|Surgeon General of the
United States Navy
|Bureau of Medicine and Surgery
United States Navy Medical Corps
|Head of the medical branch of the U.S. Navy and U.S. Marine Corps
|Office of the Chief of Naval Operations
|Secretary of the Navy
Chief of Naval Operations
Director, Defense Health Agency
|Suite 5113, 7700 Arlington Boulevard, Falls Church, Virginia
|Defense Health Headquarters, Falls Church, Virginia
with Senate advice and consent
|10 U.S.C. § 8077
|William Maxwell Wood
|Deputy Surgeon General of the Navy/Deputy Chief, Bureau of Medicine and Surgery (Navy matters)
Chief, Medical Corps/Medical Officer of the Marine Corps (Marine matters)
The surgeon general of the Navy (SGN) is the most senior commissioned officer of the Medical Corps of the United States Navy and is the principal advisor to the United States Secretary of the Navy, Chief of Naval Operations and director of the Defense Health Agency on all health and medical matters pertaining to the United States Navy and United States Marine Corps. As head of the Bureau of Medicine and Surgery, the surgeon general also manages Navy and Marine healthcare policy, administering the services' healthcare and biomedical research facilities as well as the various staff corps of BUMED, including the Medical Corps and an enlisted corps. The surgeon general is also a member of the Office of the Chief of Naval Operations.
From 1965 to 2019, the surgeon general was appointed as a three-star vice admiral, until the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2017 struck the surgeon general's statutory rank. The House's version of the 2023 NDAA considered advancing the surgeon general's rank back to vice admiral. However, the final version of the act did not include reinstating it. The House's version of the 2024 NDAA once again included a provision to advance the surgeon general's rank back to vice admiral, but the final version did not include it. However the 2024 NDAA's attached house report (H. Rept. 118-301), acknowledges that the Navy does has the authority to allow the surgeon general to be designated a three-star rank, if an officer is nominated for appointment and confirmed.
Main article: Bureau of Medicine and Surgery
On 31 August 1842, the United States Congress passed a Navy appropriation bill that was a blueprint for efficiency. The legislation provided for five Navy bureaus United States Navy bureau system to replace the outdated Board of Navy Commissioners—Yards and Docks; Construction, Equipment, and Repair; Provisions and Clothing; Ordnance and Hydrography; and Medicine and Surgery. Heading each of the bureaus was a "Chief" to be appointed by the President of the United States.
The Bureau of Medicine and Surgery (BUMED) became the central administrative headquarters for the Navy Medical Department, and those names became interchangeable. The general order of 26 November 1842, which defined the duties of the new bureaus, charged BUMED with:
Overseeing all of these duties, and directing the medical department, was the Chief of BUMED, William P. C. Barton. Barton served at this post until 1844. He was followed by Thomas Harris, William Whelan, Phineas Horwitz, and William Maxwell Wood. Since the days of Barton's directorship the most senior ranking physician in the Navy Medical Department has held the title of Chief of the Bureau of Medicine and Surgery.
On 3 March 1871, Congress passed legislation granting medical and other staff officers of the Navy "relative rank" with grades "equal to but not identical with the grades of the line." This Naval Appropriations Act went further than any previous Congressional action in transforming and enhancing the Navy Medical Department. The Chief of the Bureau of Medicine and Surgery now had the additional title "Surgeon General," with the relative rank of Commodore. At the helm of this "revitalized" organization stood the first Surgeon General, William Maxwell Wood (1809–1880), a man entering his 42nd year of a naval service as unusual and varied as could be. Wood had served aboard USS Poinsett, one of the first steam vessels of the Navy, and designated flagship during the "expedition for the suppression of Indian hostilities on the coast of Florida" (a.k.a. the Seminole Wars). Wood served shore duty at Sackets Harbor, New York, Baltimore, Maryland, had duty as Fleet Surgeon of the Pacific Fleet, and served under Commodore John D. Sloat in California during the Mexican–American War. However fitting he may have been as the first Navy Surgeon General, he served less than two years.
|Dates of Tenure
|William P. C. Barton
|Phineas J. Horwitz
|William Maxwell Wood