Established on February 6, 1976, the Defense Superior Service Medal honors U.S. Armed Forces personnel who carry out superior service in a capacity of substantial responsibility and in the execution of a joint assignment, typically over an interval of one year or greater. It is the second most prestigious award granted by the Secretary of Defense. Service completed on space shuttle missions may be eligible for the award.
The medal is silver and features an eagle bearing a shield on its chest and grasping three arrow; it is superimposed upon a light blue pentagon shape and encircled by stars above and a wreath of laurels below. The reverse reads “FOR SUPERIOR SERVICE” and “FROM THE SECRETARY OF DEFENSE TO [NAME OF RECIPIENT].” The ribbon is bisected by a thin vertical red stripe flanked on either side by a thin white stripe, a thicker blue stripe, and a thin yellow stripe proceeding outward.
Subsequent awards may be indicated by oak leaf clusters.