- List of active duty United States four-star officers
:"List of United States four-star officers" redirects here. For a complete historical list of U.S. four-star officers by branch, see Army generals, Navy admirals, Air Force generals, Marine Corps generals, or Public Health Service admirals."
There are currently 40 active duty four-star officers in the uniformed services of the United States: 12 in the Army, 10 in the Navy, 12 in the Air Force, 4 in the Marine Corps, 1 in the Coast Guard, and 1 in the Public Health Service Commissioned Corps.
List of designated four-star positions
Joint Chiefs of Staff
List of pending appointments
U.S. Code of law explicitly limits the total number of four-star officers that may be on active duty at any given time. The total number of active duty general or flag officers is capped at 302 for the Army, 216 for the Navy, 279 for the Air Force, 80 for the Marine Corps. [ [http://caselaw.lp.findlaw.com/casecode/uscodes/10/subtitles/a/parts/ii/chapters/32/sections/section_526.html] 10 USC 526. Authorized strength: general and flag officers on active duty.] For the Army, Navy, and Air Force, no more than 16.3% of the service's active duty general or flag officers may have more than two stars, and no more than 25% of those may have four stars. [http://www.law.cornell.edu/uscode/10/usc_sec_10_00000525----000-.html] 10 USC 525. Distribution of commissioned officers on active duty in general officer and flag officer grades.] [http://www.govtrack.us/congress/bill.xpd?tab=main&bill=h110-4986] Pub.L. 110-181: National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2008] [http://www.govtrack.us/congress/billtext.xpd?bill=h110-4986] Pub.L. 110-181: National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2008 full text] This corresponds to 12 four-star Army generals, 9 four-star Navy admirals, 11 four-star Air Force generals and 3 four-star Marine generals.
Several of these slots are reserved by statute. For the Army and the Air Force, the Chief of Staff and the Vice Chief of Staff are both four-star generals; for the Navy, the
Chief of Naval Operationsand the Vice Chief of Naval Operationsare both four-star admirals; for the Marine Corps, the Commandant and the Assistant Commandant are both four-star generals. In addition, the Commandant of the Coast Guard[ [http://caselaw.lp.findlaw.com/casecode/uscodes/14/parts/i/chapters/3/sections/section_44.html] 14 USC 44. Commandant; appointment.] is a four-star admiral; for the National Guard, the Chief of the National Guard Bureau[ [http://www.law.cornell.edu/uscode/10/usc_sec_10_00010502----000-.html] 10 USC 10502 Chief of the National Guard Bureau: appointment; adviser on National Guard matters; grade; succession.] is a four-star general under active duty in the Army or Air Force; for the Public Health Service Commissioned Corps, the Assistant Secretary for Health[ [http://www4.law.cornell.edu/uscode/uscode42/usc_sec_42_00000207----000-.html] 42 USC 207. Grades, ranks, and titles of commissioned corps.] is a four-star admiral if he or she holds an appointment to the regular corps.
There are several exceptions to these limits allowing more than allotted within the statute. A four-star officer serving as Chief of Staff to the President, or as Chairman or
Vice Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staffdoes not count against his service's general or flag officer cap. An officer serving as Chief of the National Guard Bureaudoes not count against his service's general officer cap. An officer serving in one of several joint positions does not count against his or her service's four-star limit, but he or she does count against his or her service's limit on officers with more than two stars; these positions include the commander of a unified combatant command, the commander of U.S. Forces Korea, and the deputy commander of U.S. European Command but only if the commander of that command is also the Supreme Allied Commander, Europe. [ [http://www.law.cornell.edu/uscode/10/604.html] 10 USC 604. Senior joint officer positions: recommendations to the Secretary of Defense.] Officers serving in certain intelligence positions are not counted against either limit, including the Director of the Central Intelligence Agency. [ [http://caselaw.lp.findlaw.com/casecode/uscodes/10/subtitles/a/parts/ii/chapters/32/sections/section_528.html] 10 USC 528. Officers serving in certain intelligence positions: military status; exclusion from distribution and strength limitations; pay and allowances.] The President may also add four-star slots to one service if they are offset by removing an equivalent number from other services. Finally, all statutory limits may be waived at the President's discretion during time of war or national emergency. [ [http://caselaw.lp.findlaw.com/casecode/uscodes/10/subtitles/a/parts/ii/chapters/32/sections/section_527.html] 10 USC 527. Authority to suspend sections 523, 525, and 526.]
On September 14, 2001, the President declared a national emergency and invoked his authority to waive all statutory limits on the number and grade distribution of general and flag officers on active duty. [ [http://www.fas.org/irp/news/2001/09/fr091801.html] Proclamation 7463 of September 14, 2001. Declaration of national emergency by reason of certain terrorist attacks.] On this basis, a number of senior officers in the Middle East have been appointed in excess of the normal limits, including the four-star commanders of the Afghanistan and Iraq theaters, and the temporary authorization for their positions will expire shortly following the termination of the national emergency.
Appointment and tour length
Four-star grades go hand-in-hand with the positions of office they are linked to, so these ranks are temporary. Officers may only achieve four-star grade if they are appointed to positions that require the officer to hold such a rank. [http://caselaw.lp.findlaw.com/casecode/uscodes/10/subtitles/a/parts/ii/chapters/35/sections/section_601.html] 10 USC 601. Positions of importance and responsibility: generals and lieutenant generals; admirals and vice admirals.] Their rank expires with the expiration of their term of office, which is usually set by statute. Four-star officers are nominated for appointment by the President under the advice and/or suggestion of their respective department secretary, service secretary, and if applicable the joint chiefs. The nominee must be confirmed via majority by the Senate before the appointee can take office and thus assume the rank. The standard tour length for most four-star positions is three years, bundled as a two-year term plus a one-year extension, with the following exceptions:
*The Chairman and Vice Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff may serve for up to six years, in three consecutive two-year terms, at the pleasure of the President. The President can appoint them to serve a fourth term, for a combined total of eight years, if it serves in the interest of the nation. Typically, the chairman and vice chairman serve for four years.
*Service chiefs of staff serve for four years in one four-year term.
*Service vice chiefs of staff serve for a nominal four years, but are commonly reassigned after one or two years. The Assistant Commandant of the Marine Corps serves for two years.
*The Chief of the National Guard Bureau serves a nominal four years.
*The Director of Naval Nuclear Propulsion serves for a nominal eight years.
*The Commandant of the Coast Guard serves for a nominal four years.
*The Assistant Secretary for Health is a civilian appointee or a current serving member of the PHSCC who serves for a nominal four years at the pleasure of the President.
Note: Extensions of the standard tour length can be approved, within statutory limits, by their respective service secretaries, the Secretary of Defence, the President, and/or Congress but these are rare, as they block other officers from being promoted. Some statutory limits under the U.S. Code can be waived in times of national emergency or war. Four-star ranks may also be given by act of Congress but this is extremely rare.
Four-star officers must retire after five years in grade or 40 years of service, whichever is later, [ [http://caselaw.lp.findlaw.com/casecode/uscodes/10/subtitles/a/parts/ii/chapters/36/subchapters/iii/sections/section_636.html] 10 USC 636. Retirement for years of service: regular officers in grades above brigadier general and rear admiral (lower half).] and all general and flag officers must retire the month after their 64th birthday. [http://www.law.cornell.edu/uscode/10/usc_sec_10_00001253----000-.html] 10 USC 1253 Age 64: regular commissioned officers in general and flag officer grades; exception] However, the Secretary of Defense can defer a four-star officer's retirement until the officer's 66th birthday and the President can defer it until the officer's 68th birthday.
*"For example, Admiral
William J. Fallonwas born on December 30, 1944; placed on active duty in 1967; and promoted to admiral in October, 2000. Ordinarily, he would have been expected to retire in 2007, after 40 years of service. Instead, he was assigned as commander of U.S. Central Command on March 16, 2007. If he had remained on active duty until the completion of his the standard three-year term as combatant commander, which would have expired in March, 2010, he would have been 65 years of age with 43 years of service. Instead, he retired in March, 2008 at the age of 63 and 41 years of service."
Senior officers typically retire well in advance of the statutory age and service limits, so as not to impede the upward career mobility of their juniors. Since there are a finite number of four-star slots available to each service, typically one officer must leave office before another can be promoted. [ [http://www.defenselink.mil/transcripts/transcript.aspx?transcriptid=529] DoD News Briefing on Thursday, June 6, 1996. Retirement of Admiral Leighton W. Smith Jr.] Maintaining a four-star rank is a game of musical chairs; once an officer vacates a position bearing that rank, he or she has 60 days to find another job of equal importance before he or she must retire . Historically, officers leaving four-star positions were allowed to revert to their permanent two-star ranks to mark time in lesser jobs until statutory retirement, but now such officers are expected to retire immediately to avoid obstructing the promotion flow.
*"For example, Vice Admiral
Patrick M. Walshwas promoted to admiral and assigned as vice chief of naval operations in 2007. The incumbent vice chief, Admiral Robert F. Willard, was reassigned as commander of the U.S. Pacific Fleet. The incumbent Pacific Fleet commander, Admiral Gary Roughead, was reassigned as commander of U.S. Fleet Forces Command, whose incumbent commander, Admiral John B. Nathman, received no further assignment and retired at the age of 59, with 37 years of service and three years in grade."
To retire at four-star grade, an officer must accumulate at least three years of satisfactory active duty service in that grade, as certified by the Secretary of Defense and confirmed by the Senate. [ [http://caselaw.lp.findlaw.com/casecode/uscodes/10/subtitles/a/parts/ii/chapters/69/sections/section_1370.html] 10 USC 1370. Commissioned officers: general rule; exceptions.] The Secretary of Defense may reduce this requirement to two years, but only if the officer is not being investigated for misconduct. Officers who do not meet the service-in-grade requirement revert to the next highest grade in which they served satisfactorily for at least six months. It is extraordinarily rare for a four-star officer not to be nominated to retire in grade, or for such a nomination not to be confirmed by the Senate unanimously.
*"For example, when fired after less than the statutory time in grade, Generals
Frederick F. Woernerand Michael J. Duganwere retired as full generals by unanimous Senate consent; Admirals Husband E. Kimmeland Richard C. Mackewere not nominated to retire at three-star or four-star rank, and retired as two-star rear admirals; General John D. Lavellewas nominated to retire as a lieutenant general but was rejected by a Senate Armed Services Committee vote of 14 to 2, and retired as a major general; [ [http://www.afa.org/magazine/feb2007/0207tapes.asp] Casey, Aloysius & Patrick Casey (February 2007), "Lavelle, Nixon, and the White House Tapes", "Air Force Magazine" 90 (2)] and General Kevin P. Byrneshad over two years in grade but was being investigated for misconduct, and retired as a lieutenant general. [ [http://frwebgate.access.gpo.gov/cgi-bin/getpage.cgi?dbname=2005_record&page=H8917&position=all] " Congressional Record", October 18, 2005 - H8917. Executive communications, etc.] After achieving the statutory time in grade, Admirals Frank B. Kelso IIand Henry H. Mauz Jr.were retired as full admirals, but only by Senate votes of 54 to 43 and 92 to 6, respectively."
Four-star officers typically step down from their posts up to 60 days in advance of their official retirement dates. Officers retire on the first day of the month, so once a retirement month has been selected, the relief and retirement ceremonies are scheduled by counting backwards from that date by the number of days of accumulated leave remaining to the retiring officer. During this period, termed transition leave or terminal leave, the officer is considered to be awaiting retirement but still on active duty.
*"For example, General
Michael Hageewas relieved as commandant of the Marine Corps on November 13, 2006, and held his retirement ceremony the same day, but remained on active duty until his official retirement date on January 1, 2007."
Statutory limit can be waved by the President with the consent of Congress if it serves national interest however this is extremely rare.
*"In one example, General Lewis B. Hershey enlisted in the Indiana Army National Guard in 1911 at the age of 18. He transfered to active duty and receiving a commission in 1916 and subsequently transfering to the regular army. He served in active duty in the Army until the age of 80 before being involuntarily retired in 1973 after 62 years of service.
List of United States military leaders by rank
List of United States Army four-star generals
List of United States Navy four-star admirals
List of United States Air Force four-star generals
List of United States Marine Corps four-star generals
List of United States Public Health Service Commissioned Corps four-star admirals
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