United States Secretary of Defense

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The United States Secretary of Defense is the head of the Department of Defense. The current Secretary of Defense is James Mattis, who was nominated by President Donald J. Trump and approved by the US Senate on January 20, 2017.


The Secretary of Defense position was created in 1947 by President Harry S Truman along with the creation of the National Military Establishment (which became the DoD in 1949), which replaced the Secretary and Department of War. James Forrestal was appointed as the first Secretary of Defense.


The Secretary of Defense is the principal defense policy advisor to the President and is responsible for the formulation of general defense policy and policy related to all matters of direct and primary concern to the DoD, and for the execution of approved policy. Under the direction of the President, the Secretary exercises authority, direction, and control over the Department of Defense.[1]

Partial list of secretaries

Secretaries of Defense
Donald Rumsfeld January 20, 2001 December 18, 2006
Robert Gates December 18, 2006 July 11, 2011
Leon Panetta July 11, 2011 February 27, 2013
Chuck Hagel February 27, 2013 February 17, 2015
Ashton Carter February 17, 2015 January 20, 2017
James Mattis January 20, 2017 Incumbent


  1. DoD Organizational Structure