1. Description: The medal is gold in color and on the obverse it features a medium
blue enameled pentagon (point up). Superimposed on this in an American bald eagle with wings outspread facing left grasping
three crossed arrows in its talons and on its breast is a shield of the United States. The pentagon and eagle are enclosed
within a gold pieced circle consisting, in the upper half of thirteen five-pointed stars and in the lower half, a wreath of
laurel on the left and olive on the right. At the top is a suspender of five graduated gold rays. The reverse of the medal
has the inscription "For Distinguished Service" at the top in raised letters, and within the pentagon the inscription "From
The Secretary of Defense To," all in raised letters. This decoration takes precedence over the Distinguished Service Medals
of the separate services and is not to be awarded to any individual for a period of service for which an Army, Navy, Air Force
or Coast Guard Distinguished Service Medal is awarded.
2. Criteria: The Defense Distinguished Service Medal is
awarded for exceptionally distinguished performance of duty contributing to national security or defense at the highest levels
while assigned to a joint activity. The DDSM may also be awarded to other senior officers whose direct and individual contributions
to national security or defense are recognized as being so exceptional in scope and value as to be equivalent
to contributions normally associated with positions encompassing broader responsibilities.
3. Background: a. This is the highest peacetime Defense
b. Designed by Mildred Orloff and sculpted by Lewis J. King, Jr.,
both of the Institute of Heraldry.
c. Normally, such responsibilities deserving of the Defense Distinguished
Service Medal are held by the most senior officers such as the Chairman and Vice Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, the
Chiefs and Vice Chiefs of the Services, and Commanders and Deputy Commanders of the Unified Commands whose duties bring them
into direct contact with the Secretary of Defense and other senior officials.