Vice Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff

The Vice Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff (VCJCS) is, by U.S. law, the second highest-ranking military officer in the United States Armed Forces,[1] ranking just below the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. The Vice Chairman outranks all respective heads of each service branch, with the exception of the Chairman, but does not have operational command authority over their service branches.[1] The Goldwater–Nichols Act of 1986 created the position of VCJCS to assist the Chairman in exercising his or her duties. In the absence of the Chairman, the Vice Chairman presides over the meetings of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and all other duties prescribed under 10 U.S.C. § 153 and may also perform other duties that the President, the Chairman, or the Secretary of Defense prescribes.[1]

Vice Chairman of the
Joint Chiefs of Staff
Flag of the Vice Chairman of the JCS
John E. Hyten

since November 21, 2019
U.S. Department of Defense
Member ofDefense Acquisition Board
Joint Chiefs of Staff
Joint Requirements Oversight Council
Reports toThe President
Secretary of Defense
Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff
SeatThe Pentagon, Arlington County, Virginia, U.S.
AppointerThe President
with Senate advice and consent
Term length2 years
Constituting instrument10 U.S.C. § 154
FormationFebruary 6, 1987
First holderRobert T. Herres
DeputyDirector of the Joint Staff


Although the office of Vice Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff is considered to be very important and highly prestigious, neither the Vice Chairman nor the Joint Chiefs of Staff as a body have any command authority over combatant forces. The chain of command runs from the President to the Secretary of Defense directly to the commanders of the Unified Combatant Commands.[2]

Appointment and term limitations

The Vice Chairman is nominated by the President for appointment and must be confirmed via majority vote by the Senate.[1] The Chairman and Vice Chairman may not be members of the same armed force service branch.[1] However, the President may waive that restriction for a limited period of time in order to provide for the orderly transition of officers appointed to serve in those positions.[1] The Vice Chairman serves a two-year term of office at the pleasure of the President,[1] but can be reappointed to serve two additional terms for a total of six years[1] In case of times of war or national emergency, there is no limit to how many times an officer can be reappointed to serve as Vice Chairman.[1] Historically, the Vice Chairman has served two terms. By statute, the Vice Chairman is appointed as a four-star general or admiral.[1]

Upcoming changes

Beginning January 1, 2021, the Vice Chairman's statutory term length will increase from two years to a single four-year term and cannot be reappointed unless in times of war or national emergency.[3] The Vice Chairman will begin assuming office on October 1 of every odd-number year, except the assumption of that term may not begin in the same year as the term of the Chairman.[3] The Vice Chairman will not be eligible for appointment to Chairman or appointment to any other four-star position unless the President determines such appointment is necessary under national interest.[3]

List of JCS vice chairmen

No. Vice Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of StaffTook officeLeft officeTime in officeDefence branch
Herres, Robert T.General
Robert T. Herres
February 6, 1987February 28, 19903 years, 22 days
U.S. Air Force
Jeremiah, DavidAdmiral
David E. Jeremiah
[lower-alpha 1]
March 1, 1990February 28, 19943 years, 364 days
U.S. Navy
Owens, WilliamAdmiral
William "Bill" Owens
(born 1940)
March 1, 1994February 27, 19961 year, 363 days
U.S. Navy
Ralston, JosephGeneral
Joseph Ralston
(born 1943)
March 1, 1996February 29, 20003 years, 365 days
U.S. Air Force
Myers, RichardGeneral
Richard Myers
(born 1942)
[lower-alpha 2]
February 29, 2000October 1, 20011 year, 215 days
U.S. Air Force
Pace, PeterGeneral
Peter Pace
(born 1945)
[lower-alpha 2]
October 1, 2001August 12, 20053 years, 315 days
U.S. Marine Corps
Giambastiani, EdmundAdmiral
Edmund Giambastiani
(born 1948)
August 12, 2005July 27, 20071 year, 349 days
U.S. Navy
Cartwright, JamesGeneral
James E. Cartwright
(born 1949)
August 31, 2007August 3, 20113 years, 337 days
U.S. Marine Corps
Winnefeld, JamesAdmiral
James A. Winnefeld, Jr.
(born 1956)
August 4, 2011July 31, 20153 years, 361 days
U.S. Navy
Selva, PaulGeneral
Paul J. Selva
(born 1958)
July 31, 2015July 31, 20194 years, 0 days
U.S. Air Force
Hyten, JohnGeneral
John E. Hyten
(born 1959)
November 21, 2019Current12 days
U.S. Air Force

Vice Chairman by branch of service

  • Air Force: 5
  • Navy: 4
  • Marine Corps: 2
  • Army: none
  • Coast Guard: none

Positional color

The positional color (flag) of the Vice Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff is white with a diagonal medium blue strip from upper hoist to lower fly. Centered on the flag is an American bald eagle with wings spread horizontally, in proper colors. The talons grasp three crossed arrows. A shield with blue chief and thirteen red and white stripes is on the eagle's breast. Diagonally, from upper fly to lower hoist are four five-pointed stars, medium blue on the white, two above the eagle, and two below. The fringe is yellow; the cord and tassels are medium blue and white. The design was approved by Secretary of Defense Caspar Weinberger on 20 January 1987.[5]

See also


  1. Served as acting Chairman
  2. Later served as Chairman of the Joint Chiefs


  1. 10 USC 154. Vice Chairman
  2. 10 USC 162. Combatant commands: assigned forces; chain of command
  3. Public Law 114–328 - The National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2017 increased the term length Chairman and the Vice Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff from two years to four years and the Vice Chairman is no longer eligible to become Chairman.
  4. "Gen. Paul J. Selva > Joint Chiefs of Staff > Article View".
  5. Army Regulation 840-10, paragraph 3-14 (2 Apr. 1992).
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