Who Is The Secretary Of Defense In The United States

Secretary Of Defense

Last Updated: 15 December 2022

Lloyd Austin is the current Secretary of Defense in the United States. He is the first African American to serve in the position.

The United States Secretary of Defense (SecDef) is the head of the United States Department of Defense, the Executive Department of the U.S. Armed Forces, and a High-Ranking member of the Federal Cabinet.

The Secretary of Defense’s position of Command & Authority over the military is second to that of the President of the United States, who is the commander-in-chief. The position of Secretary of Defense is equivalent to Defense Minister in other countries.

Secretary Of Defense At A Glance


#HeaderDetails
1StyleThe Honorable (Formal)
Mr. Secretary (Informal)
2AbbreviationSecDef
3Member OfCabinet National Security Council
4Reports ToPresident of the United States
5SeatThe Pentagon, Arlington County, Virginia
6AppointerThe President with Senate Advice & Consent
7Term lengthNo Fixed Term
8Constituting Instrument10 U.S.C.
9PrecursorSecretary of War Secretary of the Navy
10Formation17 September 1947
11First holderJames Forrestal
12SuccessionSixth
13DeputyDeputy Secretary of Defense
14SalaryUS$221,400 (A/O Jan 2021)
Executive Schedule, Level I
15Websitewww.defense.gov

Facts About Secretary of Defense


  • Secretary of Defense is equivalent to Defense Minister in other countries.
  • The Secretary of Defense is appointed by the President of the United States with the advice and consent of the Senate and is by custom a member of the Cabinet and by law a Member of the National Security Council.
  • The Secretary of Defense is a Statutory Office, and the general provision in 10 U.S.C. (Title 10 of the United States Code) provides that “Subject to the Direction of the President”, its occupant has “Authority, Direction, and Control over the Department of Defense”.
  • The Secretary of Defense is designated as the “Principal Assistant to the President in all Matters relating to the Department of Defense”.
  • To ensure civilian control of the military, no one may be appointed as the Secretary of Defense within seven years of serving as a commissioned officer of a regular Military Component (i.e., non-reserve) without a waiver from Congress.
  • Only the Secretary of Defense (or the president or Congress) can authorize the transfer of Operational Control of Forces between the three Military Departments (Department of the Army, the Navy, and the Air Force) and the eleven Unified Combatant Commands.
  • The longest-serving Secretary of Defense is Robert McNamara, who served for a total of 7 Years and 39 Days.
  • Combining Robert McNamara’s two non-sequential services as the Secretary of Defense, the second-longest serving is Donald Rumsfeld, who served just ten days fewer than McNamara.
  • The second-longest unbroken tenure was Caspar Weinberger’s, at 6 Years 306 Days.
  • The shortest-serving Secretary of Defense is Elliot Richardson, who served 114 days and then appointed U.S. Attorney General amid the resignations of the Watergate Scandal.
  • The first Acting Secretary of Defense was Bill Clements for 39 Days

List Of Secretary Of Defense


No.Secretary of DefenseTerm InTerm OutTotal TenureUnder President
1James Forrestal
(1892–1949)
[Democratic]
(New York)
17 Sept
1947
28 Mar
1949
1Y 192DHarry S Truman
2Louis A. Johnson
(1891–1966)
[Democratic]
(West Virginia)
28 Mar
1949
19 Sep
1950
1Y 175DHarry S Truman
3George C. Marshall
(1880–1959)
[Independent]
(Pennsylvania)
21 Sep
1950
12 Sep
1951
356DHarry S Truman
4Robert A. Lovett
(1895–1986)
[Republican]
(New York)
17 Sep
1951
20 Jan
1953
1Y 125DHarry S Truman
5Charles Erwin Wilson
(1890–1961)
[Republican]
(Michigan)
28 Jan
1953
08 Oct
1957
4Y 253DDwight D. Eisenhower
6Neil H. McElroy
(1904–1972)
[Republican]
(Ohio)
09 Oct
1957
01 Dec
1959
2Y 53DDwight D. Eisenhower
7Thomas S. Gates Jr.
(1906–1983)
[Republican]
(Pennsylvania)
02 Dec
1959
20 Jan
1961
1Y 49DDwight D. Eisenhower
8Robert McNamara
(1916–2009)
[Republican]
(Michigan)
21 Jan
1961
29 Feb
1968
7Y 39DJohn F. Kennedy
+
Lyndon B. Johnson
9Clark Clifford
(1906–1998)
[Democratic]
(Maryland)
01 Mar
1968
20 Jan
1969
325DLyndon B. Johnson
10Melvin R. Laird
(1922–2016)
[Republican]
(Wisconsin)
22 Jan
1969
29 Jan
1973
4Y 7DRichard Nixon
11Elliot Richardson
(1920–1999)
[Republican]
(Massachusetts)
30 Jan
1973
24 May
1973
114DRichard Nixon
~Bill Clements
(1917–2011)
Acting
[Republican]
(Texas)
24 May
1973
02 Jul
1973
39DRichard Nixon
12James R. Schlesinger
(1929–2014)
[Republican]
(Virginia)
02 Jul
1973
19 Nov
1975
2Y 140DRichard Nixon
+
Gerald Ford
13Donald Rumsfeld
(1932–2021)
[Republican]
(Illinois)
20 Nov
1975
20 Jan
1977
1Y 61DGerald Ford
14Harold Brown
(1927–2019)
[Independent]
(California)
20 Jan
1977
20 Jan
1981
4Y 0DJimmy Carter
15Caspar Weinberger
(1917–2006)
[Republican]
(California)
21 Jan
1981
23 Nov
1987
6Y 306DRonald Reagan
16Frank Carlucci
(1930–2018)
[Republican]
(Virginia)
23 Nov
1987
20 Jan
1989
1Y 58DRonald Reagan
~William Howard Taft IV
(born 1945)
Acting
[Republican]
(Ohio)
20 Jan
1989
21 Mar
1989
60DGeorge H. W. Bush
17Dick Cheney
(born 1941)
[Republican]
(Wyoming)
21 Mar
1989
20 Jan
1993
3Y 305DGeorge H. W. Bush
18Leslie Aspin
(1938–1995)
[Democratic]
(Wisconsin)
20 Jan
1993
03 Feb
1994
1Y 14DBill Clinton
19William Perry
(born 1927)
[Independent]
(Pennsylvania)
03 Feb
1994
24 Jan
1997
2Y 356DBill Clinton
20William Cohen
(born 1940)
[Republican]
(Maine)
24 Jan
1997
20 Jan
2001
3 years, 362DBill Clinton
21Donald Rumsfeld(13)
(1932–2021)
[Republican]
(Illinois)
20 Jan
2001
18 Dec
2006
5Y 332DGeorge W. Bush
22Robert Gates
(born 1943)
[Republican]
(Texas)
18 Dec
2006
01 Jul
2011
4Y 194DGeorge W. Bush
+
Barack Obama
23Leon Panetta
(born 1938)
[Democratic]
(California)
01 Jul
2011
26 Feb
2013
1Y 240DBarack Obama
24Chuck Hagel
(born 1946)
[Republican]
(Nebraska)
27 Feb
2013
17 Feb
2015
1Y 355DBarack Obama
25Ash Carter
(1954–2022)
[Democratic]
(Massachusetts)
17 Feb
2015
20 Jan
2017
1Y 338DBarack Obama
26Jim Mattis
(born 1950)
[Independent]
(Washington)
20 Jan
2017
01 Jan
2019
1Y 345DDonald Trump
~Patrick M. Shanahan
(born 1962)
Acting
[Independent]
(Washington)
01 Jan
2019
23 Jun
2019
173DDonald Trump
~Mark Esper
(born 1964)
Acting
[Republican]
(Virginia)
24 Jun
2019
15 Jul
2019
21DDonald Trump
~Richard V. Spencer
(born 1954)
Acting
[Republican]
(Wyoming)
15 Jul
2019
23 Jul
2019
8DDonald Trump
27Mark Esper
(born 1964)
[Republican]
(Virginia)
23 Jul
2019
09 Nov
2020
1Y 109DDonald Trump
~Christopher C. Miller
(born 1965)
Acting
[Republican]
(Iowa)
09 Nov
2020
20 Jan
2021
72DDonald Trump
~David Norquist
(born 1966)
Acting
[Republican]
(Massachusetts)
20 Jan
2021
22 Jan
2021
2DJoe Biden
28Lloyd Austin
(born 1953)
[Independent]
(Georgia)
22 Jan
2021
~1Y 326DJoe Biden

Related: Presidents Of The United States Of America In Chronological Order


Order Of Secretary Succession


*Order of Succession is determined by the Seniority of Officials in their role.
RankOffice
1Deputy Secretary of Defense
2*a) Secretary of the Army
b) Secretary of the Navy
c) Secretary of the Air Force
3Under Secretary of Defense for Policy
4Under Secretary of Defense for Intelligence and Security
5Chief Management Officer of the Department of Defense
6Under Secretary of Defense for Acquisition and Sustainment
7Under Secretary of Defense for Research and Engineering
8Under Secretary of Defense (Comptroller)
9Under Secretary of Defense for Personnel and Readiness
10Deputy Under Secretary of Defense for Policy
11Deputy Under Secretary of Defense for Intelligence and Security
12Deputy Under Secretary of Defense for Acquisition and Sustainment
13Deputy Under Secretary of Defense for Research and Engineering
14Deputy Under Secretary of Defense (Comptroller)
15Deputy Under Secretary of Defense for Personnel and Readiness
16*a) General Counsel of the Department of Defense
b) Assistant Secretaries of Defense
c) Director of Cost Assessment and Program Evaluation
d) Director of Operational Test and Evaluation
e) Chief Information Officer of the Department of Defense
17*a) Under Secretary of the Army
b) Under Secretary of the Navy
c) Under Secretary of the Air Force
18*a) Assistant Secretaries of the Army
b) Assistant Secretaries of the Navy
c) Assistant Secretaries of the Air Force
d) General Counsel of the Army
e) General Counsel of the Navy
f) General Counsel of the Air Force
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