Adapted from the PDF version of Key Officials of the Department of Defense
This compilation, prepared by the Historical Office of the Office of the Secretary of Defense (OSD), presents information about the Department of Defense (DoD) organization and its key officials since its establishment in 1947.
The scope of the work is a Department-wide listing of senior officials, but it does not purport to be comprehensive. “Key Officials” is not official terminology, nor is this a top-down listing of officials in order of precedence or reporting authority. It lists both presidentially-appointed, Senate-confirmed (PAS) as well as non-PAS officials. It includes civilian officials in the Office of the Secretary of Defense and the military departments as well as the top leadership of the Joint Chiefs of Staff (JCS).
In most entries, the effective date of incumbency is either the swearing-in date or initial appointment date. Officials assume office after being appointed to the positions, usually followed by a ceremonial swearing in days or weeks later. Dates of DoD directives establishing the responsibilities of positions and prescribing functions may appear months or sometimes years later. Human resources personnel records, especially for the first several decades of the Department, are imperfect. Offices are often without a permanent appointee for periods ranging from days to years. During many of these periods, there are officials in an “acting” or a “performing the duties of ” capacity. In other instances, there is no indication of an acting official, and a time gap is evident. Since the enactment of the Federal Vacancies Act of 1998, as amended, designation of acting officials and the statutory limitations on how long they are authorized to use the designation of “acting” is more closely managed.
This searchable version of Department of Defense Key Officials closely mirrors the organization of the PDF version but allows the user to create subsets of entries and search by a particular person, position, administration, or level.
The table shows, from left to right, a section title that groups jobs by level, a position title, a full name, and the dates of tenure. On the far right, colored bars compare the length of tenure. Hovering over these bars will give the length of time in office (usually approximated to the nearest month).
Typing a name or partial name into the Name Search or Position Search box and hitting enter will return a list of names or positions that contain the text entered in the box. A search for “john” will return both the first name John and the last name Johnson. Searches are not case sensitive.
There are two ways to narrow these search results. Clicking on a name, position title, or section title will reveal a menu with the options to include or exclude that entry. Select the items that you do not wish to show, and click “exclude.”
For example, a search for “carter” will show all the positions held by Ashton B. Carter, Carter L. Burgess, and Vice Admiral Powell F. Carter Jr. If only Ashton Carter is needed, click on Powell F. Carter and select “exclude.” Ashton Carter does not appear in the section Assistant Secretaries of Defense: Manpower and Reserve Affairs, so all entries under that section can be filtered out by clicking on the section title and then on “exclude.”
Alternatively, users may search for the full name “Ashton B. Carter.” Note that a search for “Ashton Carter,” without the middle initial, will not return any results.
The asterisk can be used to limit searches to first or last name. A search for “carter*” will return only “Carter L. Burgess.” A search for “*carter” will return both Aston Carter and Powell F. Carter. Rank and suffix are not searchable, but do appear in the results.
Position searches work much the same way, and can be useful in displaying results that have a word in common or for finding the complete name of a position if the user doesn’t have the full name available.
Name and position searches can be cleared by clicking the “x” that appears on the right side of the box after text is entered. Alternatively, users can clear searches using the “reset” or “undo” buttons, found on the bottom right of the dashboard (|<- and <- respectively). Using reset or undo is the only way to clear filters created by the “include” or “exclude” buttons.
The dropdown menus allow users to filter by one or more administration or level. After clicking the arrow that displays the available list, deselect “all.” The dashboard will go blank until a user places a checkmark next to one or more options.
These filters will combine with the name search and position search options, and with each other. For example, a user can apply filters to see Under Secretaries and Deputy Under Secretaries in the Bush and Clinton administrations.
To clear these filters, hover in the area above the right-hand side of the dropdown box, and click the image that appears. Users may also clear these filters with the “undo” or “reset” buttons on the lower right hand corner of the dashboard.
Users may choose to display tenures that fall between a range of dates or may show a snapshot of personnel on a particular day. The radio buttons below “Filter Dates” are by default set to “Show all dates.”
If a user selects a start date and end date, then changes the radio button to “Show a range of dates,” the result will include only those tenures that fall completely or partially within that range. The filter is designed to show who was in what job during a given time period, so some of the tenures displayed are likely to have start dates or end dates beyond the chosen range.
If a user selects “Focus on a day” and then enters a given date in the box labeled “End or focus,” the list will be limited to only those personnel in the listed positions on that day. Vacant positions are not shown. This filter can be useful for those seeking to know who was in office on the day of a particular event or communication.
Please note that the date boxes treat each date element as a separate field. Users should not try to type date separators like “/” as these will not be accepted. The cursor will automatically advance after a day or month is entered.
To see who is currently in office, select “Focus on a day,” click on the End or Focus box, and select “Today” from the drop-down menu.
To clear these filters, simply select the radio button “Show all dates.” This will let the dashboard ignore the dates entered in the start/end date boxes, so the user does not have to reset this text.
The lower right section of the dashboard displays either information about a position or biographical information about a person, if available. The “On click” menu allows users to select what information should be displayed below.
With “Display Position Info” selected, a click on a name or position in the table will display details about the history of the position. A click on the Section column will display all entries under that section. Users will have to scroll down to see these.
With the “Display Bio” option selected, a click on a name will display a brief biography of the subject, when available. Bios are available for most Secretaries, Deputy Secretaries, Under Secretaries, and Service Secretaries. Some bios will appear when lower-level position is clicked, if that person attained a higher-level position later.
A click on a position name with the “Display Bio” option selected will display a list of bios, in chronological order. The scroll bars on the right will reveal additional bios.
A second click on the item selected in the table will clear the selection.
The bios and descriptions are from the PDF version of Department of Defense Key Officials.
Download a PDF or browse an interactive timeline.