Warrant Officer Historical Foundation

(formerly Warrant Officers Heritage Foundation)

A Non-Profit  501 (c) (3) Public Charity

Preserving Army Warrant Officer History

Founded May 29, 2003


Warrant Officer Programs

of the Other U. S. Uniformed Services


| Reports Pertaining to Warrant Officers of All Services |

 | Navy | Marine Corps | Coast Guard | Air Force | Public Health Service Commissioned Corps |

| Other Resources | Other Web Sites | Credits |



Reports on Warrant Officers of All Services


DoD Report on WOMA - The Army was requested by the Defense Department to chair a special ad hoc committee to research and prepare the requested report for the Congress. The committee initiated deliberations on 22 September 1989. Committee participants included representatives from the Office of the Secretary of Defense (Force Management) and from the personnel departments of each of the military services, the Reserve components, and the Coast Guard. The Committee's report was issued on 30 November 1989. The Assistant Secretary of Defense (Force Management & Personnel) forwarded the Defense Report to the Chairmen of the Senate and House Armed Services Committees on 9 March 1990. See the Executive Summary.


In February 2002, "The Warrant Officer Ranks: Adding Flexibility to Military Personnel Management," a report released by the Congressional Budget Office of the U.S. Congress in February 2002 (applies to all services) - see Fact Sheet. To view the CBO Report go to www.cbo.gov, click on "Publications", then click on "Search" and enter "warrant" in the "word/Phrase" block. The Report will appear right hand panel. Click "More" to view the report or you may download the file.


In March 2002 the Ninth Quadrennial Review of Military Compensation Report was released on May 17th, 2002.  Warrant Officer compensation is covered in the Executive Summary and in the body of the report.


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U. S. Air Force



The Air Force discontinued its warrant officer program in 1959 following a comprehensive review of warrant officer utilization as technicians and mid-level managers. They determined that structure, training and retention needs were best served by eliminating their warrant officer program. There were approximately 4,500 Air Force warrant officer authorizations when this decision was made.


While warrant officers provide excellent technical expertise, the Air Force determined that they are not sufficiently flexible for utilization outside of their technical specialty. Officers provide the flexibility for use in a broad span of managerial and career broadening assignments which are necessary to meet Air Force requirements. Technical administrative duties such as acquisition, logistics and scientific duties were felt to be best performed by officers, while "hands on" technical duties such as data systems operations, radar and avionics maintenance could be best performed by the enlisted force.


Personnel management efficiencies were realized by eliminating one personnel management system and erasing the overlap of status, responsibility and authority between the enlisted, warrant, and officer ranks. This action additionally created an increase in promotion opportunity for the senior enlisted force.


Historical Note - The last active duty Air Force warrant officer, CWO-4 James H. Long, retired in 1980 and the last Air Force Reserve warrant officer, CWO-4 Bob Barrow, retired in 1992. Upon his retirement, he was honorarily promoted to CWO-5, the only person in the Air Force ever to hold this grade Barrow passed away in April 2008.  Since Barrow's retirement, the Air Force warrant officer ranks, while still authorized by law, are not used.


See also "The In-Betweensby Bruce D. Callander, published in November 1991 edition of the AIR FORCE MAGAZINE of the Air Force Association.

U.S. Air Force Homepage

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Established January 28, 1915,

when President Wilson signed the Act creating the Coast Guard.


Warrant Officer Definition


Coast Guard warrant officers are technical officers with strong leadership skills who have demonstrated a potential for greater responsibility than normally expected of senior enlisted members.  Warrant officers are mature individuals with extensive experience in their specialty who are capable of performing duties in an administrative or technical capacity. They are extended the same privileges as commissioned officers.


Warrant Officer Utilization


Laws governing management of the Coast Guard warrant officer corps are the same as DoD, Title 10, U. S. Code. Warrant officers in the Coast Guard are considered part of the officer corps. As such, they hold a unique organizational position. Warrant officers "fill the gap" between the enlisted corps and the commissioned officer corps. They are able to fully understand and communicate with the enlisted technician. Through understanding the requirements and problems of the enlisted technician as well as the management requirements of the general line officer, warrant officers bridge an essential communication link between officer and enlisted. This communication, both up and down the chain, significantly contributes to the efficiency and effectiveness of the Service. In recognition of the importance of this link, warrant officers are held in high regard within the Coast Guard.


Although junior in pay grade to commissioned officers, warrant officers have at least 8 years and currently average about 14 years enlisted service. In addition, enlisted members must have demonstrated leadership abilities. Applicants must be at least an E-6 or above. If an E-6, the member must be on the E-7 list. Therefore, new warrant officers bring strong technical expertise and leadership into the officer corps.


Warrant Officer Occupations


The Coast Guard warrant officer corps is spread over 12 specialties. Five of the specialties have less than fifty billets. The size of the specialties range from ten to three hundred thirty-four. Some examples of warrant officer billets include:

  • Boatswains - Commanding Officers, First Lieutenants, Division and Repair Party Officers. Ashore, boatswains serve as Commanding Officers, Executive Officers, Security officers, and Inspectors in the Marine Safety Program.

  • Communications - Commanding Officers, Executive Officers of radio stations, Assistants to Communications Officers, and Communication Security.

  • Naval Engineering - Engineer Officer, Assistant to Engineer Officer on larger cutters, Machinery Repair Officers, Technical Advisors on uses, capabilities, limitations, and reliability of engineering equipment, as well as Inspectors in the Marine Safety Program.

  • Aviation Engineering - Aircraft Maintenance Officers, Assistant Aircraft Maintenance Officers, Technical Advisors on capabilities, limitations, and reliability of aircraft power plants, accessories, air frames and equipment.

  • Material Maintenance - Assistants to engineer and repair officers, Shop Superintendents, Technical Advisors concerning uses, capabilities, limitations, and reliability of ship repair, fire fighting and damage control equipment, as well as Inspectors in the Marine Safety Program.

  • Personnel Administration - Support for administration, legal, education, housing, and personnel services programs.

  • Public Information - Public Information Officers, Assistant Public Information Officers, or Photographic Officers.

  • Intelligence Systems Specialist - collect, process, analyze, and disseminate intelligence in support of Coast Guard operational missions.

On February 25, 2003 - The Coast Guard welcomed Homeland Security Department Secretary Tom Ridge aboard today as its new chief civilian during a symbolic transfer of leadership here. The maritime service has been part of the Department of Transportation. On March 1, 2003, it and 21 other federal agencies officially merge into the Department of Homeland Security.  While the Coast Guard falls under the Department of Homeland Security, it remains a distinct military entity that is subject to Department of Defense authority in time of war -- just as the existing law states.


In May 2004 - In ALCOAST 234/04, the Commandant announced completion of the CWO Specialty Review. This message outlines necessary changes to the CWO workforce structure, which will be explained in more detail in a future ALCOAST (process, timelines, etc.).


ALCOAST 78/07 announced application process for new CG Intelligence Specialty (IS). When fully staffed nearly 400 active duty and reserve enlisted and warrant officers will be tasked to collect, process, analyze, and disseminate intelligence in support of Coast Guard operational missions. Presently applications to lateral into the new IS specialty are being accepted by the Coast Guard Personnel Command. Lateral panels will convene this summer and those chosen will formally transition to their new rate on January 1, 2008.

U. S. Coast Guard Home page

U. S. Coast Guard Reserve

Coast Guard News Channel

Chief Warrant Officer Association

Chief Warrant Officer Professional Development - USCG Academy

Chief Warrant Officer Specialty Review

The Foundation for Coast Guard History

The Coast Guard Foundation

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U. S. Marine Corps



Warrant Officer Definition


The Marine Corps warrant officer is a technical officer specialist who performs duties that require extensive knowledge, training and experience with particular systems or equipment. Their duties and responsibilities are of a nature beyond those required of senior noncommissioned officers. Marine Corps warrant officers provide experience and stability in the officer ranks in critical specialty areas.


Warrant Officer Utilization


The primary purpose for establishing warrant officers was to create and maintain a selected body of personnel with special knowledge of a particular MOS. Since 1916, the Marine Warrant Officer Program has undergone many changes in its structure, eligibility criteria and policy. As late as World War II, warrant officers were appointed primarily as a reward for the long and faithful service of senior noncommissioned officers. However, today the Marine Corps warrant officer program is requirements-based, designed specifically to meet valid operational requirements.


CWO5 Billets


These billets are located at the highest operational levels of the Marine Corps. For example, CWO5s are assigned in the operations sections of Marine Air-Ground Task Forces as a principal technical advisor for their particular specialty.


Warrant Officer Occupations


The Marine Corps has two distinct warrant officer programs: the Marine Gunner and the Technical warrant officer programs.

  • The Technical warrant officer program provides officers for service in technical non-combat arms specialties such as Electronics Maintenance Officers, Tactical Intelligence officers and Disbursing officers.

  • The Marine Gunner program provides warrant officers who are specialists in all aspects of infantry weapons and who are the source of expertise in the employment of weapons organic to infantry units. In addition, they are responsible for the development, coordination and monitoring of unit training programs for tactical weapons employment.

The following are examples of Marine Corps warrant officer positions:

  • Personnel Officer

  • Data Systems Operations Officer

  • Tactical Intelligence Officer

  • Utilities Officer 

  • Survey and Meteorological Officer

  • Electro-Optic Instrument Repair Officer

  • Ground Radar Maintenance officer

  • Ground Supply Operations Officer 

  • Legal Administrative Officer

  • Avionics Officer

  • Postal Officer

  • Embarkation Officer

Personnel Management & Professional Development


Warrant officer careers are to be carefully managed with a clear progression of billets, from those designated WO/CWO2, to those designated CWO3/CWO4 and CWO5.


All newly selected warrant officers are required to attend the Warrant Officer Basic Course (WOBC). This course provides all W01 with a common officer training experience regardless of the technical occupational field for which they were selected.


By definition, Marine Corps warrant officers are technical specialists who have established their skills in the enlisted grades and who possess the potential to act as a supervisor in that skill in a capacity that is substantially higher than that required for enlisted personnel. Consequently, while the majority of warrant officer selectees do require some additional formal training prior to their first assignment in the fleet as a warrant officer, the training is at an intermediate level where the supervisory skills for the particular technical field are emphasized.

U.S. Marine Corps Homepage

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Warrant Officer Definition


Navy chief warrant officers are technical officer specialists who perform duties:

  • Requiring the expertise and commissioned officer authority to direct the most difficult and exacting technical operation in a given occupational area.

  • Technically oriented - requiring skills directly related to previous enlisted service and specialized training.

  • Not significantly affected by advancement in rank - allows successive tours of a repetitive nature.

Warrant Officer Utilization Philosophy


The functional role of the modern Navy warrant officer is to provide officer technical expertise at a relatively constant grade level within the officer structure. The duties they perform are limited in scope in relation to other officer categories such as unrestricted line, restricted line, staff or limited duty. That is, the occupational areas of warrant officers do not expand, especially afloat, since their primary duties involve an application of technical and leadership skills versus primarily management functions. As a result, the Navy warrant officer becomes more proficient and valuable with each succeeding assignment. Because warrant officers do not "promote away," they are able to remain close to their technical field. Assignment to duties of a repetitive nature ensure that they will continue to grow in experience, knowledge and value to the Navy as they progress through the warrant officer ranks.


The Navy expects its warrant officers to "hit the deck running," taking total charge of their area of expertise or responsibility as division officers, department heads, officers-in-charge and, in some cases, the commanding officer, depending on the size of the organization and the complexity of the operations. For these reasons, only senior Navy petty officers (grade E7 and above) may apply for the Navy's warrant officer program.


Navy warrant officers are a special category of officers. They are not considered "junior officers." Although junior in pay grade, Navy warrants have a minimum of 13 and an average of 17 years enlisted service prior to commissioning. The wealth of technical and leadership experience they bring to the officer corps allows them to work closely with, and fully understand, the requirements of enlisted technicians in their charge. Warrant officers "bridge the gap" between the enlisted technician and the non-technical, generalist commissioned officers, thereby improving the efficiency and effectiveness of the organization.


At sea, the Navy relies heavily on its warrant officers to supervise the maintenance and repair of all types of equipment, from the very old to state of the art electronic equipment during extended deployments.


In addition to providing technical and managerial skills, warrant officers perform a vital function in supporting communications at all levels within the chain of command. Many of the Navy war fighting platforms are extremely complex and operate independent of fleet or base support activities for extended periods of time. Drawing on their extensive technically oriented enlisted experience, warrant officers have proven most effective in providing advice to on-site non-technically oriented unit commanders, providing technical decision making information and, in many cases, direct mission support.


Requirements Determination Process


Navy officer requirements can be separated into three main categories -- combat essential, combat and other support, and individuals account. "Combat essential" is defined as those operational combat and shore elements necessary to execute the maritime strategy. "Combat and other support" comprises the necessary rear support for the combat essential manpower requirements analysts before manpower authorization changes are approved and programmed. Those requests than can not be supported by valid requirements and/or from a program execution standpoint are denied and not included in the program budget submits to Office of the Secretary of Defense and Congress.


Manpower requirements for the supervision of manual or technical skills at the highest level of supervisory responsibility shall normally be classified as warrant officer billets. The actual employment of warrant officers is somewhat constrained by billet and personnel assignment policy. There is a warrant officer/E8/E9 functional relationship which must be taken into account in assigning warrant officer billets to preclude excessive layering of officer and enlisted technical/managerial talent. These include:

  • Where an E8/E9 is assigned directly subordinate to a warrant officer.

  • Where a Warrant Officer is assigned directly subordinate to an Ensign or Lieutenant (Junior Grade) Limited Duty Officer (LDO).

  • Where a single E8 is assigned directly subordinate to an E9, unless separate areas of responsibility are identified for each.

Warrant Officer Occupations


The majority of warrant officer billets are at the division officer level, Navy warrant officers also service as Commanding Officers, Executive Officers, Officers-In-Charge, department heads, instructors, and as technical advisors on major staffs, ashore and afloat. Warrant officers may also be assigned any primary or additional duty deemed necessary by the commanding officer to accomplish the immediate mission of the unit. (See also Navy to try CWO-to-Pilot Program below.)


There are currently 30 separate CWO designators in five separate categories. CWO in the surface, submarine, aviation and general designators are line officers and CWO in the staff designators are staff officers. In virtually all cases, Navy warrant officers perform duties within their technical specialties. 


Some examples of CWO billets are:

  • Boatswains - First Lieutenant, Ship Boatswain, Beachmasters, Port Services and Docking Officer.

  • Operations/Communication - Ships Navigator, Ocean Systems Operations Officer, TAC Data Systems/Combat Information Officer, SATCOM Officer.

  • Engineer/Repair - Shipboard Engineer and Assistant, Repair Officer, Inspection Team member.

  • Ordnance - Weapons Safety Officer, Fire Control and Weapons Systems Maintenance and Repair, Special Weapons Assembly and Technical Repair.

  • Special Warfare Techs/Explosive Ordnance Disposal - SEAL, EOD Officer.

  • Electronics - Shipboard Electronics Material Maintenance, Avionics, Inspector-Combat Systems.

  • Aviation - Air Boatswain, Catapult and Arresting Gear, Aircraft Refueling, Aircraft Crash/Salvage, Flight Deck Supervisor, Flight Crew. (See also Navy to try CWO-to-Pilot Program below.)

  • Nuclear Power - Naval Reactors Operational and Maintenance, Radiological Controls, Quality Assurance.

  • Administration - Admin/Legal/Education/Ops Coordinator (Attaché Technician), ADP Systems Maintenance.

  • Intelligence/Cryptologic/Photographic - Research/Analysis, Operational Intel Interpreter, Image Systems Management, Photo Intel Officer, CRYPTO, Special Agent (NIS).

  • Staff Corps - Tech Supply, Disbursing, Food Service, Civil Engineering, SEABEE Operations Officer.

Warrant officers may also be assigned to analyze Maintenance, Material, and Management (3M) Data; serve as special project officers in their area of expertise; and may be utilized as personal excellence counselors, recruiters, or recruit company commanders.


In October 2002 the Navy Secretary Authorized the Grade of CWO5 beginning in Fiscal Year 2004 - The Navy 2004 Promotion Selection Board included CWO4 selection for CWO5. Over a five year period some 84-CWO5 billets (5% authorized by WOMA) of the Navy Warrant Officer Corps may serve in the grade of CWO5. See Navy BUPERS Message.


In January 2006 the Navy announced a pilot program that will place 30 selected Chief Warrant Officers in aircraft cockpits as pilots and naval flight officers. The intent is to create flying specialists unencumbered by the traditional career paths of the unrestricted line officer community. The concept is to replace a percentage of the pilots and NFOs in squadrons that have large junior officer aviator populations and corresponding low department head opportunity with Chief Warrant Officers who can return to these squadrons again and again and perform the same duties they did before, with no career penalty. Targeted communities include Patrol (VP), Electronic Attack (VQ(P) and VQ(T)) and the HSC and HSL helicopter communities. Targeted enlisted candidates include those between pay grades E-5 and E-7 and also young enough to be commissioned by their 27th birthday (29 for NFOs; they must also possess an associate's degree or higher, meet aviation physical qualifications, pass Aviation Standard Battery Test minimums and be eligible for a secret security clearance. Thirty Sailors will be selected for the pilot program, commissioned as CWO2 prior to LDO/CWO indoctrination, and subsequently undergo flight training. Once winged, program CWOs will incur an 8-year minimum service requirement for pilots (6 years for NFOs) and complete traditional sea/shore rotations between operational units and shore-based aviation production sources. The newly-winged aviators will receive Fleet Replacement Squadron training and then report to the fleet. (See article)

U.S. Navy Homepage

Limited Duty Officer/Chief Warrant Officer Community Page

History of Warrant Officers in the U. S. Navy

Specialty Insignia - LDO and Warrant

Navy Flying Chief Warrant Officers (Unofficial)

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In October 2004, Department of Health and Human Services awarded a contract to support the development of a Public Health Service Warrant Officer program - more.

U. S. Public Health Service Commissioned Corps

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(Many files throughout this site are a PDF files -  free reader available for download.)




Much of the information on the warrant officer programs of the other services was derived from the Defense Department Report to Congress on Warrant Officer Management Act (WOMA) 30 November 1989. Some items and events have been added based on official Uniformed Services, Defense Department News Releases, and web research.


This is a living document which is updated as research progresses and events transpire.

Comments and additional historical data may be sent by email to wohf-2003@verizon.net .


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Updated May 31, 2015