Four-star insignia of the rank of general. Style and method of wear may vary between different uniforms and different service branches.
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A general denotes the most senior general-grade officer; it is the highest achievable commissioned officer rank (or echelon) that may be attained in the United States Armed Forces, with exception of the Navy (with the equivalent being Admiral). The official and formal insignia of General is defined by its four-stars (commonly silver in a row).
The rank of general, ranks above a lieutenant general and below the special wartime ranks of General of the Army or General of the Air Force; the Marine Corps and Space Force do not have an established grade above general. The pay grade of general is O-10. It is equivalent to the rank of admiral in the other United States uniformed services which use naval ranks. It is abbreviated as GEN in the Army and Gen in the Marine Corps, Air Force, and Space Force.
Since the ranks of General of the Army and General of the Air Force are reserved for wartime use only, the rank of general is the highest general officer rank in peacetime.
Formally, the term “General” is always used when referring to a four-star general. However, a number of different terms may refer to them informally, since lower-ranking generals may also be referred to as simply “General”.
The United States Code explicitly limits the total number of general officers (termed flag officers in the Navy and Coast Guard) that may be on active duty at any given time. The total number of active duty general officers is capped at 231 for the Army, 62 for the Marine Corps, 198 for the Air Force, and 162 for the Navy.No more than about 25% of a service's active duty general or flag officers may have more than two stars, and statute sets the total number of four-star officers allowed in each service. This is set at 7 Army generals, 2 Marine generals, 8 Air Force generals, 1 Space Force general, 6 Navy admirals, and 2 Coast Guard admirals.
Several of these slots are reserved by statute. For example, the two highest-ranking members of each service (the service chief and deputy service chief) are designated as generals. For the Army the Chief of Staff and the Vice Chief of Staff are generals; for the Marine Corps, the Commandant and the Assistant Commandant are both generals; for the Air Force, the Chief of Staff and Vice Chief of Staff are generals; and for the Space Force, the Chief of Space Operations is a general. In addition, for the National Guard, the Chief of the National Guard Bureauis a general under active duty in the Army or Air Force.
There are several exceptions to these limits allowing more than allotted within the statute.
Finally, all statutory limits may be waived at the President's discretion during time of war or national emergency.
Four-star grades go hand-in-hand with the positions of office to which they are linked, so the rank is temporary; the active rank of general can only be held for so long- though upon retirement, if satisfactory service requirements are met, the general or admiral is normally allowed to hold that rank in retirement, rather than reverting to a lower position, as was formerly usually the case.Their active rank expires with the expiration of their term of office, which is usually set by statute. Generals are nominated for the appointment by the President from any eligible officers holding the rank of brigadier general or above who meet the requirements for the position, with the advice of the Secretary of Defense, service secretary (Secretary of the Army, Secretary of the Navy, or Secretary of the Air Force), and if applicable the Joint Chiefs of Staff. For some positions, statute allows the President to waive those requirements for a nominee deemed to serve national interests. The nominee must be confirmed by the United States Senate before the appointee can take office and assume the rank. General ranks may also be given by act of Congress but this is extremely rare. The standard tour for most general positions is three years, bundled as a two-year term plus a one-year extension, with the following exceptions:
Extensions of the standard tour length can be approved, within statutory limits, by their respective service secretaries, the Secretary of Defense, the President, or Congress but these are rare, as they block other officers from being promoted. Some statutory limits can be waived in times of national emergency or war.
Other than voluntary retirement, statute sets a number of mandates for retirement. A general must retire after 40 years of service unless he or she is reappointed to serve longer.Otherwise all general officers must retire the month after their 64th birthday. However, the Secretary of Defense can defer a general's retirement until the officer's 66th birthday and the President can defer it until the officer's 68th birthday. To retire at four-star grade, an officer must accumulate at least three years of satisfactory active duty service in that grade, as certified by the Secretary of Defense.
The United States Armed Forces are the military forces of the United States of America. It consists of the Army, Marine Corps, Navy, Air Force, Space Force, and Coast Guard. The president of the United States is the commander-in-chief of the Armed Forces and forms military policy with the Department of Defense (DoD) and Department of Homeland Security (DHS), both federal executive departments, acting as the principal organs by which military policy is carried out. All six armed services are among the eight uniformed services of the United States.
The Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff (CJCS) is the highest-ranking and most senior military officer in the United States Armed Forces and is the principal military advisor to the President, the National Security Council, the Homeland Security Council, and the Secretary of Defense. While the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff outranks all other commissioned officers, the Chairman is prohibited by law from having operational command authority over the armed forces; however, the Chairman does assist the President and the Secretary of Defense in exercising their command functions.
In the United States Navy, officers have various ranks. Equivalency between services is by pay grade. United States Navy commissioned officer ranks have two distinct sets of rank insignia: On dress uniform a series of stripes similar to Commonwealth naval ranks are worn; on service khaki, working uniforms, and special uniform situations, the rank insignia are identical to the equivalent rank in the US Marine Corps.
The Vice Chief of Naval Operations (VCNO) is the second highest-ranking commissioned United States Navy officer in the Department of the Navy and functions as the principal deputy of the Chief of Naval Operations (CNO); and by statute, the VCNO is appointed as a four-star admiral.
United States military seniority is the method by which the United States Armed Forces determines precedence among commissioned officers, in particular those who hold the same rank. Seniority is used to determine assignments, tactical commands, promotions and general courtesy. To a lesser extent, historical seniority is used to recognize status of honor given to early United States military leaders such as inaugural holders of certain ranks or those officers who served as leadership during major wars and armed conflicts.
Admiral is a four-star commissioned naval flag officer rank in the United States Navy, the United States Coast Guard, and the United States Public Health Service Commissioned Corps, with the pay grade of O-10. Admiral ranks above vice admiral and below fleet admiral in the Navy; the Coast Guard and the Public Health Service do not have an established grade above admiral. Admiral is equivalent to the rank of general in the other uniformed services. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration Commissioned Officer Corps has never had an officer hold the grade of admiral. However, 37 U.S.C. § 201 of the U.S. Code established the grade for the NOAA Corps, in case a position is created that merits the four-star grade.
In the United States Armed Forces, a lieutenant general is a three-star general officer in the United States Army, Marine Corps, and Air Force.
Pay grades are used by the eight uniformed services of the United States to determine wages and benefits based on the corresponding military rank of a member of the services. While different titles or ranks may be used among the eight uniformed services, pay grades are uniform and equivalent between the services and can be used to quickly determine seniority among a group of members from different services. They are also essential when determining a member's entitlements such as basic pay and allowances.
A four-star rank is the rank of any four-star officer described by the NATO OF-9 code. Four-star officers are often the most senior commanders in the armed services, having ranks such as (full) admiral, (full) general, or air chief marshal. This designation is also used by some armed forces that are not North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (NATO) members.
In the United States Armed Forces, a brigadier general is a one-star general officer in the United States Army, Marine Corps, and Air Force.
In the United States Armed Forces, a major general is a two-star general officer in the United States Army, Marine Corps, and Air Force.
A rear admiral in the United States' uniformed services is either of two different ranks of commissioned officers — one-star flag officers and two-star flag officers. By contrast, in most nations, the term "rear admiral" refers to an officer of two-star rank.
Vice admiral is a three-star commissioned naval officer rank in the United States Navy, the United States Coast Guard, the United States Public Health Service Commissioned Corps, and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration Commissioned Officer Corps, with the pay grade of O-9. Vice admiral ranks above rear admiral and below admiral. Vice admiral is equivalent to the rank of lieutenant general in the other uniformed services.
A general officer is an officer of high military rank; in the uniformed services of the United States, general officers are commissioned officers above the field officer ranks, the highest of which is colonel in the Army, Marine Corps, and Air Force and captain, in the Navy, Coast Guard, Public Health Service Commissioned Corps (PHSCC), and National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration Commissioned Corps (NOAACC).
|Pay grade / branch of service||Officer|
|CDT / OC||2LT||1LT||CPT||MAJ||LTC||COL||BG||MG||LTG||GEN||GA ||GAS |
|Midn / Cand||2ndLt||1stLt||Capt||Maj||LtCol||Col||BGen||MajGen||LtGen||Gen|||||
|MIDN / OC||ENS||LTJG||LT||LCDR||CDR||CAPT||RDML||RADM||VADM||ADM||FADM ||AN |
|Cdt / OT / OC||2nd Lt||1st Lt||Capt||Maj||Lt Col||Col||Brig Gen||Maj Gen||Lt Gen||Gen||GAF |||
|CDT / OC||ENS||LTJG||LT||LCDR||CDR||CAPT||RDML||RADM||VADM||ADM|||||
| No universal insignia for officer candidate rank; Navy candidate insignia shown|
Official 1945 proposal for General of the Armies insignia; John J. Pershing's GAS insignia:
 Rank used for specific officers in wartime only, not permanent addition to rank structure
 Grade is authorized by the U.S. Code for use but has not been created
 Grade has never been created or authorized
United States warrant officer and commissioned warrant officer ranks
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Grade is authorized for use by U.S. Code but has not been created