Description. Obverse: A silver color metal and enamel pendant 1 7/8 inches (4.76cm) in height overall consisting of a medium blue pentagon point up superimposed by a silver eagle with outspread wings charged on its breast with the shield of the United States and grasping in its talons three crossed arrows (as depicted on the seal of the Department of Defense) all silver, the wings projecting over and surmounting a silver arc encircling the top and sides of the pentagon and bearing nine conjoined silver stars above the wings, and two on each side below the wings, terminating in a silver wreath encircling the base composed of a laurel branch on the left and an olive branch on the right, the wreath surmounted by the extended ends of the arrows in base; at the top of the pendant a group of five graduated silver rays extending above the stars.

Reverse: On an arc at the top the inscription "For Superior Service" above the pentagon which bears the inscription "From The Secretary of Defense To", all silver.

Symbolism: The pentagon refers to the five armed services, the Army, Marine Corps, Navy, Coast Guard (in time of war) and Air Force. It also alludes to the headquarters of the Department of Defense. The configuration of the eagle bearing the shield of the United States and grasping three arrows upon a medium blue background together with an arc of thirteen stars and wreath of laurel and olive refers to the seal of the Department of Defense and indicates the award of the medal in the name of the Secretary of Defense. The conjoined stars and silver rays signify unity and excellence in the performance of the mission of the Department of Defense on behalf of the Nation.

Ribbon: A ribbon 1 3/8 inch (3.49cm) in width composed of the following vertical stripes: Golden Yellow 3/16 inch (.48cm), Bluebird 1/4 inch (.64cm), White 3/16 inch (.48cm), Scarlet 1/8 inch (.32cm), White 3/16 inch (.48cm), Bluebird 1/4 inch (.64cm) Golden Yellow 3/16 inch (.48cm).

Background: a. Authorized by E.O. 11904, February 6, 1976.   

b. The Defense Superior Service Medal (DSSM) shall be awarded only to members of the Armed Forces of the United States who, after February 6, 1976, rendered superior meritorious service in a position of significant responsibility. Only under the most unusual circumstances will DSSM be awarded as an impact award for outstanding TDY achievement. The DSSM is specifically intended to recognize exceptionally superior service, and to honor an individual's accomplishments over a sustained period.   

c. The DSSM shall be awarded only by the Secretary of Defense.       

   (1) The Director, Joint Staff, for the Chairman of the Joints Chiefs of Staff has been delegated approval or disapproval authority for Service members assigned to the Joint Staff, and those Service members assigned to Joint organizations. That authority may not be delegated further.       

   (2) Approval or disapproval authority for all other qualifying Service members is delegated to the DA&M, OSD, for the ASD (FMP). The authority may not be delegated further.   

d. The DSSM shall be placed in precedence after the MOH, the Distinguished Service Crosses of the Services, the DDSM, the Distinguished Service Medals of the Services, and the Silver Star, but before the Legion of Merit.

e. Recommendations approved by the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff shall be processed entirely by the Joint Staff. All other recommendations shall be forwarded to the Chief, Military Personnel Division, Personnel and Security Directorate, WHS, for processing. Recommendations should be submitted no later than 90 days before desired presentation date.