The Joint Chiefs of Staff Identification Badge
From the foundation of the Joint Chiefs of Staff in 1942 until 1949, there was no device to distinguish the joint role served by the service chiefs and staff officers who supported them. On 25 March 1949, Secretary of Defense James V. Forrestal authorized all servicemembers and civilians serving in a full-time duty status in the Office of the Secretary of Defense, the Organization of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and associated boards and staffs to wear the Department of Defense (DOD) identification badge. On 13 January 1961, Secretary of Defense Thomas S. Gates suspended wear of the badge because he believed the purpose of the badge had become “obscured by time” and that award criteria were “meaningless in the light of present circumstances.”
On 5 February 1962, the director of the Joint Staff, Lieutenant General Earle G. Wheeler, USA, wrote the assistant secretary of defense indicating he favored reinstitution of the badge, or some similar device, for military personnel on the Joint Staff. Wheeler believed the badge was a way to recognize “important and loyal service performed in positions of responsibility.” He also recommended the imposition of stringent criteria to eliminate the previous feature of automatically awarding the badge.
Ten months later, on 20 December 1962, Deputy Secretary of Defense Roswell L. Gilpatric reinstated the DOD identification badge, limiting issuance only to those individuals assigned to the Office of the Secretary of Defense. Gilpatric simultaneously advised the Joint Staff that there was no objection to institution of an appropriate device to recognize “important and loyal service performed by Joint Staff personnel.” As such, the Personnel Directorate of the Joint Staff and The Institute of Heraldry, Department of the Army, collaborated to develop a unique identification badge for the Joint Staff.
The Joint Chiefs approved their design on 2 April 1963. They subsequently issued Joint Chiefs of Staff Memorandum 271-63 with instructions that the new badge would be awarded to “any member of the Armed Forces assigned to the Organization of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.”
The badge’s design remained unchanged until the creation of United States Space Force as a separate military service in 2019. To recognize the new service, and after unanimous approval by the Joint Chiefs of Staff, General Mark A. Milley, USA, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, approved a modification that incorporated a design element to represent U.S. Space Force on 5 January 2021. Made effective 1 October 2021, the official description reads:
Within an oval silver metal wreath of laurel 2 1/2 inches in height and 2 inches in width overall, the shield of the United States (the Chief [the upper third of the shield] in blue enamel and the 13 stripes alternating white and red enamel) superimposed on five gold metal unsheathed swords, three in pale [vertical] and two in saltire [crossed] with points and pommels resting on the wreath, the badges and grips entwined with a gold metal continuous scroll surrounding the shield with the word JOINT at the top and the words CHIEFS OF STAFF at the bottom, all in blue enamel letters.
The symbolism of the badge includes the laurel for achievement, courage and victory.
The five unsheathed swords represent the armed might of the Army, Marine Corps, Navy, Air Force, and Space Force and their combined constant vigilance and readiness in the defense of the United States. The slightly elevated sword in the center of the design reflects force projection into space.
This summary was produced on 29 September 2021 by the Joint History and Research Office.
The below identification badge was used prior to the addition of the 5th unsheathed sword.