U.S. Department of Defense

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Department of Defense
United States Department of Defense Seal.svg
Secretary:Chuck Hagel
Deputy Secretary:Robert O. Work
Annual budget:$613.9 billion (2013)
Total employed:3.2 million
Year created:1949
Official website:http://www.defense.gov/


Executive Departments of the United States

Executive Departments
Department of DefenseDepartment of StateDepartment of Homeland SecurityDepartment of JusticeDepartment of CommerceDepartment of EducationDepartment of the TreasuryDepartment of AgricultureDepartment of EnergyDepartment of LaborDepartment of TransportationDepartment of the InteriorDepartment of Health and Human ServicesDepartment of Veterans AffairsDepartment of Housing and Urban Development

Department Secretaries
Ashton CarterJohn KerryJeh JohnsonLoretta LynchPenny PritzkerArne DuncanJack LewTom VilsackErnest MonizTom PerezAnthony FoxxSally JewellSylvia Mathews BurwellRobert McDonaldJulian Castro
The Department of Defense (DoD) is a United States executive department established in 1949. The stated mission of the Department is "to provide the military forces needed to deter war and to protect the security of our country."[1] The Department is led by the current Secretary of Defense, Chuck Hagel, and is based out of the Pentagon, located in Arlington County, Virginia.

With over 3.2 million employees including civilian staff and enlisted combat forces, the Department of Defense is the largest employer in the world.[2] Major divisions of the Department include the United States Army, Navy and Air Force. The Department of Defense utilizes over 5,000 individual sites around the world totaling over 30 million acres of land.[3] The Department's operating budget for fiscal year 2012 was $645 billion.[4]


In 1789, the War Department was formed. Then Navy Department was created in 1798. The secretaries of each department were members of the president's cabinet. The Department of the Air Force was created in 1947, the same year the War Department was re-named the Department of the Army under the National Military Establishment. All three branches of the military were then placed under the control of the new Secretary of Defense. In 1949, the National Security Act was amended to withdraw cabinet status from the secretaries of the three branches, consolidating the military into the Department of Defense.[1] The Joint Chiefs of Staff was established to coordinate forces under the newly created Secretary of Defense position.[5]

The Pentagon

The Pentagon on Sept. 11, 2002, taken by Angela Stafford, U.S. Air Force

Construction of the Pentagon began on September 11, 1941, and it officially opened on January 14, 1943.[6] It was believed to be a short-term necessity during World War II; however, as the United States continued to expand its military presence throughout the world, the Pentagon remained the headquarters for the Department of Defense.[7] It is one of the world's largest office building with triple the amount of floor space of the Empire State Building in New York City to house about 23,000 employees.[8]

In the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks, a hijacked airliner was flown into the building, killing 189 and doing extensive damage to the structure.[6]



The Department of Defense website states: "The mission of the Department of Defense is to provide the military forces needed to deter war and to protect the security of our country."[1]


The President is ultimately responsible for the decisions made regarding the United States' national defense. The President coordinates with the Secretary of Defense and the National Security Council to decide security needs as well as necessary plans of action. Those policies are then delegated by the Office of the Secretary of Defense. The:

  • military departments (Army, Navy and Air Force) carry out training and equipping military forces,
  • the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff coordinates deployments and operations and
  • the Unified Combatant Commands direct military operations.[3]

The current Secretary of Defense is Chuck Hagel. He is the first enlisted combat veteran to hold the position of Secretary of Defense.[9]

Recent Secretaries of Defense
Secretary of Defense Years in office Nominated by Confirmation vote
William S. Cohen 1997-2001 William Clinton 99-0
Donald H. Rumsfeld 2001-2006 George W. Bush N/A
Robert M. Gates 2006-2011 George W. Bush 95-2
Leon E. Panetta 2011-2013 Barack Obama 100-0
Chuck Hagel 2013-Present Barack Obama 58-41

Note: Votes marked "N/A" represent voice votes or unrecorded votes. Missing votes will be filled as they are researched.


Office of the Secretary of Defense

The office of the Secretary of Defense is primarily in place to be the government liaison of the Department. They develop policy, manage resources, provide oversight and exchange information with other government entities both domestic and foreign. Additionally the office provides oversight of defense agencies and field activities.[10]

Office of the Inspector General

The Inspector General's office of the Department of Defense is an independent office in the department charged with auditing and investigating programs and operations of the Department.[10]

Joint Chiefs of Staff

The Joint Chiefs of staff advise the President and Secretary of Defense on military matters relating to their respective departments.[10]

Unified Combatant Commands

Commanders of the Combatant Commands carry out the missions assigned by the President and Secretary of Defense. The directives of the President and Secretary of Defense are passed down to the commanders by the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.[10]

Military Departments

The Departments of the Army, Navy and Air Force are organized under their own secretaries and follow the direction of the Secretary of Defense. The Secretary of Defense updates the department secretaries on operations and activities regarding their responsibilities.[10]

Organizational chart

DOD org chart.jpeg


Obama administration

Military downsizing

On February 24, 2014, Hagel released a budget proposal for the Department of Defense suggesting the size of the American armed forces be dropped to pre-World War II levels. "You have to always keep your institution prepared, but you can't carry a large land-war Defense Department when there is no large land war," said one senior Pentagon official. The U.S. Army would be dropped to 440,000-450,000 in the coming years, down from the peak of 570,000 after September 11, 2001. President Obama's proposal coming into office would have dropped the Army down to 490,000, but Hagel deemed more cuts necessary in light of both the political and economic landscape in the federal government.[11]

Ethics investigations

On February 5, 2014, Hagel ordered in-depth investigations into multiple ethics violations in the armed services. Drug use in the Air Force, bribery and cheating allegations in the Navy and fraudulent payments and kickbacks in the Army and National Guard sparked the ethics crackdown by Secretary Hagel. A spokesperson of the secretary stated, "And he’s concerned about the depth of it. I don’t think he could stand here and tell you that he has — that anybody has — the full grasp here, and that’s what worries (Hagel) is that maybe he doesn’t have the full grasp of the depth of the issue, and he wants to better understand it."[12]

Military sexual assault cases

On August 15, 2013, Secretary Hagel announced sweeping reforms to the handling of sexual assault accusations in the U.S. military. Per a Pentagon survey, sexual assault cases rose to 26,000 in 2012 from 19,000 in 2010.[13] The Department felt pressure from President Obama to enact the reforms, which include improved legal support for victims, transfers for accused to eliminate future contact and required follow-up actions throughout the chain of command.[13][14] Senator Kirsten Gillibrand, a member of the armed services committee stated that while it is a step in the right direction, all sexual assault cases in the military should be judged by an independent body.[13]


Obama administration

Bergdahl exchange

The Obama administration exchanged five Guantanamo Bay prisoners for U.S. Army Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl on May 31, 2014. Bergdahl was captured by Taliban forces in Afghanistan in 2009 and held captive just across the border in Pakistan.[15] Bergdahl has been accused of deserting his unit before being captured, leading to more controversy over whether or not the administration should have made a deal with the Taliban. Critics claimed the action showed American weakness by setting the precedent that the United States would make deals with terrorists. The House Armed Services committee chair Rep. Buck McKeon (R-CA) went further and insisted President Obama violated the 2014 National Defense Authorization Act by not giving Congress at least 30 days notice before engaging in talks to get Bergdahl back.[16]

White House Press Secretary Jay Carney claimed the exchange was rushed due to Bergdahl's "deteriorating" health. Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel also defended the exchange and hoped it would create "a new opening" in future talks with the Taliban.[16] When asked the reasoning behind the negotiations on June 3, 2014, President Obama explained, "Regardless of the circumstances, whatever those circumstances may turn out to be, we still get an American soldier back if he’s held in captivity. Period. Full stop. We don’t condition that." He also stated that the administration had been consulting with Congress prior to the swap, a statement House Intelligence committee chair Mike Rogers (R-MI) disputed, stating, "In 2011, they did come up and present a plan that included a prisoner transfer that was, in a bipartisan way, pushed back. We hadn't heard anything since on any details of any prisoner exchange." Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) reported that he was told of the exchange but only "the day before or the day of."[17]



Obama administration



U.S. Department of Defense[18] Annual Budget
YearBudget (in billions)% Difference from previous year
  • Note: 2014 only represents the Department's budget request, not an enacted budget.


The Best Places to work in the Federal Government is a website that tracks workforce trends in federal agencies. According to their analysis, from 2005-2011, the Department of Defense has added an average of 1910 jobs per year. This average does not include Army, Navy or Air Force enlistment.[19]


The sequestration in 2013 resulted in the budget of the Department being lowered by as much as $41 billion for the 2013 fiscal year. According to the an update released by the comptroller and chief financial officer in April 2013, the Department decided to protect wartime operations funding.[4] Their plan of action included civilian hiring freezes, cutting travel and conference costs, lowering facility and base operating and maintenance costs and reviewing or delaying contracts. Additionally, there were training cutbacks and furloughs for civilian employees.[4] The furloughs, originally thought to be 22 days, were cut to 11 when Secretary Hagel announced the decision on May 14. The cuts impacted 680,000 civilian employees, saving the Department $1.8 billion.[20] On August 6, Hagel dropped the number of furlough days once again from 11 days to six.[21]

In July 2013, Hagel warned that if sequestration cuts continued in the 2014 fiscal year, likely totaling an additional $52 billion, measures such as civilian layoffs and recruiting freezes would be necessary. Critics claim, however, that Hagel is merely posturing as similar claims were made when the 2013 cuts were announced.[22]

Recent news

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U.S. Department of Defense News Feed

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See also

External links


  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 Department of Defense, "About the Department of Defense," accessed July 1, 2013
  2. BBC, "Which is the world's biggest employer?," March 19, 2012
  3. 3.0 3.1 Department of Defense, "DoD 101," accessed July 3, 2013
  4. 4.0 4.1 4.2 Department of Defense, "Fiscal Year 2014 Budget Request," accessed July 3, 2013
  5. Washington Post, "Defense Department," accessed July 3, 2013
  6. 6.0 6.1 History.com, "Pentagon," accessed July 3, 2013
  7. Historical Office of the Secretary of Defense, "History of the Pentagon," accessed July 1, 2013
  8. Pentagon Tours, "Facts," accessed July 3, 2013
  9. U.S. Department of Defense, "Chuck Hagel," accessed May 29, 2013
  10. 10.0 10.1 10.2 10.3 10.4 Department of Defense, "Directive Number 5100.01," December 21, 2010
  11. New York Times, "Pentagon Plans to Shrink Army to Pre-World War II Level," February 24, 2014
  12. Politico, "Hagel ramps up ethics push," February 5, 2014
  13. 13.0 13.1 13.2 The Guardian, "Hagel announces new measures to try to stamp out sex assaults in the military," August 15, 2013
  14. Department of Defense, "Hagel Announces New Anti-Sexual Assault Initiatives," August 15, 2013
  15. CBS News, "Bowe Bergdahl, a Taliban captive since 2009, has been freed," May 31, 2014
  16. 16.0 16.1 Politico, "Criticism of Bergdahl deal mounts," June 6, 2014
  17. Politico, "President Obama defends Bowe Bergdahl deal," June 3, 2014
  18. [http://comptroller.defense.gov/Portals/45/Documents/defbudget/fy2014/FY2014_Budget_Request_Overview_Book.pdf U.S. Department of Defense, "UNITED STATES DEPARTMENT OF DEFENSE FISCAL YEAR 2014 BUDGET REQUEST," accessed January 31, 2014]
  19. The Best Places to Work in the Federal Government, "Agency Report: Department of Defense," accessed July 10, 2013
  20. ABC News, "Defense Dept Furloughs Cut to 11 Days," May 14, 2013
  21. Department of Defense, "Hagel announces reduction in civilian furlough days," August 6, 2013
  22. Federal Times, "Hagel: Civilian layoffs if sequester cuts continue in 2014," July 11, 2013