Frocking is a United States
United States
The United States of America is a federal constitutional republic comprising fifty states and a federal district...

 military term for a commissioned
Officer (armed forces)
An officer is a member of an armed force or uniformed service who holds a position of authority. Commissioned officers derive authority directly from a sovereign power and, as such, hold a commission charging them with the duties and responsibilities of a specific office or position...

 or non-commissioned officer
Non-commissioned officer
A non-commissioned officer , called a sub-officer in some countries, is a military officer who has not been given a commission...

 selected for promotion wearing the insignia of the higher grade before the official date of promotion (the "date of rank"). An officer or NCO who has been selected for promotion
Promotion (rank)
A promotion is the advancement of an employee's rank or position in an organizational hierarchy system. Promotion may be an employee's reward for good performance i.e. positive appraisal...

 may be authorized to "frock" to the next grade. The need to frock is a result of the fact that the number of people who may serve in a particular rank is restricted by federal law. Thus, even though an individual may have been selected for promotion and (for officers) confirmed by the Senate, they must often wait for a vacancy (headroom) to occur in order to be officially promoted. Frocking customs and policies vary across military services, particularly for enlisted members; in the United States Army
United States Army
The United States Army is the main branch of the United States Armed Forces responsible for land-based military operations. It is the largest and oldest established branch of the U.S. military, and is one of seven U.S. uniformed services...

 a general officer may request authority to frock soldiers of his command; in the United States Air Force
United States Air Force
The United States Air Force is the aerial warfare service branch of the United States Armed Forces and one of the American uniformed services. Initially part of the United States Army, the USAF was formed as a separate branch of the military on September 18, 1947 under the National Security Act of...

, only senior field grade and general officers are usually frocked. The United States Navy makes use of frocking much more frequently than do the Army and the Air Force. An example of this is when all new Chief Petty Officer
Chief Petty Officer
A chief petty officer is a senior non-commissioned officer in many navies and coast guards.-Canada:"Chief Petty Officer" refers to two ranks in the Canadian Navy...

s of the United States Navy are frocked on September 16th of each year, although their official date of rank will be at different times over the next year.

The term "frocking" dates back to the age of sail
Age of Sail
The Age of Sail was the period in which international trade and naval warfare were dominated by sailing ships, lasting from the 16th to the mid 19th century...

, when communications between the Department of the Navy and ships at sea could take months. News of the promotion of an officer arrived, usually via letters brought by another ship, and often with orders for the newly promoted officer to report to a new ship or station. The ship that brought the news would often take that officer away to his new post. Since the departing officer created a vacancy on the first ship, the Captain would often forward a recommendation for promotion for one of the remaining officers, to be carried back to the Department of the Navy. Since one of the symbols of rank was a frock coat, the newly promoted officer would pass his old frock coat to the officer remaining behind and recommended for promotion to the old rank of the departing officer. Months could go by until the Captain's recommendation made it back to the Department of the Navy, was acted upon and made official, and news sent back. In the intervening time, the officer recommended for promotion would be accorded the privileges and authorities of his "new" rank, but would not receive the pay for it, since it was not yet official. And because it was not yet official, and because he was still wearing the old frock coat of the recently departed and (officially) promoted officer, the officer recommended for promotion was considered "frocked."

According to current Department of Defense policy, there is no limit to the number of two, three and four star generals (or admirals) who may be frocked at any one time. However, the number of frocked Brigadier Generals
Brigadier General
Brigadier general is a senior rank in the armed forces. It is the lowest ranking general officer in some countries, usually sitting between the ranks of colonel and major general. When appointed to a field command, a brigadier general is typically in command of a brigade consisting of around 4,000...

 or Rear Admirals (Lower Half)
Rear Admiral
Rear admiral is a naval commissioned officer rank above that of a commodore and captain, and below that of a vice admiral. It is generally regarded as the lowest of the "admiral" ranks, which are also sometimes referred to as "flag officers" or "flag ranks"...

is restricted. Three and four star generals are generally frocked if headroom is not available to promote them at the time of the assumption of their new assignment. This is due both to the close relationship between these ranks and the position held, and to the fact that these are considered "positions of importance and responsibility" in accordance with 10 USC section 601. For all other officers frocking is normally reserved for joint, international or other high visibility positions that require the higher rank for diplomatic, protocol, or command authority reasons.


  1. An officer must be on an approved and confirmed promotion list.
  2. An officer must not be under a suspension of favorable personnel actions (AR 600-8-2).
  3. Authority to wear the grade of rank to which frocked will not be recorded in official orders.
  4. A frocked officer is not entitled to the pay and allowances commensurate with the grade of rank to which frocked.
  5. A frocked officer does not accrue seniority for future promotion consideration.
  6. Frocked time does not count as time-in-grade in the grade of rank to which frocked, for retirement purposes.
  7. If an officer dies or is injured while in a frocked status, compensation will be based upon the officer's actual grade without regard to the grade or rank to which the officer was frocked.
  8. Functions which by law or DoD directive must be performed by an officer who actually holds a particular grade of rank (such as UCMJ actions or signing substantive legal documents), may not be performed by an officer frocked to that grade or rank. However, functions which by regulation require performance by an officer of a particular grade of rank may be performed by an officer frocked to that grade of rank, if specifically, permitted by the regulation concerned.
  9. An officer may continue to wear the rank to which frocked upon a change of duty or permanent change of station (PCS) unless removed from the promotion list (AR 600-8-29, Chapter 6-1).


A frocked officer may...
  1. wear the insignia and uniform of the higher rank.
  2. use the higher rank when signing officer and enlisted evaluation forms, awards and decorations, and documents dealing with protocol, such as military etiquette and precedence.
  3. accept general officer housing if assigned based on position, not rank.
  4. accrue all the privileges afforded by custom or regulation to this rank.
  5. obtain ceremonial (and command) flags.
  6. obtain and use protocol ("flag") stationery.
  7. obtain parking stickers for the frocked rank.
  8. update ID card, official photo and biography reflecting the higher grade.
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