Accession Number:



The Chairmanship of the Joint Chiefs of Staff 1949-2016

Descriptive Note:

Technical Report

Corporate Author:

Office of the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Washington United States

Personal Author(s):

Report Date:


Pagination or Media Count:



The position of Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff JCS dates from 1949. While its roots trace to the experience of directing the United States participation in World War II, the impetus for its creation derived from the problems encountered in attempting to create a unified defense organization after the war. In the sixty-seven years since the swearing in of General Omar N. Bradley as the first Chairman on 16 August 1949, nineteen officers have served in the position. Their influence and authority varied widely. Although General Bradley had limited statutory authority, he had considerable power because both Presidents whom he served valued his advice. Until the enactment of the Goldwater-Nichols Department of Defense DOD Reorganization Act in October 1986, Bradleys successors, too, found that their actual power derived more from their relationships with the nations civilian leadership than from their legal authorities. The Goldwater-Nichols Act gave the Chairman far greater power than even the most influential Chairmen had previously exercised. However, in practice, the use of that authority continued to depend upon the Chairmans personality, his concept of his role, and his relationships with the President and Secretary of Defense.

Subject Categories:

Distribution Statement: