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, Marine Corps generals, Navy admirals, Air Force generals, Coast Guard admirals, or Public Health Service admirals.

There are currently 40 active duty four-star officers in the uniformed services of the United States: 11 in the Army, 4 in the Marine Corps, 9 in the Navy, 14 in the Air Force, 2 in the Coast Guard, and none in the Public Health Service Commissioned Corps. Of the seven federal uniformed services, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration Commissioned Officer Corps is the only service that does not have an established four-star position.

List of designated four-star positions

Department of Defense

Organization of the Joint Chiefs of Staff

Position Photo Incumbent Service
Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff (CJCS) Gen Joseph Dunford USMC
Vice Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff (VJCS) Gen Paul J. Selva USAF

Unified Combatant Commands

Position Photo Incumbent Service
Commander, U.S. Africa Command (USAFRICOM) Gen Thomas D. Waldhauser USMC
Commander, U.S. Central Command (USCENTCOM) GEN Joseph L. VotelUSA
Commander, U.S. European Command (USEUCOM) and
Supreme Allied Commander Europe (SACEUR)
GEN Curtis M. Scaparrotti USA
Commander, U.S. Northern Command (USNORTHCOM) and
Commander, North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD)
Gen Lori J. Robinson USAF
Commander, U.S. Pacific Command (USPACOM) ADM Harry B. Harris, Jr. USN
Commander, U.S. Southern Command (USSOUTHCOM) ADM Kurt W. Tidd USN
Commander, U.S. Special Operations Command (USSOCOM) GEN Raymond A. Thomas III USA
Commander, U.S. Strategic Command (USSTRATCOM) Gen John E. Hyten USAF
Commander, U.S. Transportation Command (USTRANSCOM) Gen Darren W. McDew USAF

Other Joint Positions

Position Photo Incumbent Service
Reserve Forces (National Guard)
Chief, National Guard Bureau (CNGB) Gen Joseph L. Lengyel USAF
Operating Forces
Commander, Resolute Support (RS) and
Commander, U.S. Forces Afghanistan (USFOR-A)
GEN John W. Nicholson, Jr. USA
Commander, United Nations Command (UNC),
Commander, R.O.K.-U.S. Combined Forces Command (CFC) and
Commander, U.S. Forces Korea (USFK)
GEN Vincent K. BrooksUSA
Director, National Security Agency (NSA),
Chief, Central Security Service (CSS) and
Commander, U.S. Cyber Command (USCYBERCOM)
ADM Michael S. Rogers USN

Department of the Army

Position Photo Incumbent
Army Staff
Chief of Staff of the Army (CSA) GEN Mark A. Milley
Vice Chief of Staff of the Army (VCSA) GEN Daniel B. Allyn
Army Commands
Commanding General, U.S. Army Forces Command (FORSCOM) GEN Robert B. Abrams
Commanding General, U.S. Army Materiel Command (AMC) GEN Gustave F. Perna
Commanding General, U.S. Army Pacific (USARPAC) GEN Robert B. Brown
Commanding General, U.S. Army Training and Doctrine Command (TRADOC) GEN David G. Perkins

Department of the Navy

U.S. Marine Corps
Position Photo Incumbent
Headquarters Marine Corps
Commandant of the Marine Corps (CMC) Gen Robert B. Neller
Assistant Commandant of the Marine Corps (ACMC) Gen Glenn M. Walters
U.S. Navy
Position Photo Incumbent
Office of the Chief of Naval Operations
Chief of Naval Operations (CNO) ADM John M. Richardson
Vice Chief of Naval Operations (VCNO) ADM William F. Moran
Director, Naval Nuclear Propulsion Program[1] and
Deputy Administrator, NNSA's Naval Reactors[2]
ADM James F. Caldwell, Jr.
Operating Forces
Commander, U.S. Fleet Forces Command (USFLTFORCOM) ADM Philip S. Davidson
Commander, U.S. Naval Forces Europe (USNAVEUR),
Commander, U.S. Naval Forces Africa (USNAVAF) and
Commander, Allied Joint Force Command Naples (JFC Naples)
ADM Michelle J. Howard
Commander, U.S. Pacific Fleet (USPACFLT) ADM Scott H. Swift

Department of the Air Force

Position Photo Incumbent
Air Staff
Chief of Staff of the Air Force (CSAF) Gen David L. Goldfein
Vice Chief of Staff of the Air Force (VCSAF) Gen Stephen W. Wilson
Air Force Major Commands
Commander, Air Combat Command (ACC) Gen Herbert J. Carlisle
Commander, Air Force Global Strike Command (AFGSC) Gen Robin Rand
Commander, Air Force Materiel Command (AFMC) Gen Ellen M. Pawlikowski
Commander, Air Force Space Command (AFSPC) Gen John W. Raymond
Commander, Air Mobility Command (AMC) Gen Carlton D. Everhart II
Commander, Pacific Air Forces (PACAF),
Air Component Commander for U.S. Pacific Command (USPACOM) and
Executive Director, Pacific Air Combat Operations Staff (PACOPS)
Gen Terrence J. O’Shaughnessy
Commander, U.S. Air Forces in Europe (USAFE)
Commander, U.S. Air Forces Africa (AFAFRICA)
Commander, Allied Air Command (AIRCOM) and
Director, Joint Air Power Competence Center (JAPCC)
Gen Tod D. Wolters

Department of Homeland Security

U.S. Coast Guard

Position Photo Incumbent
Commandant of the U.S. Coast Guard ADM Paul F. Zukunft
Vice Commandant of the U.S. Coast Guard ADM Charles D. Michel

Department of Health and Human Services

U.S. Public Health Service Commissioned Corps

Position Photo Incumbent
Assistant Secretary for Health (ASH)[3]

Currently held by a
civilian appointee

List of pending appointments

Designated Position Photo Name Service Status and date
Commander, Air Combat Command (ACC) Lt Gen James M. Holmes USAF Nomination sent
to the Senate

September 6, 2016[4][5]

Statutory limits

The 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 231 for the Army, 162 for the Navy, 198 for the Air Force, 61 for the Marine Corps.[6] For the Army, Marine, Navy, and Air Force, no more than about 21%[7] of each service's active duty general or flag officers may have more than two stars,[8] and statute sets the total number of four-star officers allowed in each service.[8] This is set at 7 four-star Army generals,[8] 6 four-star Navy admirals,[8] 9 four-star Air Force generals[8] and 2 four-star Marine generals.[8]

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 for both services are all four-star generals; for the Navy, the Chief and Vice Chief of Naval Operations are both four-star admirals; for the Marine Corps, the Commandant and the Assistant Commandant are both four-star generals. For the Coast Guard, the Commandant[9] and the Vice Commandant[10][11] are both four-star admirals. For the National Guard, the Chief of the National Guard Bureau[12] is a four-star general under active duty in the Army or Air Force. And for the Public Health Service Commissioned Corps, the Assistant Secretary for Health[13] is a four-star admiral if he or she holds an active duty appointment to the regular corps.

Exceptions to statutory limits

There are several exceptions to the limits allowing more than allotted four-star officers within the statute. A four-star officer serving as Chairman[14] or Vice Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff[14] does not count against his or her service's general or flag officer cap. An officer serving as Chief of the National Guard Bureau[15] does not count against his or her service's general officer cap. The Secretary of Defense can designate no more than 20 additional four-star officers,[6] who do not count against any service's general or flag officer limit,[6] to serve in one of several joint positions. These positions include the commander of a unified combatant command,[16] the commander of U.S. Forces Korea,[16] and the deputy commander of U.S. European Command[16] but only if the commander of that command is also the Supreme Allied Commander, Europe.[16] Officers serving in certain intelligence positions are not counted against statutory limit, including the Director of the Central Intelligence Agency.[17] The President may also add up to 5 four-star slots to one service if they are offset by removing an equivalent number from other services.[8] Finally, all statutory limits may be waived at the President's discretion during time of war or national emergency.[18]

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.[19] 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.


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 of office that require and/or allow the officer to hold such a rank.[20] Their rank expires with the expiration of their term of office, which is usually set by statute.[20] Four-star officers are nominated for appointment by the President from any eligible officers holding a one-star grade or above, who also meets the requirements for the position, under the advice and/or suggestion of their respective executive department secretary, service secretary, and if applicable the joint chiefs.[20] The nominee must be confirmed via majority by the Senate before the appointee can take office and thus assume the rank.[20]

It is extremely unusual for a four-star nominee to draw even token opposition in a Senate vote, either in committee or on the floor, because the administration usually withdraws or declines to submit nominations that draw controversy before or during the confirmation process.

When a doomed nomination is not withdrawn, the Senate typically does not hold a vote to reject the candidate, but instead allows the nomination to expire without action at the end of the legislative session.

Tour length

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:

Extensions of the standard tour length can be approved, within statutory limits, by their respective service secretaries, the Secretary of Defense, the President, and/or Congress but these are rare, as they block other officers from being promoted. Some statutory limits of tour length under the U.S. Code can be waived in times of national emergency or war.[29][30] Four-star ranks may also be given by act of Congress but this is extremely rare.


Other than voluntary retirement, statute sets a number of mandates for retirement. Four-star officers must retire after 40 years of service unless reappointed to grade to serve longer.[31] Four-star officers serving in the reserve active duty must retire after five years in grade or 40 years of service, whichever is later, unless reappointed to grade to serve longer.[32] Otherwise all general and flag officers must retire the month after their 64th birthday.[33] However, the Secretary of Defense can defer a four-star officer's retirement until the officer's 66th birthday[33] and the President can defer it until the officer's 68th birthday.[33]

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.[34] Maintaining a four-star rank is a game of musical chairs; once an officer vacates a position bearing that rank, he or she has no more than 60 days to be appointed or reappointed to a position of equal or greater importance before he or she must involuntarily retire.[20] 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.

To retire at four-star grade, an officer must accumulate at least three years of satisfactory active duty service in that grade, as determined by his or her service secretary.[35] The President and Congress must also receive certification by either the Under Secretary of Defense for Personnel and Readiness, the Deputy Under Secretary of Defense for Personnel and Readiness, or the Secretary of Defense that the retiree served satisfactorily in grade.[35] The Secretary of Defense may reduce this requirement to two years, but only if the officer is not being investigated for misconduct.[36] The President may also reduce these requirements even further, or waive the requirements altogether, if he so chooses.[35][36] Four-star officers who do not meet the service-in-grade requirement will revert to the next highest grade in which they served satisfactorily for at least six months which is normally the three-star grade.[35] Since three-star ranks are also temporary, if the retiree is also not certified by the Secretary of Defense or the President to retire as a three-star, the retiree will retire at the last permanent rank he or she satisfactorily held for six months.[35] The retiree may also be subject to congressional approval by the Senate before the retiree can retire in grade.[37] It is extraordinarily rare for a four-star officer not to be certified to retire in grade or for the Senate to seek final approval.

Four-star officers who are under investigation for misconduct typically are not allowed to retire until the investigation completes, so that the Secretary of Defense can decide whether to certify that their performance was satisfactory enough to retire in their highest grade.[35][44]

Furthermore, retired four-star officers may still be subjected to the Uniform Code of Military Justice and disciplinary action, including reduction in retirement rank, by the Secretary of Defense or the President if they are deemed to have served unsatisfactorily in rank, post their retirement.[48]

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.

A statutory limit can be waived by the President with the consent of Congress if it serves national interest. However, this is extremely rare.

See also


  1. Historically, the Director of Naval Nuclear Propulsion Program is held by an officer in the Navy, however 50 U.S.C. §2511 Notes: Ex. Ord. No. 12344 states a civilian can be appointed to that position without joining or being a serving member of the Navy.
  2. By statute, 50 U.S.C. § 2406, any person serving as Director, Naval Nuclear Propulsion Program also concurrently serves as the National Nuclear Security Administration's Deputy Administrator, Naval Reactors.
  3. The position of Assistant Secretary of Health has historically been held by both a civilian or a serving member of the Public Health Service Commissioned Corps.
  4. "U.S. Senate: Nom in Committee (non-civ)". Retrieved 2016-09-22.
  5. "General Officer Announcements". Retrieved 2016-09-22.
  6. 1 2 3 10 USC 526. Authorized strength: general and flag officers on active duty.
  7. Dividing the total number of general and flag officers above two stars (138) from the total number of general and flag officers overall (652) is 21.17%.
  8. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 10 USC 525. Distribution of commissioned officers on active duty in general officer and flag officer grades.
  9. 14 USC 44. Commandant; appointment.
  10. 14 USC 47. Vice commandant; appointment.
  11. Pub.L. 114–120 - Coast Guard Authorization Act of 2015
  12. 10 USC 10502 Chief of the National Guard Bureau: appointment; adviser on National Guard matters; grade; succession.
  13. 42 USC 207. Grades, ranks, and titles of commissioned corps.
  14. 1 2 10 USC 664. Length of joint duty assignments
  15. 10 U.S. Code § 10502 - Chief of the National Guard Bureau: appointment; adviser on National Guard matters; grade; succession
  16. 1 2 3 4 10 USC 604. Senior joint officer positions: recommendations to the Secretary of Defense.
  17. 10 USC 528. Officers serving in certain intelligence positions: military status; exclusion from distribution and strength limitations; pay and allowances.
  18. 10 USC 527. Authority to suspend sections 523, 525, and 526.
  19. Proclamation 7463 of September 14, 2001. Declaration of national emergency by reason of certain terrorist attacks.
  20. 1 2 3 4 5 10 USC 601. Positions of importance and responsibility: generals and lieutenant generals; admirals and vice admirals.
  21. Henneberger, Melinda; Becker, Elizabeth (August 4, 1999), "For a Scandal-Scarred General, the Gleam Appears to Be Back on the Brass", The New York Times
  22. Hendren, John (October 15, 2004), "4-Star Plans After Abu Ghraib", Los Angeles Times, p. A-1
  23. Shanker, Thom (June 9, 2007), "Chairman of Joint Chiefs Will Not Be Reappointed", The New York Times
  24. "Clinton Selects Admiral to Lead Forces in Pacific", Associated Press, July 2, 1994
  25. Kakesako, Gregg K. (October 7, 2004), "General pulls plug on Camp Smith job", Honolulu Star-Bulletin
  26. Gordon, Michael R. (September 28, 1988), "General Quitting As Project Chief For Missile Shield", The New York Times
  27. 1 2 Zucchino, David (December 23, 2010), "Fight to vindicate general dies in the Senate", Los Angeles Times
  28. Connolly, Ceci (June 10, 2004), "Top Health Official Awaits Hearing on Nomination", The Washington Post, p. A17
  29. 10 USC 152. Chairman: appointment; grade and rank
  30. 10 USC 154. Vice Chairman
  31. 10 USC 636. Retirement for years of service: regular officers in grades above brigadier general and rear admiral (lower half).
  32. 10 USC 14508 (d). Removal from the reserve active-status list for years of service: reserve general and flag officers
  33. 1 2 3 10 USC 1253. Age 64: regular commissioned officers in general and flag officer grades; exception
  34. DoD News Briefing on Thursday, June 6, 1996. Retirement of Admiral Leighton W. Smith Jr.
  35. 1 2 3 4 5 6 10 USC 1370. Commissioned officers: general rule; exceptions
  36. 1 2 Gearan, Anne (June 28, 2010), "Cashiered general tells Army he'll retire", Associated Press via The Washington Post
  37. The U.S. Constitution gives Congress oversight over retirement of military personnel if they so choose.
  38. Kakesako, Gregg K. (April 9, 1996), "Macke still paying for rape remark", Honolulu Star-Bulletin
  39. Congressional Record, October 18, 2005 - H8917. Executive communications, etc.
  40. Casey, Aloysius; Casey, Patrick (February 2007), "Lavelle, Nixon, and the White House Tapes", Air Force Magazine, 90 (2); Office of the Assistant Secretary of Defense (Public Affairs) (August 4, 2010), Lavelle Posthumously Nominated to General, U.S. Department of Defense
  41. Senate panel opposes increase in fired Air Force chief's pension
  42. Admiral Frank Kelso's Senate confirmation vote for retirement
  43. Admiral Henry Mauz's Senate confirmation vote for retirement
  44. 1 2 Vandiver, John (May 28, 2012), "Former AFRICOM chief Ward still on active duty pending probe", Stars and Stripes
  45. Rolfsen, Bruce (December 31, 2010), "Brass sanctions 'unprecedented'", Air Force Times
  46. Miles, Donna (November 14, 2012), "Panetta: Ward Ruling Recognizes High Standard for Leaders", American Forces Press Service via
  47. Cavas, Christopher P. (March 29, 2015). "PACOM Chief Locklear To Be Cleared in 'Fat Leonard' Probe". Defense News. Retrieved May 30, 2015.
  48. 1 2 Craig Whitlock and, Adam Goldman (December 7, 2015). "Army recommends no further punishment for Petraeus". Washington Post. Retrieved January 26, 2016.
  49. Goldman, Adam (January 25, 2016). "How David Petraeus avoided felony charges and possible prison time". Washington Post. Retrieved January 26, 2016.
  50. Craig Whitlock and, Adam Goldman (January 30, 2016). "Pentagon won't punish David Petraeus any further in sex-and-secrets scandal". Washington Post. Retrieved February 5, 2016.
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