The Office of the General Counsel is headed by the General Counsel of the Department of Defense (DoD). Appointed by the President with the advice and consent of the Senate, the General Counsel is by law the Chief Legal Officer of the DoD (10 U.S.C. § 140).

The General Counsel is "dual-hatted" as the Director of the Defense Legal Services Agency (DLSA), a DoD agency that provides legal advice and services for the Defense Agencies, DoD Field Activities, and other assigned organizations.

The General Counsel is responsible for the following functional areas:

  • Provide advice to the Secretary and Deputy Secretary of Defense regarding all legal matters and services performed within, or involving, the Department of Defense.
  • Provide legal advice to OSD organizations and, as appropriate, other DoD Components.
  • Oversee, as appropriate, legal services performed within the Department of Defense, including determining the adherence by attorneys in the Department of Defense to appropriate professional standards.
  • Coordinate on appeals from denial of requests under the Freedom of Information Act, as appropriate.
  • Provide advice on standards of conduct involving personnel of OSD and, as appropriate, other DoD components.
  • Develop the DoD Legislative Program and coordinate DoD positions on legislation and Executive Orders.
  • Provide for the coordination of significant legal issues, including litigation involving the DoD and other matters before the Department of Justice in which DoD has an interest.
  • Establish DoD policy on general legal issues, determine the DoD positions on specific legal problems, and resolve disagreements within the DoD on such matters.
  • Perform such functions relating to the DoD security program (including surveillance over DoD personnel security programs) as the Secretary or Deputy Secretary of Defense may assign.
  • Act as lead counsel for the Department in all international negotiations conducted by OSD organizations.
  • Maintain the central repository for all international agreements coordinated, negotiated, or concluded by DoD personnel.

The responsibilities and functions of the General Counsel in his or her capacity as the director, DLSA, include:

  • Organize, direct, and manage the DLSA and all assigned resources. Provide legal advice and services to the Defense Agencies, DoD Field Activities, and other assigned organizations.
  • Provide technical support and assistance for development of the DoD Legislative Program.
  • Manage the Departmental legislative comment programs.
  • Provide a centralized legislative document reference and distribution point for the DoD and maintain the Department's historical legislative files.
  • Coordinate DoD policy for standards of conduct and administer the Standards of Conduct Program for the OSD and other assigned organizations.
  • Administer the Security Clearance Review Program.