Navy Protocol


The information contained herein is quoted from Social Usage and Protocol Handbook: A Guide for Personnel of the U.S. Navy (OPNAVINST 1710.7 dated 17 JUL 1979)

Members of the Naval Service will find that at all points in their careers they can expect to be involved to some extent in the planning and execution of official ceremonies and social events. Protocol is a code of established guidelines on proper etiquette and precedence which, when followed, lays the foundation for a successful event.

From this foundation, the host should consider the facets which make a particular situation unique, and from there, use imagination to design a memorable occasion.

The most important consideration in planning should always be the comfort of one’s guests. A clever host/hostess is able to reach a proper mixture of protocol and common sense which will enable guests to enjoy themselves completely. If this is accomplished, an event is truly successful.


Precedence is defined as priority in place, time, or rank. In the Government, the Military and Diplomatic Corps, precedence among individuals’ positions plays a substantial role. That is, in day to day business, ceremonial occasions, and social functions, we respect the office which the individual represents, by ranking that individual according to our perception of the importance of his/her position.

Official position in the United States Government is determined by election or appointment to office, or by promotion within the military structure. The relative importance of different positions is weighed, and even the date of the position’s establishment is frequently considered.

Military rank constitutes a clear basis for determining seniority among military personnel. Comparable rank and the date of its attainment will decide the precedence among officers from the different smites, both United States and foreign.

By custom, reserve officers are ranked with, but after active duty officers of that same grade.

Retired officers are ranked similarly with their precedence following reserve officers of the same grade.

Diplomatic precedence is the result of international agreement. The precedence of chiefs of missions rests upon the length of their service in that country. An ambassador who arrives and is accredited in April precedes another who arrives and is accredited in November of that same year. An ambassador will always precede a minister who heads a legation. Below the post of Chargé d’Affaires (the officer in charge of diplomatic business in the absence of the ambassador or minister), precedence is based upon the position of the mission, which in turn is determined by the ranking of its ambassador. For example, suppose the British Ambassador arrives and is accredited in April of 1980. This becomes his/her date of precedence. When the Danish Ambassador arrives six months later and is accredited in October of 1980, he/she succeeds the British Ambassador in precedence. Because in this case, the British Ambassador outranks the Danish Ambassador, the British First Secretary will outrank the Danish First Secretary.

Precedence does not always follow the individual. When an ambassador is on leave, or visiting his/her home country, he/she does not hold the same status as when “on post”. When an individual who was invited to attend a function is unable to go and sends a representative, the latter is not accorded the former’s place of precedence. We often consider precedence when we plan for seating at dinners, meetings or ceremonies.

The list which follows gives general guidelines for determining precedence among civil officials and Department of Defense personnel. When individuals do not hold such official positions, consider their prominence within their own career areas.

Order Of Precedence

  1. The President
  2. The Vice President
  3. Governor of a State (when in his/her own State) according to each state’s entry into the union
  4. The Speaker of the House of Representatives
  5. The Chief Justice of the Supreme Court
  6. Former Presidents of the United States
  7. The Secretary of State
  8. Ambassadors of foreign countries accredited to the United States (in order of the presen-tation of credentials)
  9. Ministers of foreign countries accredited to the United States (only those ministers who are chiefs of diplomatic missions; in order of the presentation of credentials)
  10. Associate Justices of the Supreme Court (by date of appointment)
  11. The Cabinet (other than the Secretary of State)
    1. The Secretary of the Treasury
    2. The Secretary of Defense
    3. The Attorney General
    4. The Secretary of the Interior
    5. The Secretary of Agriculture
    6. The Secretary of Commerce
    7. The Secretary of Labor
    8. The Secretary of Health, Education, and Welfare
    9. The Secretary of Housing and Urban Development
    10. The Secretary of Transportation
    11. The Secretary of Energy
  12. The President Pro Tempore of the Senate
  13. Former Governors
  14. Senators (according to the number of years they have served)
  15. Governors of States (when outside their own States. Relative precedence determined by their State’s date of admission to the union, or alphabetically by State)
  16. Acting heads of executive departments (e.g., Acting Secretary of Defense)
  17. Former Vice Presidents of the United States
  18. Congressmen (according to the length of continuous service. If the latter is the same, arrange by date of their State’s admission to the Union or alphabetically by State)
  19. Delegates of territories (Puerto Rico, Guam)
  20. Chargé d ‘Affaires of foreign countries
  21. Former Secretaries of State
  22. The Deputy and Under Secretaries of executive departments (e.g., the Deputy Secretary of Defense)
  23. Secretaries of the military departments (Army, Navy, Air Force, in that order)
  24. Chairman, Joint Chiefs of Staff
  25. Retired Chairman, Joint Chiefs of Staff
  26. Members, Joint Chiefs of Staff (Army, Air Force and Navy and Marine Corps, by date of appointment to JCS)
  27. Retired Service Chiefs
  28. Five Star Generals and Admirals
  29. Director, Central Intelligence Agency
  30. Commandant of the Coast Guard U.S.
  31. Ambassadors accompanying foreign chiefs of state on a State visit.
  32. U.S. Ambassadors (on assignment within the United States)
  33. Assistant Secretaries of executive departments (by date of appointment)
  34. Judges of the U.S. Court of Military Appeals
  35. Under Secretaries of the Military departments (Army, Navy, Air Force, in that order)
  36. Governors of territories
  37. Generals and Admirals (four star grade)
  38. Assistant Secretaries of military establishments (Army, Navy, Air Force by date of appointment within each service)
  39. The Special Assistant to the Secretary and Deputy Secretary of Defense Assistants to the Secretary of Defense
  40. General Counsels of military departments
  41. Deputy Under Secretaries of Defense (by date of appointment)
  42. Three Star Military
  43. Principal Deputy Assistant Secretaries of Defense and Deputy General Counsel of the Department of Defense (by date of appointment)
  44. Former foreign ambassadors
  45. Former U.S. Ambassadors and Ministers of foreign countries
  46. Ministers of foreign powers (not accredited heads of missions)
  47. Deputy Assistant Secretaries of executive departments and deputy counsels
  48. Deputy Under Secretaries of the Army, Navy and Air Force (by date of appointment within each service )
  49. Counselors of foreign embassies
  50. Consuls general of foreign powers
  51. GS-18
  52. Two star military (Rear Admiral, upper half)
  53. Deputy Assistant Secretaries of military depart-ments (by date of appointment)
  54. Heads of offices, Office of the Secretary of Defense
  55. GS-17
  56. One star military (Rear Admiral, lower half and Commodore)
  57. Heads of offices of military departments
  58. Foreign consuls
  59. GS-16
  60. Captains and Colonels
  61. GS-15