Adapted from the PDF version of Key Officials of the Department of Defense
This dashboard, prepared by the Office of the Secretary of Defense Historical Office, presents information about senior leaders, the positions they held, and the organization of the Department of Defense (DoD) since unification of the United States armed forces in 1947. 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) officials as well as certain 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), the combatant commands, and DoD agencies and field activities.
This dashboard includes titles of some official positions that have been superseded by new titles or organizational changes. The text indicates all instances where this has occurred. Where an official position has a direct lineal predecessor with a similar scope of functions, the prior position is grouped with the current position.
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.
Offices are sometimes without a permanent appointee for periods ranging from days to years. During many of these periods, other officials, most often a deputy or first assistant, serve in an “acting” or a “performing the duties of ” capacity, and are listed as such in this publication. Chronological gaps in listings of officials may be due to a vacancy or may be due to a lack of records on the appointment of a temporary officeholder.
Since the enactment of the Federal Vacancies Reform 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 are more closely managed. According to the act, a deputy or first assistant, or other senior agency employee designated by the President, may temporarily perform the functions and duties of a PAS official in an acting capacity for no more than 210 days. If the Senate returns or rejects the President’s nominee for a vacancy, or if the President withdraws the nominee from consideration, the period of performance for the official serving in an acting capacity begins anew. A PAS official serving simultaneously in an acting capacity for a position for which they were not confirmed will be listed in this publication under both their Senate-confirmed position and the acting, nonconfirmed position.
When a first assistant or other executive office is vacant, or when a first assistant or deputy temporarily steps away from a position to serve in an acting capacity in another position, the vacancy may be handled by a PAS official or senior agency employee “performing the duties of” the position. Such an employee may be delegated nonstatutory duties and functions of the position and does not face a time constraint on how long they may perform such duties.
Please call any errors that appear in this dashboard to the attention of the Office of the Secretary of Defense Historical Office. The dashboards will be updated on a regular basis.
The dashboards were created by the OSD Historical Office using Tableau. No DoD endorsement of Tableau is intended or implied.
This online dashboard captures data from the handbook Key Officials of the Department of Defense, published by the Office of the Secretary of Defense Historical Office.
In this timeline, superseded positions that explicitly had responsibilities transferred to another position are grouped together and colored according to the level of the final position in the lineage. For example, the role of Assistant Secretary of Defense for Research & Engineering (1957-1958) evolved first into the Director of Defense Research & Engineering, and ultimately into the Under Secretary of Defense (Research & Engineering). These positions are therefore grouped together in the timeline by position and color.
For more about the data, please see the introduction on this page.
The timeline’s bars reflect a tenure in the positions listed on the left. Hovering over a bar segment will reveal the officeholder, the name of the position, and the dates of tenure. Clicking on a segment will highlight it.
The scrollbar on the right will reveal all the positions in the set. Hovering over the upper left corner of the timeline will reveal a toolbar with zoom, pan, and selection tools. The selection tools can be used to build custom sets. Once the desired items are highlighted, another toolbar will appear that reveals filtering and exporting options.
Applying filters can help with a particular query or can focus the visualization on relevant data.
Filters applied from a drop-down menu can be quickly removed by hovering over the upper right hand corner of the selection box. Clicking the funnel icon will remove the filter.
Filters applied by clicking text or a bar can be removed by clicking the selection again, clicking another selection in the same panel, or clicking on an empty space in the panel.
Any filter can be removed by using the undo (<--) or reset (|<--) buttons on the lower right-hand corner of the dashboard.
Filters applied from the “keep only” or “exclude” pop-up menus can only be removed with the undo or reset buttons.
Clicking on any text to the left of the timeline will reveal a toolbar with filtering and exporting options. This allows for the creation of views that exclude certain groups or positions.
To find and filter by person, take the following steps:
Type a name or partial name into the search box “Find by name” and hit return. Search only on first and/or last name. Exclude middle names, suffixes, and titles from your search.
The results will appear in the table on the right.
Hovering over a name will highlight that person’s tenures in the timeline (if the position is not in view, use the timeline scroll bar to reveal more of the timeline).
Hovering over a job title will highlight a particular tenure in the timeline.
Clicking on a name or position in the table will filter the timeline on one or more presidential administrations. This allows the user to see a particular tenure in context.
To clear a filter, click again on the name or position in the table, on another name or position, or on the empty space at the bottom of the table. Then remove the text entered in the search box. Alternatively, users can click the reset or undo button on the lower right of the dashboard.
To filter by administration, use the drop-down menu. First uncheck “All,” then select one or more administrations.
There are two options for filtering by date. “Show a range of dates” lets the user pick a start and end date, and displays all those who were in office during that range. Users may enter their preferred dates in the “Start Date” and “End or Focus Date” boxes. The “Focus on a day” option allows users to show the personnel in office on a given day. Enter this day in the box labeled “End or Focus Date.” The dashboard will ignore what has been entered in the Start Date box.
When filtering by a range or focus date, a band or reference line will appear showing the selected dates in the timeline.
To clear a date filter, select “Show all dates.” The text entered in the boxes below will remain, but they will be ignored.
The color legend may also be used as a filter; click on the text or color swatch, and use the resulting menu to keep only your selection or exclude your selection.
Controls for the dashboard on at the lower right-hand corner. These buttons, from left to right, are:
Undo (<--). Reverses the last action.
Redo (-->). Reverses an undo.
Reset (|<--). Undo all actions. Return dashboard to original state.
Share. Provides links to the dashboard, buttons for social media.
Download. Provides several options, including image, PDF, or raw data. Users will be given the option of downloading all the data or a filtered subset of the data.
Download a PDF copy of Key Officials or browse a searchable table.