Joint Chiefs of Staff (JCS) is a
group of military leaders in the United States armed forces who
advise the civilian government of the United States.
Joint Chiefs of Staff of the United
States of America symbol
The JCS is defined by statute and consists
of a Chairman
appointed by the President
, and the Chiefs of
service from four of the five branches of the armed services.
Similar organizations, sometimes known as Chiefs of Staff
Committees (COSCs) in the Commonwealth of Nations
, are common
in other countries.
As the military of the
grew in size following the American Civil War
, joint military action
between the Army
became increasingly difficult.
Army and Navy cooperation were unsupportive at either the planning
or operational level and were constrained over disagreements during
the Spanish-American War in the
The Joint Army and Navy Board was
established in 1903 by President Theodore Roosevelt
representatives from the military heads and chief planners of both
the Navy's General Board
Army's General Staff
. The Joint Board
acting as an "advisory committee" was created to plan joint
operations and resolve problems of common rivalry
between the two services.
Yet, the Joint Board accomplished little as its charter gave it no
authority to enforce its decisions. The Joint Board also lacked the
ability to originate its own opinions and was thus limited to
commenting only on the problems submitted to it by the Secretaries of War
. As a
result, the Joint Board had little to no impact on the manner the
United States conducted World War
After World War I, in 1919 the two Secretaries agreed to
reestablish and revitalize the Joint Board. This time, the Joint
Board’s membership would include the Chiefs of Staff, their
deputies, and the Chief of War Plans Division for the Army and
Director of Plans Division for the Navy. Under the Joint Board
would be a staff called the Joint Planning Committee to serve the
Board. Along with new membership, the Joint Board could initiate
recommendations on its own initiative. However, the Joint Board
still did not possess the legal authority to enforce its
In 1942, President of the United States Franklin D. Roosevelt and Prime Minister of the
United Kingdom Winston Churchill
established the Combined Chiefs
of Staff (CCS) following the attack on Pearl Harbor and the United States' entrance into World War II.
The CCS would serve as the
supreme military body for strategic direction of the US-British Commonwealth
While the UK had the Chiefs of
, the United States had no equivalent agency
with which to provide the CCS with American services.
Though the Joint Board did exist, its authority and services were
of little use to the CCS. Although its 1935 publication, Joint
Action of the Army and Navy, gave some guidance for the joint
operations during World War II
Joint Board held little influence in that war. Following the end of
WWII, the Joint Board was officially disbanded in 1947.
To fill the need for a coordinated effort and to provide
coordinated staff work, Admiral William D. Leahy
proposed a concept of a "unified high
command" in what would be called the Joint Chiefs of Staff. On 20
July 1942, Admiral Leahy became the Chief of Staff to the
Commander in Chief of the Army and Navy
("Commander in Chief of the Army and Navy of the United
" being the military title of the U.S. President, per
Article II, § 2, of the Constitution), and created a staff of the
chiefs of staff of the services to serve under him.
The first members of the Joint Chiefs of Staff were:
*Arnold was later appointed to the grade of General of the Air
Force. His rank while serving as Chief of the
Army Air Forces was General of the Army.
With the end of World War II, the Joint Chiefs of Staff was
officially established under the National Security Act of 1947
Per the National Security Act, the JCS consisted of a Chairman, the
Chief of Staff of the
, the Chief of
Staff of the Air Force
(which was established as a separate
service by the same Act), and the Chief of Naval Operations
Commandant of the Marine
was to be consulted on matters concerning the Corps, but
was not a regular member; General Lemuel C. Shepherd, Jr.
, Commandant in
1952-55, was the first to sit as an occasional member. The law was
amended during the term of General Louis H. Wilson, Jr.
(1975-79), making the
Commandant a full-time JCS member in parity with the other three
The position of Vice Chairman was created by the Goldwater-Nichols Act
of 1986 to
compliment the CJCS as well as to delegate some of the Chairman's
responsibilities, particularly concerning procurement.
General Colin L. Powell
(1989-93) was the first and, as of 2009,
the only African American to serve on the Joint Chiefs of Staff.
General Peter Pace
2001-05; Chairman, 2005-07) was the first Marine to serve in either
position. No woman has ever served on the Joint Chiefs of
Although the Coast Guard is one of the five armed services of the
United States, the Commandant of the Coast Guard
is not a member of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. He is, however,
entitled to the same supplemental pay as the Joint Chiefs, per 37
U.S.C. § 414(a)(5) ($4,000 per annum in 2009), and is accorded
of the floor
under Senate Rule XXIII(1) as a de facto
JCS member during Presidential addresses. In contrast to the Joint
Chiefs — who are not in the military's operational chain of command
— the Commandant of the Coast Guard commands his service. Coast
Guard officers are legally eligible to be appointed as CJCS and
VCJCS, per 10 U.S.C. 152(a)(1) & 154(a)(1) respectively — which
use the collective term "armed forces" rather than listing the
eligible services — but none has been appointed to either position
as of 2009.
Roles and responsibilities
The Joint Chiefs of Staff, November 2002.
After the 1986 reorganization of the military undertaken by the
Joint Chiefs of Staff does not have operational command of U.S.
military forces. Responsibility for conducting military operations
goes from the President
Secretary of Defense
to the commanders of the Unified Combatant Commands
thus bypasses the Joint Chiefs of Staff completely.
Today, their primary responsibility is to ensure the personnel
readiness, policy, planning and training of their respective
military services for the combatant commanders to utilize. The
Joint Chiefs of Staff also act in a military advisory capacity for
the President of the
and the Secretary of Defense. In addition, the
Chairman of the
Joint Chiefs of Staff
acts as the chief military advisor to the
President and the Secretary of Defense. In this strictly advisory
role, the Joint Chiefs constitute the second-highest deliberatory
body for military policy, after the National Security
, which includes the President and other officials
besides the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs.
Director of the Joint Staff
The Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff is assisted by the
Director of the Joint
, a three-star officer who assists the Chairman with the
management of the Joint Staff, an organization composed of
approximately equal numbers of officers contributed by the Army,
the Navy and Marine Corps, and the 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.
Current Joint Chiefs of Staff
Uniformed Service Chiefs not Members of
- On 8 June 2007, Secretary of Defense
Robert Gates recommended that Admiral
Mike Mullen be nominated to replace General Pace when the
Congressional confirmation of the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of
Staff occurred that September. Secretary Gates stated that the
contentious issue of the military actions in Iraq would shift
"the focus of his [General Pace's] confirmation process would
have been on the past rather than the future" and that the
"divisive ordeal" of the reconfirmation "is not in the
interest of the country."
- Secretary Gates also recommended on the same day that General
James E. Cartwright (United States Strategic
Command) be nominated as Vice-Chairman in order to preserve the
"balance" of the representation of each branch of service.
Joint Chiefs of Staff and Joint
The Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff is, by law, the highest
ranking military officer of the United States armed forces
and the principal military adviser to the President of the United
. He leads the meetings and coordinates the efforts of
the Joint Chiefs of Staff, comprising the Chairman, the Vice Chairman of the
Joint Chiefs of Staff
, the Chiefs of Staff of the United States Army
States Air Force
, the Chief of Naval Operations
, and the
of the United States Marine Corps
. The Joint Chiefs of
Staff have offices in The Pentagon.
The Chairman outranks all respective heads
of each service branch, but does not have command authority over
them, their service branches or the Unified Combatant Commands
combatant commanders receive operational orders directly from the
The current Chairman is Admiral
Michael Mullen, USN
, who began his term on 1 October
On 20 July 1942, Navy Fleet Admiral William D. Leahy
became the Chief of Staff to the
Commander in Chief of the Army and Navy (20 July 1942–21 March
1949). He was not technically the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of
Staff. Leahy's office was the precursor to the post of Chairman
of the Joint Chiefs of Staff
. That post was established and
first held by General of the Army Omar
The position of Vice Chairman of the
Joint Chiefs of Staff
was created by the Goldwater-Nichols Act
of 1986. The
Vice Chairman is a four-star-general
and, by law, is the second
highest ranking member of the U.S. Armed Forces (after the Chairman of the Joint
Chiefs of Staff
). In the absence of the Chairman, the Vice
Chairman presides over the meetings of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.
He may also perform such duties as the Chairman may prescribe. It
was not until the National Defense Authorization Act in 1992 that
the position was made a full voting member of the JCS.
The current Vice Chairman is Marine Corps
General James Cartwright
Senior Enlisted Advisor to the Chairman
Command Sergeant Major William J.
was selected to serve as
the first Senior
Enlisted Advisor to the Chairman
of the Joint Chiefs of Staff
(SEAC) beginning 1 Oct 2005. It was to be a newly-created position
established to advise the Chairman on all matters involving
enlisted personnel in a joint environment.
The position of Senior Enlisted Advisor
to the Chairman
of the Joint Chiefs of Staff is currently
As the SEA to the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, the SEAC
will be an advisor to the Chairman on all matters concerning joint
and combined total force integration, utilization, and development.
Additionally, the SEAC will help develop noncommissioned officers
(NCOs)-related joint professional education, enhance utilization of
our senior NCOs on joint battle staffs, and support the Chairman’s
responsibilities as directed.
The position has been vacant since CSM Gainey's retirement on 25
April 2008. As of July 2009, no reference is made to the position
on the JCS website's menu system.
Directorates of the Joint Staff
The Joint Chiefs of Staff organization includes the following
departments where all the Joint Staff
functions are translated into action.
- DOM - Directorate of Management
- J1 - Personnel and Manpower
- J2 - Intelligence
- J3 - Operations
- J4 - Logistics
- J5 - Strategic Plans and Policy
- J6 - Command, Control, Communications and Computer Systems
- J7 - Operational Plans and Joint Force Development
- J8 - Force Structure, Resources, and Assessment
Joint Chiefs of Staff: Civilian Awards
The Joint Chiefs may recognize private citizens, organizations or
career civilian government employees for significant achievements
provided to the joint community with one of the following
decorations / awards. 
- CJCS Award for Distinguished Public Service (DPS)
- CJCS Award for Outstanding Public Service (OPS)
- CJCS Joint Distinguished Civilian Service Award
- CJCS Joint Meritorious Civilian Service Award
- Joint Civilian Service Commendation Award (JCSCA)
- Joint Civilian Service Achievement Award (JCSAA)
-  10 USC 151. Joint Chiefs of Staff:
- Allan R. Millett, Semper Fidelis: The History of the United
States Marine Corps, 1980;pg. 269, para. 2.
-  10 USC 152. Chairman: appointment; grade
-  10 USC 152(c). Chairman: appointment; grade
and rank - Grade and Rank.
-  10 USC 162. Combatant commands: assigned
forces; chain of command
- About the Joint Chiefs
- Gillespie, Robert M. The Joint Chiefs of Staff and the
Escalation of the Vietnam Conflict, 1964-1965. Masters Thesis,
Clemson University, 1994.
- Joint Chiefs of Staff, Organizational Development of the
Joint Chiefs of Staff, 1942-1987. Joint Secretariat, Joint
Chiefs of Staff, 1988.
- McMaster, H.R. Dereliction of Duty: Lyndon Johnson, Robert
McNamara, the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and the Lies that Led to
Vietnam. New York: Harper Collins, 1997.
- Perry, Mark Four Stars: The Inside Story of the Forty-Year
Battle Between the Joint Chiefs of Staff and America's Civilian
Leaders. New Yotk: Houghton Mifflin, 1989, ISBN
- Rearden, Steven L. History of the Office of the Secretary
of Defense. 2 vols. Washington DC: Historical Office, Office
of the Secretary of Defense, 1984.
- Schnabel, James F. History of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.
The Joint Chiefs of Staff and National Policy
1945-1947. Volume I. Washington DC: Joint History
Office, The Joint Staff, 1996.
- Taylor, Maxwell D. The Uncertain Trumpet. New York:
Harper & Row, 1959.