- Vice admiral (United States)
United States Navy, the United States Coast Guard, the United States Public Health Service Commissioned Corpsand the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration Commissioned Corps, vice admiral (VADM) is a three-star flag officer, with the pay grade of O-9. Vice admiral ranks above rear admiral (upper half)and below admiral. Vice admiral is equivalent to the rank of lieutenant general in the other uniformed services.
U.S. Code of law explicitly limits the total number of three-star vice admirals that may be on active duty at any given time. The total number of active duty flag officers is capped at 216 for the Navy. [ [http://caselaw.lp.findlaw.com/casecode/uscodes/10/subtitles/a/parts/ii/chapters/32/sections/section_526.html] 10 USC 526. Authorized strength: general and flag officers on active duty.] For the Navy, no more than 16.3% of the service's active duty flag officers may have more than two stars. [http://caselaw.lp.findlaw.com/casecode/uscodes/10/subtitles/a/parts/ii/chapters/32/sections/section_525.html] 10 USC 525. Distribution of commissioned officers on active duty in general officer and flag officer grades.] [http://www.govtrack.us/congress/bill.xpd?tab=main&bill=h110-4986] Pub.L. 110-181: National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2008] [http://www.govtrack.us/congress/billtext.xpd?bill=h110-4986] Pub.L. 110-181: National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2008 full text] Some of these slots are reserved by statute. For example the
Surgeon General of the United States Navy[ [http://www4.law.cornell.edu/uscode/10/usc_sec_10_00005137----000-.html] 10 USC 5137. Bureau of Medicine and Surgery: Chief; Deputy Chief.] is a vice admiral. The Judge Advocate General of the Navyis a vice admiral in the Navy or a lieutenant general in the Marine Corps; the Surgeon General of the United States[ [http://www4.law.cornell.edu/uscode/html/uscode42/usc_sec_42_00000207----000-.html] 42 USC 207. Grades, ranks, and titles of commissioned corps.] is also vice admiral in the Public Health Service Commissioned Corps. Officers serving in certain intelligence positions are not counted against either limit, including the Deputy Director of the Central Intelligence Agency. [ [http://caselaw.lp.findlaw.com/casecode/uscodes/10/subtitles/a/parts/ii/chapters/32/sections/section_528.html] 10 USC 528. Officers serving in certain intelligence positions: military status; exclusion from distribution and strength limitations; pay and allowances ] . The President may also add three-star vice admirals to the Navy if they are offset by removing an equivalent number of three-stars from other services. Finally, all statutory limits may be waived at the President's discretion during time of war or national emergency. [ [http://caselaw.lp.findlaw.com/casecode/uscodes/10/subtitles/a/parts/ii/chapters/32/sections/section_527.html] 10 USC 527. Authority to suspend sections 523, 525, and 526.]
Appointment and tour length
The three-star grade goes hand-in-hand with the positions of office it is linked to, so the rank is temporary. Officers may only achieve three-star grade if they are appointed to positions that require the officer to hold such a rank. [http://www4.law.cornell.edu/uscode/10/usc_sec_10_00000601----000-.html] 10 USC 601. Positions of importance and responsibility: generals and lieutenant generals; admirals and vice admirals.] Their rank expires with the expiration of their term of office, which is usually set by statute. Three-star vice admirals are nominated for appointment by the President from any eligible officers holding the rank of rear admiral (lower half) or above, whom also meet the requirements for the position, under the advice and/or suggestion of their respective department secretary, service secretary, and if applicable, the joint chiefs. 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 vice admiral positions are three years but some are set four or more years by statute.
Note: 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. Three-star ranks may also be given by act of Congress but this is extremely rare.
Three-star vice admirals must retire after five years in grade or 38 years of service, whichever is later, [ [http://caselaw.lp.findlaw.com/casecode/uscodes/10/subtitles/a/parts/ii/chapters/36/subchapters/iii/sections/section_636.html] 10 USC 636. Retirement for years of service: regular officers in grades above brigadier general and rear admiral (lower half).] and all flag officers must retire the month after their 64th birthday. [ [http://thomas.loc.gov/cgi-bin/query/z?c109:h5122:] 10 USC 1253. Age 64: regular commissioned officers in general and flag officer grades; exception.] However, the Secretary of Defense can defer a three-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 finite number of three-star slots available to each service, typically one officer must leave office before another can be promoted. [ [http://www.defenselink.mil/transcripts/transcript.aspx?transcriptid=529] DoD News Briefing on Thursday, June 6, 1996. Retirement of Admiral Leighton W. Smith Jr.] Maintaining a three-star rank is a game of musical chairs; once an officer vacates a position bearing that rank, he or she has 60 days to find another job of equal or higher importance before he or she must retire. Historically, officers leaving three-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.
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