How many Generals and Admirals are in the US armed forces?
March 24, 2004 8:12 PM   Subscribe

How many Generals or Admirals, 1-4 star, are in the US armed forces?
posted by brent to Law & Government (10 answers total)
Marine Corps

Grade........................................# Authorized
(4star) general ......................................2
(3star) lieutenant general....................... 8
(2star) major general.............................25
(1star) brigadier general.........................35

The other services each have at least twice these numbers. The Air Force, for instance, has (IIRC) about 100 Brigadier Generals, and at least 7 or 8 Generals.
posted by davidmsc at 9:20 PM on March 24, 2004

Pray tell (A) how you googled that (if you googled it); (B) how you made that spiffy table!
posted by five fresh fish at 9:39 PM on March 24, 2004

I dunno where davidmsc found that info, but check out this for a lot of statistics on the military (some stats about number of generals is near the bottom, but is only in thousands so doesn't list anything below 50, which falls under the 4-star category).
Also, could be wrong, but by looking at the page source, it appears davidmsc just manually did spacing with the ........ and underlines the top part with html tags.
That reminds there a way to display html tags to show people how to do simple html like underline?
posted by jmd82 at 10:11 PM on March 24, 2004

jmd82: you mean actually displaying the html tag in the page?

if you use the html character code for the 2 brackets:


i did that by typing:

& l t ; hello & g t ;
(remove the spaces)
posted by derbs at 4:29 AM on March 25, 2004


- Source

Google: "number of flag officers"
posted by davidmsc at 4:33 AM on March 25, 2004

Ok. Now, in the interests of developing our collective google-fu, what on earth made you think "flag officers would be a good search term"?

Hell, I don't even know what "flag officer" means!
posted by five fresh fish at 9:53 AM on March 25, 2004

"Flag Officer" is a term that describes any officer in the pay-grade of O-7 or higher. You see, the term "General" does not include Admirals (Navy), so the catch-all term "Flag Officer" covers ALL "General-rank" officers, whether Army, Air Force, Marines, or Navy.
posted by davidmsc at 10:51 AM on March 25, 2004

regarding those flag officers of the four star variety, particularly the two (four?) in the Marines, are they people whose names we would know? If not their names, are they in charge of important things that we would likely have heard about in the news? (i.e. so and so officer is the senior ranking officer in iraq, and is thus responsible for x, y, and z major decisions). Side question on that note, at that level how much decision making power do they really have? I feel like all the big important decisions (i.e. who/where to bomb) would have to be made by the president (or someone else in washington), and most of the smaller decisions could be made by the one-, two- and three- star generals. In case you couldn't tell, I know very little about how the military works, so please be kind to my ignorance.
posted by rorycberger at 3:09 PM on March 25, 2004

you've prolly heard of some of the four-star generals. i could google,, do it yourself.

four stars are at the theater level. for instance, there's a guy incharge of the entire western hemisphere. there's an admiral in charge of the pacific, and one in charge of the atlantic....these guys have some major fucking power.

so the president, through the joint chiefs, says "let's destroy iraq". the joint chiefs get together with the right command (in this case, MacDill, which has two theater level commands...SOCOM (special operations command) and CENTCOM (central command), and also the 6th mobility wing, which isn't a command center, rather, it's a deployed unit (or whatever airforce term)). SOCOM and CENTCOM, as theater level operations, are headed by 4-stars, though bases are usually handled by Colonels (and sometimes lt. colonels) this case, the colonel in charge of the base is also in charge of the Wing (like an "Army" in the army...big, expensive unit).

And they, in turn, pass it to the right people...usually two and one star generals...three stars are usually pretty stratified already, in charge of smaller commands (Pacific Marines, or Europe-based Marines, opposed to the entire hemisphere)...but two and three stars are the bread and butter of the general corps.

Anyway, at that point it goes to the right unit leader.

And, of course, this is just one way things can get done...especially with SOCOM, things can get really weird with the chain of command. prolly don't know their names, but it's easy to find out....and they have a lot of responsibility and power.

Informally, if there's a general around, he's HOT SHIT. A lot of generals have immense requisition power, and they can order anybody to do anything, basically. They're called "general" for a reason...if something needs doing, they're allowed to order others to do it...period.

the UCMJ article 15 on NJP (look it up) shows the different punitive measures available to General officers. pretty crazy stuff there....not to mention the fact that a General officer can cause a court martial.

now, admittedly, a General has a lot of people to answer to... Joint Chiefs, and then the civilian leadership. but they
basically have the ultimate "act first, ask for forgiveness later" authority...if there's something in the military that needs to get done...a General is allowed to task others to do it.


sorry if this was a bit all over the place...i'm on a time constraint
posted by taumeson at 7:26 PM on March 25, 2004

Most flag officers will be publicly pretty anonymous, except in wartime. It's a managerial job in today's Pentagon and despite the kick-ass imagery they don't have all that much political leeway.

Decisions on what military task to complete will come down, by the constitution, from the Commander in Chief -- the President. The military then, theoretically, figures out how to complete the task, and through the SecDef asks for the appropriate resources. Frex, the Pentagon supposedly wanted 400,000 guys to invade Iraq and the White House told them to do it with 250,000 instead, and so they did. It's generally considered a Bad Thing for the White House, or anybody not in the field, to second-guess things such as target lists, but it happens all the time anyway. (Read the story on the original proposed targets of the atomic bomb, for example.) What flag officers at the top level do have, though, is the imprimatur of access that allows them to act, as some have asserted, as modern proconsuls.

You've probably heard of John Abizaid, the four-star Army general in charge of CENTCOM (which is the command which includes Iraq and Afghanistan in its purview), as well as his predecessor, Tommy Franks. And you've no doubt heard of the Lt. Gen. recently given unprecedented (CENTCOM-level) authority in Iraq, Ricardo Sanchez [see also]. Depedning on political winds, you may hear of Joint Chiefs generals such as Colin Powell or Army Chief of Staff (Shalikashvili had a controversial tenure due to Kosovo and beret issues; Schoomaker is much more retiring). For the most part you won't have heard of the Joint Chiefs, though.

Theater commanders are a different story. Norman Schwarzkopf was a four-star general when selected to run Desert Storm, but not a CINC. Wesley Clark was CINCEUR (European Command) as well as SACEUR (Supreme Allied Commander Europe -- a NATO post) at the time he ran the Kosovo campaign. But right now, SACEUR is Gen. James L. Jones of the Marines, someone nobody's ever really heard of (and at a time when EURCOM's strategic importance is rapidly diminishing, except as a staging area).
posted by dhartung at 2:20 AM on March 28, 2004

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