While each branch of the Armed Forces has its own version of the Achievement medal, Casper Weinberger, then Secretary of Defense, established a Joint Service Achievement medal in 1983. Like the other Achievement medals, it is awarded in recognition of meritorious service or achievement in either combat or non-combat situations based on sustained performance or specific achievement.
However, the Department of Defense further specifies that it be given only to military personnel below the rank of colonel for joint activities after August 3, 1983. The individual should be assigned to a qualifying organization such as the Defense Agencies, Headquarters of Unified Commands, Office of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, or the Office of the Secretary of Defense. It takes precedence over Achievement medals from the individual branches of the military.
Designed by Jay Morris and sculpted by Donald Borja, both of the Institute of Heraldry, the Joint Services Achievement medal is a distinctive bronze twelve-point star. Superimposed in the center is a bald eagle adapted from the seal of the Department of Defense. The left-facing eagle holds three arrows in its talons denoting the U.S.'s readiness to defend on land, in the sea, or in the air. The arrows' raised points symbolize vigilance in every direction.
The back is inscribed "Joint Service Achievement Award" in a circle, with the recipient's name engraved in the center. The medal hangs from a Bluebird Blue ribbon with a very narrow stripe of Old Glory Red in the center and is flanked on either side by equal narrow stripes of white, green, white, and Old Glory Blue.
A bronze oak leaf cluster (gold for the Coast Guard) is given for subsequent awards. A silver oak leaf cluster replaces five bronze (five gold for the Coast Guard).