The Joint Civilian Orientation Course (JCOC) is the oldest and most prestigious public liaison program in the Department of Defense, and is the only outreach program sponsored by the Secretary of Defense

The initial concept, established by Secretary of Defense James V. Forrestal in 1948, was a quarterly, 10-day course for about 60 participants. The course would complement separate Service civic leader programs in order to “present an integrated picture of the military establishment ...”   It would “deal with national policy, the problems confronting the United States in pursuing its policies, and the economic, political, and military means to carry out that policy.”

As planning progressed, Secretary Forrestal changed “Course” to “Conference,” and the 10-day JCOC condensed to 6 days (the original Washington phase was three days). It was decided  in January 1952  there would be no repeat participants.  Four JCOCs per year became two per year in 1953, and one per year in 1962.  Conferences have had participant numbers from 23 to 90.

In 2003, the conference, for the first time, travelled to U.S. military installations outside of the United States.  Each visit during that period was hosted by a major combatant command and was designed to highlight the capabilities of our forward-deployed service members.  A redesign of the program was completed in 2010 and resulted in an overall increase in the participants’ actual time with the troops by concentrating visits to military installations within the United States.  The program was temporarily halted  in 2013 and  2014 due to sequestration.


The mission of JCOC is to increase public understanding of national defense by enabling American business and community leaders to directly observe and engage with the U.S. military. 

Participants are guests of the Secretary of Defense and attend briefings by senior military and civilian officials at the Pentagon.  They also gain firsthand experiences through operations and interactions with troops and military leaders stationed throughout the United States.  The program currently runs once a year and is managed by the Office of the Assistant to the Secretary of Defense (Public Affairs). 


  • Educate and inform participants about the strength and readiness of the U.S. Armed Forces through the personal observation of Army, Marine Corps, Navy, Air Force, and Coast Guard operations.
  • Provide a better understanding of the challenges faced by our men and women in uniform and by the families who support them, both on and off the battlefield.  This includes help in closing the military/civilian divide and assisting transitioning Service members.
  • Provide the American public opportunities to obtain a better understanding of national defense policies and programs through the eyes of opinion leaders who will share their observations and knowledge based on firsthand experiences.

"The common thread was the pride and respect I have for the men and women who serve in our Armed Forces.  This was all about the people."

Scott Cutler, Pres., StubHub




"We're really lucky to have such dedicated forces ensuring our freedoms and way of life."

William McNabb, III, Chairman & CEO, Vanguard