Admiral (abbreviated as ADM) is a four-star commissioned naval flag
officer rank in the
United States Navy, the
United States Coast Guard,
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.
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
Since the five-star grade of fleet admiral has not been used since
1946, the grade of admiral is effectively the highest appointment an
officer can achieve in the
United States Navy, the
United States Coast
Guard, and the
United States Public Health Service Commissioned Corps.
3 Statutory limits
4 Appointment and tour length
7 See also
Formally, the term “Admiral” is always used when referring to a
four-star admiral. However, a number of different terms may be used to
refer to them informally, since lower-ranking admirals may also be
referred to as simply “Admiral”. These may include “Full
Admiral”, “Four-star Admiral” (or simply four-star), or
“O-10” (in reference to pay grade).
United States Navy
United States Navy did not have any admirals until 1862, because
many people felt the title too reminiscent of royalty—such as the
British Royal Navy—to be used in the country's navy. Others saw
the need for ranks above captain, among them John Paul Jones, who
pointed out that the Navy had to have officers who "ranked" with army
generals. He also felt there must be ranks above captain to avoid
disputes among senior captains. The various secretaries of the navy
repeatedly recommended to Congress that admiral ranks be created
because the other navies of the world used them and American senior
officers were "often subjected to serious difficulties and
embarrassments in the interchange of civilities with those of other
nations." Congress finally authorized nine rear admirals on July
16, 1862, although that was probably more for the needs of the rapidly
expanding navy during the
American Civil War
American Civil War than any international
considerations. Two years later, Congress authorized the
appointment of a vice admiral from among the nine rear admirals: David
Farragut. Another bill allowed the President of the United States
to appoint Farragut to admiral on July 25, 1866, and David Dixon
Porter to vice admiral. When Farragut died in 1870, Porter became
Stephen C. Rowan
Stephen C. Rowan was promoted to vice admiral. Even
after they died, Congress did not allow the promotion of any of the
rear admirals to succeed them, so there were no more admirals or vice
admirals by promotion until 1915 when Congress authorized an admiral
and a vice admiral each for the Atlantic, Pacific and Asiatic
There was one admiral in the interim, however. In 1899, Congress
recognized George Dewey's accomplishments during the
Spanish–American War by authorizing the President to appoint him
Admiral of the Navy. He held that rank until he died in 1917.
Nobody has since held that title. In 1944, Congress approved the
five-star grade of fleet admiral. The first to hold it were William
D. Leahy, Ernest J. King, and Chester W. Nimitz. The Senate
confirmed their appointments December 15, 1944. Fleet Admiral
William F. Halsey
William F. Halsey got his fifth star in December 1945. None have been
The sleeve stripes now used by admirals and vice admirals in the
United States date from March 11, 1869, when General Order Number 90
specified that for their "undress" uniforms admirals would wear a
two-inch stripe with three half-inch stripes above it and vice
admirals the two-inch stripe with two half-inch stripes above it.
The rear admiral got his two-inch stripe and one half-inch stripe in
The sleeve stripes had been more elaborate. When the rear admiral rank
started in 1862 the sleeve arrangement was three stripes of
three-quarter-inch lace alternating with three stripes of quarter-inch
lace. It was some ten inches from top to bottom. The vice
admiral, of course, had even more stripes and when Farragut became
admiral in 1866, he had so many stripes they reached from his cuffs
almost to his elbow. On their dress uniforms the admirals wore
bands of gold embroidery of live oak leaves and acorns.
The admirals of the 1860s wore the same number of stars on their
shoulders as admirals of corresponding grades do today. In 1899,
the navy's one admiral (Dewey) and 18 rear admirals put on the new
shoulder marks, as did the other officers when wearing their white
uniforms, but kept their stars instead of repeating the sleeve cuff
During the 20th century, the ranks of the modern U.S. admiralty were
firmly established. An oddity that did exist was that the navy did not
have a one-star rank except briefly during
World War II
World War II when Congress
established a temporary war rank of commodore. The one-star rank was
later established permanently in 1986.
U.S. law limits the number of four-star admirals that may be on active
duty at any time. The total number of active-duty flag officers is
capped at 160 for the Navy. For the Army, Navy, and Air Force, no
more than about 25% of the 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 6 four-star Navy admirals.
Some of these slots are reserved by statute. For the Navy, the chief
of naval operations, vice chief of naval operations; for the Coast
Guard the commandant of the coast guard  and vice commandant of the
coast guard are admirals; for the Public Health Service Commissioned
Assistant Secretary for Health  is an admiral if he or
she holds an appointment to the regular corps.
There are several exceptions to these limits allowing more than
allotted within the statute. A Navy admiral serving as Chairman or
Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff
Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff does not count against the
Navy's flag-officer cap. A Navy admiral serving in one of several
joint positions does not count against his or her service's four-star
limit; these positions include the commander of a unified combatant
command, the commander of U.S. Forces Korea, and the deputy commander
of U.S. European Command but only if the commander of that command is
also the Supreme Allied Commander, Europe. Officers serving in
certain intelligence positions are not counted against either limit,
including the Director of the Central Intelligence Agency. The
President may also add admirals to the Navy if they are offset by
removing an equivalent number of four-stars from other services.
Finally, all statutory limits may be waived at the President's
discretion during time of war or national emergency.
Appointment and tour length
Four-star grades go hand-in-hand with the positions of office they are
linked to, so these ranks are temporary. Officers may only achieve
four-star grade if they are appointed to positions that require the
officer to hold such a rank. Their rank expires with the expiration
of their term of office, which is usually set by statute. Admirals
are nominated for appointment by the President from any eligible
officers holding the rank of rear admiral (lower half) or above, who
also meets the requirements for the position, under the advice and/or
suggestion of their respective department secretary, service
secretary, and if applicable the joint chiefs. For some specific
positions, statute allows the President to waive those requirements
for a nominee whom he deems would serve national interests. The
nominee must be confirmed via majority vote by the Senate before the
appointee can take office and thus assume the rank. The standard
tour length for most four-star positions is three years, bundled as a
two-year term plus a one-year extension, with the following
Chief of Naval Operations
Chief of Naval Operations serves for four years in one four-year
Chief of Naval Operations
Chief of Naval Operations serves for a nominal four years,
but is commonly reassigned after one or two years.
Director of Naval Nuclear Propulsion
Director of Naval Nuclear Propulsion serves for a nominal eight
Commandant of the Coast Guard
Commandant of the Coast Guard serves for a nominal four years.
Assistant Secretary for Health is a civilian appointee or a
current serving member of the Public Health Service Commissioned Corps
who serves for a nominal four years at the pleasure of the President.
Extensions of the standard tour length can be approved, within
statutory limits, by their respective service secretaries, the
secretary of defense, the President, and/or Congress but these are
rare, as they block other officers from being promoted. Some statutory
limits under the U.S. Code can be waived in times of national
emergency or war.
Admiral ranks may also be given by act of Congress
but this is extremely rare.
Other than voluntary retirement, statute sets a number of mandates for
retirement. Four-star officers must retire after 40 years of service
unless reappointed to grade to serve longer. Otherwise all flag
officers must retire the month after their 64th birthday. However,
the Secretary of Defense can defer a four-star officer's retirement
until the officer's 66th birthday  and the President can defer it
until the officer's 68th birthday.
Flag officers typically retire well in advance of the statutory age
and service limits, so as not to impede the upward career mobility of
their juniors. Since there are a limited number of
four-star slots available to each service, typically one officer must
leave office before another can be promoted. Maintaining a
four-star rank is a game of musical chairs; once an officer vacates a
position bearing that rank, he or she has no more than 60 days to be
appointed or reappointed to a position of equal importance before he
or she must involuntarily retire. Historically, officers leaving
four-star positions were allowed to revert to their permanent two-star
ranks to mark time in lesser jobs until statutory retirement, but now
such officers are expected to retire immediately to avoid obstructing
the promotion flow.
U.S. Navy, U.S. Coast Guard, USPHSCC, NOAACOC insignia
A U.S. Coast Guard admiral's flag (unrestricted line officer)
The stars, shoulder boards, and sleeve stripes of a U.S. Coast Guard
The stars, shoulder boards, and sleeve stripes of a U.S. Public Health
United States Navy
United States Navy portal
U.S. Navy officer rank insignia
List of active duty
United States four-star officers
United States Navy
United States Navy four-star admirals
United States Coast Guard
United States Coast Guard four-star admirals
United States Public Health Service Commissioned Corps
^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p q r s t u "Archived copy". Archived
from the original on 2007-10-10. Retrieved 2007-10-03.
History.Navy.mil - Naval traditions: Names of ranks
^  10 USC 526. Authorized strength: general and flag officers on
^ a b c d  10 USC 525. Distribution of commissioned officers on
active duty in general officer and flag officer grades.
^  14 USC 44. Commandant; appointment.
^  42 USC 207. Grades, ranks, and titles of commissioned corps.
^  10 USC 604. Senior joint-officer positions: recommendations to
the Secretary of Defense.
^  10 USC 528. Officers serving in certain intelligence positions:
military status; exclusion from distribution and strength limitations;
pay and allowances.
^  10 USC 527. Authority to suspend sections 523, 525, and 526.
^ a b c d e  10 USC 601. Positions of importance and
responsibility: generals and lieutenant generals; admirals and vice
^  10 164. Commanders of combatant commands: assignment; powers and
^  10 USC 636. Retirement for years of service: regular officers
in grades above brigadier general and rear admiral (lower half).
^ a b c  10 USC 1253 Age 64: regular commissioned officers in
general and flag officer grades; exception
^  DoD News Briefing on Thursday, June 6, 1996. Retirement of
Admiral Leighton W. Smith Jr.
United States uniformed services commissioned officer and officer
Pay grade / branch of service
CDT / OC
Midn / Cand
MIDN / OC
Cadet / OT / OC
CDT / OC
 No universal insignia for officer candidate rank; Navy candidate
Official 1945 proposal for
General of the Armies
General of the Armies insignia; John J.
Pershing's GAS insignia: ; George Dewey's
Admiral of the Navy
 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
 Grade has never been created or authorized
 USAF and U.S. Army insignia shown
United States warrant officer ranks
 Grade inactive
 Grade is authorized for use by U.S. Code but has not been created
 Grade never cre