Direct orders are the day-to-day instructions given to military members by their superiors.
Direct orders are essentially any command a commissioned or non-commissioned officer gives to his/her subordinates. Direct orders are given daily in the form of instructions for the general functioning of the military.
Direct Order vs. General Order
Direct orders, as opposed to General orders, are not necessarily written rules. The military has many written directives, operating procedures and laws which all military members must comply with. Direct orders as daily instructions must be based on higher orders and be lawful.
Upon signing an enlistment/reenlistment contract, DD Form 4/1 sections 15 and 16, every military member agrees to be bound by the rules and laws of the Armed Forces which include General orders, presidential directives, and direct orders given by superior officers.
Every promotion warrant charges the military member with obeying the orders of their superiors and giving orders in the performance of duties according to his/her rank. The promotion warrant also requires subordinate ranks to obey the orders given by the promoted military member. These orders to which the warrant refers are direct orders "which may be given from time to time" covering specific instances and given to specific individuals in accordance with higher rules.
The requirement for obeying direct and general orders is outline in Article 92 of the Uniform Code of Military Justice. Punishments for violating the requirements of ones duty, i.e. giving and obeying lawful orders, are outlined in the Manual for Courts Martial.