What civilians can give orders to soldiers?

Not talking about, for example, police officers ordering a speeding jeep to pull over or anything like that. As Commander-in-Chief, I presume that the President of the United States may issue orders to individual military personnel which must be obeyed. Anyone else? For example, the Secretary of Defense?

On the flip side, are any civilians who can give orders to military personnel themselves subject to, say the Uniform Code of Military Justice?

On the 2nd point, the UCMJ itself spells out who it applies to. Some civilians are covered, but only as specifically laid out in section 8, and only while in military service. My reading is that SecDef and POTUS are not “members of a regular component of the armed forces”.

The governor of a state can all out the National Guard, of course, and the Secretary of Defense

The Deputy SecDef has the same authority is his absence.

(US) The ambassador to any country is the spokesperson/representative for the President and the senior US authority in that country. He/she often has a contingent of Marines under direct command.

Secretary or Under Secretary of the Army, subject to the authority, direction, and control of the Secretary of Defense has the authority necessary to conduct, all affairs of the Department of the Army. Including:

assign, detail, and prescribe the duties of members of the Army and civilian personnel of the Department of the Army;
change the title of any officer or activity of the Department of the Army not prescribed by law; and
prescribe regulations to carry out his functions, powers, and duties.

The Sec. of the Army cannot have been in the armed forces for at least 5 years previous to his/her appointment.
I assume the Secretaries of the Navy & Air force have much the same powers.

Am I missing something?

Any civilian in that soldier’s chain of caommand can give him a lawful order - a lowly GS-12 can give orders to soldiers that are assigned to that work center? Good example would be the Army Corps of Engineers - lots of civilians there, in charge of soldiers.


Under Section 68 of the Constitution, the Governor-General is commander in chief (and arguably the command is personal, not vested in the Governor-General in Council–but the High Court has not ruled on this point).

Under Orders in Council issued in 1996 (and when every new Cabinet is appointed) the Minister of Defence has delegated authority to issue orders to the military, and in practice the minister acts primarily to implement the decisions of the Prime Minister and Cabinet.

That’s how it is in Australia, anyway. That’s two countries down and 247 to go.


This is probably along the same lines as NBIT33’s point, but what about a fellow like Oppenheimer? He wasn’t Deputy Secretary of anything, but I’m sure there must have been quite a few military personnel under his command. Right?

I distinctly remember this one absolutely worthless jerkoff civilian who just couldn’t grasp the fact that now that he’s a retired USMC LtCol, the emphasis is on retired. Well, one day he tried pulling the stunt of giving me an order to do something, which btw was illegal. Since he wasn’t in my chain-of-command, and it was illegal to boot, I told him, “No.” First off, he got pissy because I didn’t jump to attention and say, “Sir!” Next, he told me, “You do realize that in this country, civilians are in charge of the military, don’t you?” My response: “Yep. And you’re not one of those civilians!”

Actually, I believe General Leslie Groves was in charge of the military portions of the Manhattan Project.

Civilian professors at the military academies give orders to the cadets (who are considered rank equivelent to an E3 or something like that). These professors are also among the very short list of civilians who are saluted by members of the military.

Wouldn’t “giving orders” to soldiers under a civilian workplace’s boss be more like “doing what you’re told” on the job, like we all do, than “orders”? Perhaps, civilians who are disobedient on the same job to the same boss won’t face the same discipline, but that doesn’t make the bosses word orders.

BTW, what’s a “direct order” as opposed to any other? Or is this just a way of making sure the underling gets the idea that an order is being specifically laid out and not up for discussion.

Cadets and Midshipmen at the Federal Service Academies rank immediately below Warrant Officer and immediately above the Senior Enlisted Member of the Services. That’s as far as rank goes; as far as pay goes, IIRC, they’re paid the equivalent of an E5.

drhess: There’re two types of authority in the military: General Military Authority and Positional Authority. General Military Authority is that which I would use to correct a subordinate not in my immediate chain about his or her violation of some regulation. Positional Authority is that which attends to the particular position. In other words, someone not in my chain cannot come into my workspace and order me to do my job in a particular manner.

A direct order is one which is issued to a particular individual. The other types of orders are General Orders, Standing Orders, and Lawful General Regulations. I think I got all of them, but if not someone else will be sure to add to the list.

Leave us not forget the “black ops” groups in times of war under the direct supervision of the CIA.

I may have gotten that bit above about immediately below/above wrong. For the life of me, I can’t get a decent site to load. Right now, I just can’t seem to recall if the Cadets and Midshipmen are immediately below the Warrant Officers or immediately below the Commissioned Officers.

According to this MARFORRES Public Affairs story:

So it seems to be just below O-1.

Thanks, UncleBill. Freaking servers at school were on holiday–or so it seemed.