The American Legion is led by its national commander, five national vice commanders and six national constitutional officers. The national commander and vice commanders help compose the National Executive Committee (NEC); and play vital roles during the national convention, the Legion’s annual meeting to establish programs, pass resolutions and make changes to the organization’s constitutions and by-laws.
The national commander is the executive head of the Legion, with full power to enforce provisions of the Legion’s constitution, by-laws and resolutions. Each national commander serves a one-year term, after which a new one is elected at the national convention; five national vice commanders are also elected annually.
In addition to the national commander and vice commanders, six national constitutional officers are appointed annually by vote of the NEC. They are the adjutant, treasurer, judge advocate, historian, chaplain and sergeant-at-arms. Officers by the national convention take office upon adjournment of the convention, and serve until the end of the next one.
Elected at the national convention, five vice commanders act as representatives of the national commander. They may preside over meetings of the NEC or the national convention, and perform other duties for the commander. No two vice commanders can be chosen from the same department during the same year.
The national commander, the five national vice commanders, and one National Executive Committeeman and one alternate elected by each department, comprise the National Executive Committee. Past national commanders are considered life members; they can join the debate on issues, but have no vote. The NEC has the Legion’s administrative power, responsible for drafting an annual budget, approving contracts and signing off on Legion spending. NEC members are delegates with full voting power during the Legion’s Fall and Spring meetings in Indianapolis and during the national convention. In short, the NEC serves as the organization’s board of directors.
The Legion’s largest annual meeting is the national convention. Each of the Legion’s 55 departments (one in each state, plus the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, France, Mexico and the Philippines) is entitled to a minimum of five voting delegates to the national convention. A department is granted one extra delegate, a member in good standing, for each 1,000 members (or major fraction thereof) 30 days before the convention. The five national vice commanders round out the group of delegates present.
The national convention delegates alone have the authority to approve changes to the Legion’s constitution and by-laws. The body is also responsible for passing programs that determine the course of the Legion, setting membership dues, and electing the national commander and vice commanders, who serve until the end of the next convention.