Joint Chiefs of Staff
by Jonathan Milbrandt
The Joint Chiefs of Staff (JCS) act as the senior military advisors to the President and Secretary of Defense which was established by the National Security Act of 1947. Their responsibilities, aside from acting as military advisors, are to act as the official link between the government and the military. Orders are passed down by the Department of Defense (DOD) through JSC and to the relevant branches and commands. Originally the JCS was capable of giving orders themselves, but that power was stripped in a 1953 amendment to National Security Act as Congress felt that it conflicted with the original idea of the JCS being primarily a planning and advising body. The Joint Chiefs of Staff consists of seven members. The Chairman, Vice-Chairman, Senior Enlisted Advisor, Chief of Staff of the Army, Chief of Naval Operations, Chief of Staff of the Air Force, the Commandant of the Marine Corps and the Chief of the National Guard Bureau. As military advisors, they are capable of submitting military advice through the Chairman to the President, Secretary of Defense, and the National Security Council.
The Chairman is the most senior ranking member of the Armed Forces but does not hold any actual military authority. He acts as the principal advisor to the President and he collates and provides military advice and options from the entirety of the JCS. While the Chairman may be used as an intermediary for conveying orders between the DOD and the combatant commands, these commands are organized by and commanded by the DOD, not the Chairman. The Chairman must be appointed by the President and approved by the Senate and serves a two-year term. The current Chairman of JCS is General Mark A, Milley, previously the Chief of Staff of the Army.
The Vice-Chairman performs the roles and responsibilities of the Chairman when he is indisposed and does not take on any other official duties. The current Vice Chairman of the JCS is General John E. Hyten, previously the Commander of U.S. Strategic Command.
The Assistant to the Chairman oversees matters that require close personal control by the Chairman such as international relations and politico-military relations. This position is usually filled by a two-star flag or general officer.
The Senior Enlisted Advisor to the Chairman is the senior non-commissioned officer of the Armed Forces. He is appointed by the Chairman and advised the Chairman on joint and combined force integration, utilization, the health of the force, and joint development of enlisted personnel. The current Senior Enlisted Advisor to the Chairman is SEAC Ramón “CZ” Colón-López, previously the Command Senior Enlisted Leader for United States Africa Command.
The Military Service Chiefs are made up of the Chief of Staff of the Army, Chief of Naval Operations, Chief of Staff of the Air Force, the Commandant of the Marine Corps, and the Chief of the National Guard Bureau. Each Military Service Chief has two distinct roles that they fulfill. On the one hand, they act as advisors to the President, Secretary of Defense, and the NSC. On the other, they are part of the DOD and report to the respective Secretaries of their Military Departments. Their duties as JCS take precedence over their duties as Service Chiefs so in practice, their Vice Chiefs handle most of the day-to-day operations of their Services. They serve 4-year terms.
The Director of the Joint Staff oversees the Joint Staff Directorates as well as the Department of Management and other support divisions.
The Department of Management (DOM) provides support activities such as correspondence administration, budget and finance, action management and archiving, information technology, services, resources. The DOM is subdivided into four subdivisions. The Joint Staff Comptroller manages the financial resources of the Joint Staff. The Joint Secretariat handles information management and oversees the decision-making processes in the Joint Staff. The Joint Staff Support Services Office provides administrative and logistical support services. The Joint Staff Security Office develops and implements personal and physical security policies and procedures. The current Director of Management is Ronald P. Higham Jr.
Joint Staff Directorates
J1: Manpower and Personnel – Provides manpower and personnel counsel and support to develop military advice for the Chairman. It also monitors the capability of Joint Force fighting capabilities to meet the requirements of the modern battlefield.
J2: Joint Staff Intelligence – Provides a variety of intelligence to the Chairman as well as to the DOD. This intelligence usually focuses on crisis intelligence for military operations and indications and warning intelligence for DOD.
J3: Operations – Provides guidance to combatant commands and relaying communication between the President and Secretary of Defense to the combatant commands regarding current operations and plans.
J4: Logistics – Provides logistical planning to ensure Joint Force readiness and maximizes freedom of action for the Joint Force Commander. Advises the Chairman on matters related to logistical issues.
J5: Strategy, Plans, and Policy – Provides strategies, plans, and policy recommendations to the Chairman and to ensure that advice given is taking into account the full spectrum of national security concerns. Also, assess risk in the National Military Strategy.
J6: Command, Control, Communications, & Computers/Cyber – Provides assistance and advice while i9ko0advancing cyber defense, joint/coalition interoperability, and other capabilities required by the Joint Force to maintain national security.
J7: Joint Force Development – Provides six functions for Joint Force development: Doctrine, Education, Concept Development & Experimentation, Training, Exercises, and Lessons Learned. It also uses the Multi-National Allied Command Transmission to engage in force development activities with allied nations.
J8: Force Structure. Resources, and Assessment Directorate – Provides support to the Chairman in terms of the overall structure of the JCS and Joint Staff. It also assesses non-traditional warfighting areas and joint warfighting capabilities.
There are other smaller support divisions throughout JCS such as the Civil Affairs Group (CAG) that handles public relations. However, given their smaller nature, they tend to report directly to the Chairman.