State Funerals in the United States of America
A state funeral is a national tribute which is traditionally reserved for a head of state. The United States conducts state funerals on behalf of all persons who hold, or have held, the office of president as well as a president-elect and other persons designated by the president.
A state funeral is a 7 to 10 day event and consists of three stages. Stage I includes ceremonies within the state in which the president, former president, or president-elect was in residence. Stage II includes ceremonies within Washington, DC, and Stage III includes ceremonies in the state in which the authorized individual has chosen to be interred.
The ceremonies occurring in the national capital region may involve Armed Forces honor guards, elite military bands, and other service academies, National Guard and U.S. Armed Forces Reserve units. The ceremonies occurring outside the national capital region may include Washington-based honor guards and local service units to include active duty, National Guard and Reserve for logistical, military band or salute guns support.
Upon notification of a former president’s death to the White House, the president of the United States officially announces the death of a former president by proclamation. He then directs the Department of Defense to conduct a state funeral on behalf of the nation.
The Secretary of Defense, in turn, designates the U.S. Northern Command commander as the combatant commander responsible for the conduct of the funeral.
U.S. NORTHCOM then activates JFHQ-NCR as Joint Task Force National Capital Region (JTF-NCR) and designates the commanding general of JTF-NCR as the supported operational commander.
The JTF-NCR commander is responsible for coordinating and conducting all of the ceremonies to honor a former president.
EDITOR’S NOTE: JFHQ-NCR is the Washington, D.C., element of U.S. Northern Command and is headquartered at Fort Lesley J. McNair. Elements that support the JFHQ-NCR include: the U.S. Army Military District of Washington, Naval District Washington, Marine Corps Forces National Capital Region, Air Force District of Washington, and the U.S. Coast Guard Sector Baltimore.