Brigadier general (United States)

Brigadier general (United States)

In the United States Army, the United States Marine Corps and the United States Air Force, brigadier general is a one-star general officer rank, with the pay grade of O-7. Brigadier general ranks above a colonel and below major general. Brigadier general is equivalent to the rank of rear admiral (lower half) in the other uniformed services.

tatutory limits

U.S. Code of law explicitly limits the total number of general officers that may be on active duty at any given time. The total number of active duty general officers is capped at 302 for the Army, 279 for the Air Force, 80 for the Marine Corps. [ [] 10 USC 526. Authorized strength: general and flag officers on active duty.] Some of these slots are reserved or finitely set by statute.

Promotion / appointment and tour length

To be promoted to the permanent grade of brigadier general, officers who are eligible for promotion to this rank are screened by an in-service promotion board comprising other general officers from their branch of service. [ [] 10 USC 611. Convening of selection boards] This promotion board then generates a list of officers it recommends for promotion to general rank. [ [] 10 USC 616. Recommendations for promotion by selection boards] This list is then sent to the service secretary and the joint chiefs for review before it can be sent to the President, through the defense secretary for consideration. [ [] 10 USC 618. Action on reports of selection boards] The President nominates officers to be promoted from this list with the advice of the Secretary of Defense, the service secretary , and if applicable, the service's chief of staff or commandant. [ [] 10 USC 624. Promotions: how made.] The President may nominate any eligible officer who is not on the recommended list if it serves in the interest of the nation, but this is extremely rare. The Senate must then confirm the nominee by a majority vote before the officer can be promoted. Once a nominee is confirmed he or she will be promoted to that rank once he or she assumes a position of office that requires an officer to hold the rank. For positions of office that are reserved by statute, the President nominates an officer for appointment to fill that position. For all three uniformed services, because the one-star and two-star grades are permanent ranks, the nominee must still be screened by an in-service promotion board before the nominee can be sent to the Senate for approval.


All brigadier generals must retire after five years in grade or 35 years of service, whichever is later, [ [] 10 USC 636. Retirement for years of service: regular officers in grades above brigadier general and rear admiral (lower half).] and all general officers must retire the month after their 64th birthday. [ [] 10 USC 1253. Age 64: regular commissioned officers in general and flag officer grades; exception.] However, the Secretary of Defense can defer a general officer's retirement until the officer's 66th birthday and the President can defer it until the officer's 68th birthday. General 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.


The rank of Brigadier General has existed in the United States armed forces since the American Revolutionary War. A brigadier general was at first strictly an infantry officer who commanded a brigade, but the responsibilities of the rank drastically expanded throughout the 19th and 20th centuries.

Between March 16, 1802 when the rank of Major General was abolished as a rank by an Act of Congress [ [ Act of March 16, 1802, ch. 9, 2 Stat. 132] ] until the rank of Major General was restored by the Act of January 11, 1812 [ [ Act of January 11, 1812, ch. 14, 2 Stat. 671] ] as preparations were being made for the War of 1812, Brigadier General was the highest rank in the U.S. Army.

The first Brigadier General in the U.S. Marine Corps was Commandant Archibald Henderson, promoted to the rank of brevet Brigadier General in the 1830s for his service in the Second Seminole War. The first non-brevet Brigadier General in the Marines was Commandant Jacob Zeilin who was promoted to the rank in 1874, but when he retired in 1876, Colonel once again became the highest rank in the Marines until March 1899 when Commandant Charles Heywood was promoted. Ever since then the office of Commandant has been held by a general officer, with the permanent rank of the Commandant raised to Major General in 1908 and to first Lieutenant General and then General during World War II, which rank it has held ever since.

The insignia for a brigadier general is one silver star worn on the shoulder or collar, with the insignia unchanged dating back to the creation of the rank some two centuries ago. Since the Mexican-American War, however, the lower rank of colonel has been the normal rank appointed to command a brigade.

Today, an Army or Marine Corps "BG" typically serves as Deputy Commander to the Commanding General of a division or division-sized units and assists in overseeing the planning and coordination of a mission. In an infantry brigade not attached to a division, a Brigadier General serves as the unit's commander, while a Colonel serves as deputy commander. An Air Force brigadier general typically commands a large wing. Additionally, one-star generals of all services may serve as high-level staff officers in large military organizations.


ee also

* List of United States military leaders by rank
* United States Army officer rank insignia
* United States Marine Corps officer rank insignia
* United States Air Force officer rank insignia

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