Navy, and is the most senior naval officer assigned to serve in the Department of the Navy. The office is a military adviser and deputy to the Secretary of the Navy. In a separate capacity as a member of the Joint Chiefs of Staff (10 U.S.C. § 151) the CNO is a military adviser to the National Security Council, the Homeland Security Council, the Secretary of Defense, and the President. The current Chief of Naval Operations is Admiral John M. Richardson.

The Chief of Naval Operations is an administrative position based in the Pentagon, and while the CNO does not have operational command authority over Naval forces as the title implies (that is nowadays within the purview of the Combatant Commanders who report to the Secretary of Defense), the CNO does exercise supervision of Navy organizations as the designee of the Secretary of the Navy.


Department of the Navy[edit]

The CNO reports directly to the Secretary of the Navy for the command, utilization of resources, and operating efficiency of the operating forces of the Navy and of the Navy shore activities assigned by the Secretary.[1] Under the authority of the Secretary of the Navy, the CNO also designates naval personnel and naval resources to the commanders of Unified Combatant Commands.[2][3] The CNO also performs all other functions prescribed under 10 U.S.C. § 5033 and those assigned by the secretary[2] or delegates those duties and responsibilities to other officers in his administration. The CNO is typically the highest-ranking officer on active duty in the Navy unless the Chairman and/or the Vice Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff are naval officers. Like the other joint chiefs, the CNO is an administrative position and has no operational command authority over United States naval forces.[1]

Office of the Chief of Naval Operations[edit]

The Chief of Naval Operations presides over the Office of the Chief of Naval Operations (OpNav),[4] which is one of three headquarters staffs in Department of the Navy (the others being the Office of the Secretary of the Navy and Headquarters Marine Corps.)

Policy documents are issued in the form of OPNAV Instructions.


The Chief of Naval Operations is nominated by the President for appointment and must be confirmed by the Senate.[5] A requirement for being Chief of Naval Operations is having significant experience in joint duty assignments, which includes at least one full tour of duty in a joint duty assignment as a flag officer.[5] However, the president may waive those requirements if he determines that appointing the officer is necessary for the national interest.[5] By statute, the CNO is appointed as a four-star admiral.[5]


Number One Observatory Circle, located on the northeast grounds of the United States Naval Observatory in Washington, DC, was built in 1893 for its superintendent. The Chief of Naval Operations liked the house so much that in 1923 he took over the house as his own official residence. It remained the residence of the CNO until 1974, when Congress authorized its transformation to an official residence for the Vice President.[6] The Chief of Naval Operations currently resides in Quarters A in the Washington Naval Yard.

List of Chiefs of Naval Operations (1915–present)[edit]

The position of CNO replaced the position of Aide for Naval Operations, which was a position established by regulation rather than statutory law.[7]

See also[edit]


External links[edit]

The Secretary of Defense (SecDef) is the leader and chief executive officer of the Department of Defense, the executive department of the Armed Forces of the United States of America.[5][6][7] The Secretary of Defense's power and authority over the United States' military is second only to that of the President and Congress.[8] This position corresponds to what is generally known as a Defense Minister in many other countries.[9] The Secretary of Defense is appointed by the President with the advice and consent of the Senate, and is by custom a member of the Cabinet and by law a member of the National Security Council.[10]

Secretary of Defense is a statutory office, and the general provision in 10 U.S.C. § 113 provides that the Secretary of Defense has "authority, direction and control over the Department of Defense", and is further designated by the same statute as "the principal assistant to the President in all matters relating to the Department of Defense".[11] Ensuring civilian control of the military, an individual may not be appointed as Secretary of Defense within seven years after relief from active duty as a commissioned officer of a regular (i.e., non-reserve) component of an armed force.[12]

The Secretary of Defense is in the chain of command and exercises command and control, for both operational and administrative purposes subject only to the orders of the President, over all Department of Defense forces: the Army, Marine Corps, Navy, and Air Force. This is also extended to the United States Coast Guard during any period of time in which its command and control is transferred to the Department of Defense.[13][14][15][16][17] Only the Secretary of Defense (or the president or Congress) can authorize the transfer of operational control of forces between the three Military Departments (the departments of the Army, Navy, and Air Force) and the nine Combatant Commands (Africa Command, Central Command, European Command, Northern Command, Pacific Command, Southern Command, Special Operations Command, Strategic Command, Transportation Command).[13] Because the Office of Secretary of Defense is vested with legal powers which exceed those of any commissioned officer, and is second only to the President in the military hierarchy, it has sometimes unofficially been referred to as a de facto "deputy commander-in-chief".[18][19][20] The Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff is the principal military adviser to the Secretary of Defense and the President, and while the Chairman may assist the Secretary and President in their command functions, the Chairman is not in the chain of command.[21]

The Secretary of Defense, Secretary of State, the Attorney General, and the Secretary of the Treasury are generally regarded as the four most important cabinet officials because of the importance of their departments.[22]

The current Secretary of Defense is retired United States Marine Corps general Jim Mattis, who was confirmed and sworn in on January 20, 2017.[23]


The Army, Navy, and Marine Corps were established in 1775, in concurrence with the American Revolution. The War Department, headed by the Secretary of War, was created by Act of Congress in 1789 and was responsible for both the Army and Navy until the founding of a separate Department of the Navy in 1798.

Based on the experiences of World War II, proposals were soon made on how to more effectively manage the large combined military establishment. The Army generally favored centralization while the Navy had institutional preferences for decentralization and the status quo. The resulting National Security Act of 1947 was largely a compromise between these divergent viewpoints. The Act split the Department of War into the Department of the Army and Department of the Air Force and established the National Military Establishment (NME), presided over by the Secretary of Defense. The Act also separated the Army Air Forces from the Army to become its own branch of service, the United States Air Force. At first, each of the service secretaries maintained cabinet status. The first Secretary of Defense, James Forrestal, who in his previous capacity as Secretary of the Navy had opposed creation of the new position, found it difficult to exercise authority over the other branches with the limited powers his office had at the time. To address this and other problems, the National Security Act was amended in 1949 to further consolidate the national defense structure in order to reduce interservice rivalry, directly subordinate the Secretaries of the Army, the Navy and the Air Force to the Secretary of Defense in the chain of command, and rename the National Military Establishment as the Department of Defense, making it one Executive Department. The position of the Deputy Secretary of Defense, the number two position in the department, was also created at this time.

The general trend since 1949 has been to further centralize management in the Department of Defense, elevating the status and authorities of civilian OSD appointees and defense-wide organizations at the expense of the military departments and the services within them. The last major revision of the statutory framework concerning the position was done in the Goldwater–Nichols Department of Defense Reorganization Act of 1986. In particular, it elevated the status of joint service for commissioned officers, making it in practice a requirement before appointments to general officer and flag officer grades could be made.

Powers and functions

Main article: Organizational structure of the United States Department of Defense

The Secretary of War [now Secretary of Defense] is the regular constitutional organ of the President for the administration of the military establishment of the nation; and rules and orders publicly promulgated through him must be received as the acts of the executive, and as such, be binding upon all within the sphere of his legal and constitutional authority. Such regulations cannot be questioned or denied because they may be thought unwise or mistaken. .

United States v. Eliason, 41U.S.291 (1842)

Nor is it necessary for the Secretary of War [now Secretary of Defense] in promulgating such rules or orders to state that they emanate from the President, for the presumption is that the Secretary is acting with the President's approbation and under his direction.

In re Brodie, 128 Fed. 668 (CCA 8th 1904)

The Secretary of Defense, appointed by the President with the advice and consent of the Senate, is by federal law (10 U.S.C. § 113) the head of the Department of Defense, "the principal assistant to the President in all matters relating to Department of Defense", and has "authority, direction and control over the Department of Defense". Because the Constitution vests all military authority in Congress and the President, the statutory authority of the Secretary of Defense is derived from their constitutional authorities. Since it is impractical for either Congress or the President to participate in every piece of Department of Defense affairs, the Secretary of Defense, and the Secretary's subordinate officials generally exercise military authority.

As the head of DoD, all officials, employees and service members are "under" the Secretary of Defense. Some of those high-ranking officials, civil and military (outside of OSD and the Joint Staff) are: the Secretary of the Army, Secretary of the Navy, and Secretary of the Air Force, Army Chief of Staff, Commandant of the Marine Corps, Chief of Naval Operations, and Air Force Chief of Staff, Chief of the National Guard Bureau and the Combatant Commanders of the Combatant Commands. All of these high-ranking positions, civil and military, require Senate confirmation.

The Department of Defense is composed of the Office of the Secretary of Defense (OSD), the Joint Chiefs of Staff (JCS) and the Joint Staff (JS), Office of the Inspector General (DODIG), the Combatant Commands, the Military Departments (Department of the Army (DA), Department of the Navy (DON) & Department of the Air Force (DAF)), the Defense Agencies and DoD Field Activities, the National Guard Bureau (NGB), and such other offices, agencies, activities, organizations, and commands established or designated by law, or by the President or by the Secretary of Defense.

Department of Defense Directive 5100.01 describes the organizational relationships within the Department, and is the foundational issuance for delineating the major functions of the Department. The latest version, signed by former Secretary of Defense Robert Gates in December 2010, is the first major re-write since 1987.[24][25]

Office of the Secretary of Defense

Main article: Office of the Secretary of Defense

The Secretary's principally civilian staff element is called the Office of the Secretary of Defense (OSD) and is composed of the Deputy Secretary of Defense (DEPSECDEF) and five Under Secretaries of Defense in the fields of Acquisition, Technology & Logistics, Comptroller/Chief Financial Officer, Intelligence, Personnel & Readiness, and Policy; several Assistant Secretaries of Defense; other directors and the staffs under them.

The name of the principally military staff organization, organized under the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, is the Joint Staff (JS).

Awards and decorations

The Defense Distinguished Service Medal (DDSM), the Defense Superior Service Medal (DSSM), the Defense Meritorious Service Medal (DMSM), the Joint Service Commendation Medal (JSCM) and the Joint Service Achievement Medal (JSAM) are awarded, to military personnel for service in joint duty assignments, in the name of the Secretary of Defense. In addition, there is the Joint Meritorious Unit Award (JMUA), which is the only ribbon (as in non-medal) and unit award issued to joint DoD activities, also issued in the name of the Secretary of Defense.

The DDSM is analogous to the distinguished services medals issued by the military departments (i.e. Army Distinguished Service Medal, Navy Distinguished Service Medal & Air Force Distinguished Service Medal), the DSSM corresponds to the Legion of Merit, the DMSM to the Meritorious Service Medal, the JSCM to the service commendation medals, and the JSAM to the achievement medals issued by the services. While the approval authority for DSSM, DMSM, JSCM, JSAM and JMUA is delegated to inferior DoD officials: the DDSM can only be awarded by the Secretary of Defense.

Recommendations for the Medal of Honor (MOH), formally endorsed in writing by the Secretary of the Military Department concerned and the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, are processed through the Under Secretary of Defense for Personnel and Readiness, and such recommendations be must approved by the Secretary of Defense before it can be handed over to the President, who is the final approval authority for the MOH, although it is awarded in the name of Congress.

The Secretary of Defense, with the concurrence of the Secretary of State, is the approval authority for the acceptance and wear of NATO medals issued by the Secretary General of NATO and offered to the U.S. Permanent Representative to NATO in recognition of U.S. Service members who meet the eligibility criteria specified by NATO.[26]

Congressional committees

As the head of the department, the Secretary of Defense is the chief witness for the congressional committees with oversight responsibilities over the Department of Defense. The most important committees, with respect to the entire department, are the two authorizing committees, the Senate Armed Services Committee (SASC) and the House Armed Services Committee (HASC), and the two appropriations committees, the Senate Appropriations Committee and the House Appropriations Committee.

For the DoD intelligence programs the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence and the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence have the principal oversight role.

National Security Council

The Secretary of Defense is a statutory member of the National Security Council.[27] As one of the principals, the Secretary along with the Vice President, Secretary of State and the Assistant to the President for National Security Affairs participates in biweekly Principals Committee (PC) meetings, preparing and coordinating issues before they are brought before full NSC sessions chaired by the President.

Role in the military justice system

The Secretary is one of only five or six civilians—the others being the President, the three "service secretaries" (the Secretary of the Army, Secretary of the Navy, and Secretary of the Air Force), and the Secretary of Homeland Security (when the United States Coast Guard is under the United States Department of Homeland Security and has not been transferred to the Department of the Navy under the Department of Defense)—authorized to act as convening authority in the military justice system for General Courts-Martial (10 U.S.C. § 822: article 22, UCMJ), Special Courts-Martial (10 U.S.C. § 823: article 23, UCMJ), and Summary Courts-Martial (10 U.S.C. § 824: article 24 UCMJ).



Secretary of Defense is a Level I position of the Executive Schedule,[4] and thus earns a salary of $203,700 per year as of January 2015.

List of Secretaries of Defense

The longest-serving Secretary of Defense is Robert McNamara, who served for a total of 2,595 days. Combining his two non-sequential services as Secretary of Defense, the second longest serving is Donald Rumsfeld, who served just ten days fewer than McNamara. The shortest-serving Secretary of Defense is Elliot Richardson, who was quickly moved to US Attorney General after 114 days due to resignations during the Watergate Scandal (not counting Deputy Secretary of DefenseWilliam P. Clements and William Howard Taft IV, who each served a few weeks as temporary/acting Secretary of Defense).


  Democratic  Republican  Political Independent / Unknown


  Denotes an Acting Secretary of Defense

No.PortraitNameState of ResidenceTook OfficeLeft OfficeDays servedPresident
serving under
1James V. ForrestalNew YorkSeptember 17, 1947March 28, 1949[28]558Harry S Truman
2Louis A. JohnsonWest VirginiaMarch 28, 1949September 19, 1950[29]540
3George C. MarshallPennsylvaniaSeptember 21, 1950September 12, 1951[30]356
4Robert A. LovettNew YorkSeptember 17, 1951January 20, 1953[31]491
5Charles E. WilsonMichiganJanuary 28, 1953October 8, 1957[32]1714Dwight D. Eisenhower
6Neil H. McElroyOhioOctober 9, 1957December 1, 1959[33]783
7Thomas S. Gates, Jr.PennsylvaniaDecember 2, 1959January 20, 1961[34]415
8Robert S. McNamaraMichiganJanuary 21, 1961February 29, 1968[35]1035John F. Kennedy
(2595 total)
Lyndon B. Johnson
9Clark M. CliffordMarylandMarch 1, 1968January 20, 1969[36]325
10Melvin R. LairdWisconsinJanuary 22, 1969January 29, 1973[37]1468Richard Nixon
11Elliot L. RichardsonMassachusettsJanuary 30, 1973May 24, 1973[38]114
William P. Clements, Jr.[39]
TexasMay 24, 1973July 2, 1973[citation needed]39
12James R. SchlesingerVirginiaJuly 2, 1973November 19, 1975[40]403
(870 total)
Gerald Ford
13Donald RumsfeldIllinoisNovember 20, 1975January 20, 1977[41]427
( 2585 total)
14Harold BrownCaliforniaJanuary 21, 1977January 20, 1981[42]1460Jimmy Carter
15Caspar WeinbergerCaliforniaJanuary 21, 1981November 23, 1987[43]2497Ronald Reagan
16Frank CarlucciVirginiaNovember 23, 1987January 20, 1989[44]424
William Howard Taft IV
OhioJanuary 20, 1989March 21, 1989[45]60George H. W. Bush
17Richard B. CheneyWyomingMarch 21, 1989January 20, 1993[46]1401
18Leslie AspinWisconsinJanuary 21, 1993February 3, 1994[47]378Bill Clinton
19William J. PerryPennsylvaniaFebruary 3, 1994January 23, 1997[48] / January 24, 1997[49]1085
20William S. CohenMaineJanuary 24, 1997January 20, 2001[50]1457
21Donald RumsfeldIllinoisJanuary 20, 2001December 18, 2006[51]2158
( 2585 total)
George W. Bush
22Robert M. GatesTexasDecember 18, 2006June 30, 2011[52]764
(1,655 total)
Barack Obama
23Leon PanettaCaliforniaJuly 1, 2011February 26, 2013[53]606
24Chuck HagelNebraskaFebruary 27, 2013February 17, 2015[54]720
25Ash CarterMassachusettsFebruary 17, 2015January 19, 2017[55]702
26Jim MattisWashingtonJanuary 20, 2017[56]Present417Donald Trump


The Secretary of Defense is sixth in the presidential line of succession, following the Secretary of the Treasury and preceding the Attorney General.[57]

Secretary of Defense succession

In Executive Order13533 of March 1, 2010, President Barack Obama modified the line of succession regarding who would act as Secretary of Defense in the event of a vacancy or incapacitation, thus reversing the changes made by President George W. Bush in Executive Order13394 as to the relative positions of the Secretaries of the Military Departments. All of the officials in the line of succession are civilians appointed by the President with the advice and consent of the Senate:

Executive Order 13533 (March 1, 2010 – present)

Executive Order 13394 (December 22, 2005 – March 1, 2010)

Living former Secretaries of Defense

See also: List of living former members of the United States Cabinet

As of March 2018, there are ten living former Secretaries of Defense, the oldest being Harold Brown (1977–1981, born 1927). The most recent Secretary of Defense to die was Melvin Laird (1969–1973), on November 16, 2016.

NameTerm of officeDate of birth (and age)
Donald Rumsfeld1975–1977, 2001–2006(1932-07-09) July 9, 1932 (age 85)
Harold Brown1977–1981(1927-09-19) September 19, 1927 (age 90)
Frank Carlucci1987–1989(1930-10-18) October 18, 1930 (age 87)
Dick Cheney1989–1993(1941-01-30) January 30, 1941 (age 77)
William Perry1994–1997(1927-10-11) October 11, 1927 (age 90)
William Cohen1997–2001(1940-08-28) August 28, 1940 (age 77)
Robert Gates2006–2011(1943-09-25) September 25, 1943 (age 74)
Leon Panetta2011–2013(1938-06-28) June 28, 1938 (age 79)
Chuck Hagel2013–2015(1946-10-04) October 4, 1946 (age 71)
Ash Carter2015–2017September 24, 1954 (age 62)

See also

Department of Defense organizational chart (December 2013)

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