|United States Armed Forces
The U.S. Joint Service Color Guard on parade at Fort Myer, Virginia in October 2001.
|Service branches||United States Army
United States Marine Corps
United States Navy
United States Air Force
United States Coast Guard
|Headquarters||The Pentagon, Arlington County, Virginia|
|Commander-in-Chief||President Barack Obama|
|Secretary of Defense||Chuck Hagel|
|Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff||General Martin Dempsey,
United States Army
|Military age||17 with parental permission, 18 for voluntary service. Maximum age for enlistment is 35 for the Army, 28 for the Marines, 34 for the Navy, 27 for the Air Force and 27 for the Coast Guard.|
|73,270,043 males, age 18–49 (2010 est.),
71,941,969 females, age 18–49 (2010 est.)
|60,620,143 males, age 18–49 (2010 est.),
59,401,941 females, age 18–49 (2010 est.)
|2,161,727 males (2010 est.),
2,055,685 females (2010 est.)
|Active personnel||1,369,532 (ranked 2nd)|
|Reserve personnel||850,880 (ranked 10th)|
|Budget||$554.2 billion + $88.5 billion(FY13) (1st by total expenditure, 11th as percent of GDP)|
|Percent of GDP||4.9% (2011 est.)|
|History||American Revolutionary War
Early national period
American Civil War (1861–1865)
Post-Civil War era
World War I (1917–1918)
World War II (1941–1945)
Cold War (1945–1991)
Korean War (1950–1953)
Battle of Dien Bien Phu (1954)
1958 Lebanon crisis (1958)
Vietnam War (1959–1975)
Multinational Force in Lebanon (1982)
1983 Beirut barracks bombing (1983)
Invasion of Grenada (1983)
Invasion of Panama (1989–1990)
Persian Gulf War (1990–1991)
Kosovo War (1998–1999)
Global War on Terrorism (2001–present)
War in Afghanistan (2001–present)
Iraq War (2003–2011)
The United States Armed Forces[N 1] are the military forces of the United States. They consist of the Army, Navy, Marine Corps, Air Force, and Coast Guard. The United States has a strong tradition of civilian control of the military. The President of the United States is the military's overall head, and helps form military policy with the U.S. Department of Defense (DoD), a federal executive department, acting as the principal organ by which military policy is carried out. The DoD is headed by the Secretary of Defense, who is a civilian and Cabinet member. The Defense Secretary is second in the military's chain of command, just below the President, and serves as the principal assistant to the President in all DoD-related matters. To coordinate military action with diplomacy, the President has an advisory National Security Council headed by a National Security Advisor. Both the President and Secretary of Defense are advised by a seven-member Joint Chiefs of Staff, which includes the head of each of the Defense Department's service branches as well as the chief of the National Guard Bureau. Leadership is provided by the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and the Vice Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. The Commandant of the Coast Guard is not a member of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.
All of the branches work together during operations and joint missions, under the Unified Combatant Commands, under the authority of the Secretary of Defense with the exception of the Coast Guard, which is under the administration of the Department of Homeland Security and receives its operational orders from the Secretary of Homeland Security. However, the Coast Guard may be transferred to the Department of the Navy by the President or Congress during a time of war. All five armed services are among the seven uniformed services of the United States, the two others being the U.S. Public Health Service Commissioned Corps (under the Department of Health and Human Services) and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration Commissioned Officer Corps (under the Department of Commerce).
From the time of its inception, the military played a decisive role in the history of the United States. A sense of national unity and identity was forged as a result of victory in the First Barbary War and the Second Barbary War. Even so, the Founders were suspicious of a permanent military force and not until the outbreak of World War II did a large standing army become officially established. The National Security Act of 1947, adopted following World War II and during the Cold War's onset, created the modern U.S. military framework; the Act merged previously Cabinet-level Department of War and the Department of the Navy into the National Military Establishment (renamed the Department of Defense in 1949), headed by the Secretary of Defense; and created the Department of the Air Force and National Security Council.
The U.S. military is one of the largest militaries in terms of number of personnel. It draws its manpower from a large pool of paid volunteers; although conscription has been used in the past in various times of both war and peace, it has not been used since 1972. As of 2013, the United States spends about $554.2 billion annually to fund its military forces, and appropriates approximately $88.5 billion to fund Overseas Contingency Operations. Put together, the United States constitutes roughly 39 percent of the world's military expenditures. The U.S. Armed Forces has significant capabilities in both defense and power projection thanks to its advanced and powerful equipment and its widespread deployment of force around the world. As such, it is widely accepted that U.S. Armed Forces is the most powerful military in the world.
The history of the U.S. military dates to 1775, even before the Declaration of Independence marked the establishment of the United States. The Continental Army, Continental Navy, and Continental Marines were created in close succession by the Second Continental Congress in order to defend the new nation against the British Empire in the American Revolutionary War.
These forces demobilized in 1784 after the Treaty of Paris ended the War for Independence. The Congress of the Confederation created the United States Army on 3 June 1784, although the Army's founding is celebrated as occurring on 14 June 1775. The 1787 adoption of the Constitution gave the Congress the power to "raise and support armies", "provide and maintain a navy", and to "make rules for the government and regulation of the land and naval forces", as well as the power to declare war. The United States President is the U.S. military's commander-in-chief.
Rising tensions at various times with Britain and France and the ensuing Quasi-War and War of 1812 quickened the development of the U.S. Navy (established 13 October 1775) and the United States Marine Corps (established 10 November 1775). The U.S. Coast Guard dates its origin to the founding of the Revenue Cutter Service on 4 August 1790; that service merged with the United States Life-Saving Service in 1915 to establish the Coast Guard. The United States Air Force was established as an independent service on 18 September 1947; it traces its origin to the formation of the Aeronautical Division, U.S. Signal Corps in 1907 and was part of the Army before becoming an independent service.
The reserve branches formed a military strategic reserve during the Cold War, to be called into service in case of war. Time magazine's Mark Thompson has suggested that with the War on Terror, the reserves deployed as a single force with the active branches and America no longer has a strategic reserve.
The United States has the world's largest defense budget. In fiscal year 2010, the Department of Defense (DoD) had a base budget of $533.8 billion. An additional $130 billion was requested for "Overseas Contingency Operations" in the War on Terrorism, and over the course of the year, an additional $33 billion in supplemental spending was added to Overseas Contingency Operations funding. Outside of direct DoD spending, the United States spends another $218 to $262 billion each year on other defense-related programs, such as Veterans Affairs, Homeland Security, nuclear weapons maintenance, and the State Department.
By service, $225.2 billion was allocated for the Army, $171.7 billion for the Navy and Marine Corps, $160.5 billion for the Air Force and $106.4 billion for defense-wide spending. By function, $154.2 billion was requested for personnel, $283.3 billion for operations and maintenance, $140.1 billion for procurement, $79.1 billion for research and development, $23.9 billion for military construction, and $3.1 billion for family housing.
In FY 2009, major defense programs saw continued funding:
Obama's FY 2011 budget proposed a 4% increase in DoD spending, followed by a 9% decrease in FY 2012, with funding remaining level for subsequent years.
Loren Thompson, a defense analyst with the Lexington Institute, has blamed the "vast sums of money" squandered on cutting-edge technology projects that were then canceled on shortsighted political operatives who lack a long-term perspective in setting requirements. The result is that the number of items bought under a given program are cut. The total development costs of the program are divided over fewer platforms, making the per-unit cost seem higher and so the numbers are cut again and again in a death spiral.
Cost containment measures in the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act and the Obama administration's energy policy will play a critical determining roles because health care and fuel costs are the two fastest-growing segments of the defense budget.
As of 31 December 2013, 1,369,532 people were on active duty in the armed forces, with an additional 850,880 people in the seven reserve components. It is an all-volunteer military, but conscription through the Selective Service System can be enacted at the President's request and Congress' approval. All males ages 18 through 25 who are living in the United States are required to register with the Selective Service for a potential future draft.
From 1776 until September 2012, a total of 40 million Americans have served in the United States Armed Forces.
In early 2007, Secretary of Defense Robert Gates proposed an increase in the overall size of the Army and Marine Corps to meet the needs of the War on Terrorism. Current plans are to increase the Army to 547,400 and the Marine Corps to 202,000 by 2012. The expansion will cost a total of $90.7 billion between 2009 and 2013 as the Navy and Air Force undergo a limited force reduction. In addition, in 2009, Gates proposed increasing the size of the Army by 22,000 troops in order to reduce fatigue from multiple trips overseas, and to compensate for troops who are in recovery away from their units. The FY 2011 DoD budget request plan calls for an active military end strength of 1.4 million, an increase of 77,500 from the 2007 baseline as a result of increments in the Army (65,000 more troops) and Marine Corps (27,100 more troops) strength and decrements in the Navy (13,300 fewer troops) and Air Force (1,300 fewer troops) strength.
As in most militaries, members of the U.S. military hold a rank, either that of officer, warrant, or enlisted, to determine seniority and eligibility for promotion. Those who have served are known as veterans. Rank names may be different between services, but they are matched to each other by their corresponding paygrade. Officers who hold the same rank or paygrade are distinguished by their date of rank to determine seniority, while officers who serve in certain positions of office of importance set by law, outrank all other officers in active duty of the same rank and paygrade, regardless of their date of rank. Due to a declining supply of qualified recruits, the differing needs of the U.S. education system and the military, and the quality of primary and secondary education in the United States, the armed forces have considered seeking foreign recruits who are qualified in math and science by offering accelerated citizenship for example. Currently, only one in four Americans of the proper age meet the moral, academic and physical standards for military service.
|United States Army||541,291||438,670||98,126||465,784||75,507||299,644|
|United States Marine Corps||195,338||173,474||21,864||181,845||13,493||20,484|
|United States Navy||317,237||260,253||52,546||265,852||51,385||179,293|
|United States Air Force||333,772||265,519||64,290||270,462||63,310||174,754|
|United States Coast Guard||42,357||35,567||6,790||7,057|
|United States Army National Guard||358,200|
|United States Army Reserve||205,000|
|United States Marine Corps Forces Reserve||39,600|
|United States Navy Reserve||62,500|
|United States Air National Guard||105,700|
|United States Air Force Reserve||70,880|
|United States Coast Guard Reserve||9,000|
|Total Reserve Components||850,880|
|Other DoD Personnel||108,833|
These numbers do not take into account the use of Private Military and Private Security Companies (PSCs). Quarterly PSC census reports are available for United States Central Command (USCENTCOM)'s area of operations—i.e., Iraq and Afghanistan. As of March 2011, there were 18,971 private security contractor (PSC) personnel in Afghanistan working for DoD; in Iraq, there were 9,207 PSC personnel, down from a high of 15,279 in June 2009. As of October 2012, in Afghanistan, there were 18,914 PSC personnel working for DoD; in Iraq, there were 2,116 PSC personnel. The total number of DoD contractors in Iraq and Afghanistan was more than 137,400; reported PSCs were only a part of the number.
As of 31 December 2010, U.S. armed forces were stationed in 150 countries; the number of non-contingent deployments per country ranges from 1 in Suriname to over 50,000 in Germany. Some of the largest deployments are: 103,700 in Afghanistan, 52,440 in Germany (see list), 35,688 in Japan (USFJ), 28,500 in South Korea (USFK), 9,660 in Italy, and 9,015 in the United Kingdom. These numbers change frequently due to the regular recall and deployment of units.
Altogether, 77,917 military personnel are located in Europe, 141 in the former Soviet Union, 47,236 in East Asia and the Pacific, 3,362 in North Africa, the Near East, and South Asia, 1,355 in sub-Saharan Africa and 1,941 in the Western Hemisphere excluding the United States itself.
Including U.S. territories and ships afloat within territorial waters
As of 31 December 2009, a total of 1,137,568 personnel were on active duty within the United States and its territories (including 84,461 afloat). The vast majority (941,629 personnel) were stationed at bases within the contiguous United States. There were an additional 37,245 in Hawaii and 20,450 in Alaska; 84,461 were at sea, 2,972 in Guam, and 179 in Puerto Rico.
Prospective service members are often recruited from high school or college, the target age ranges being 18–35 in the Army, 18–28 in the Marine Corps, 18–34 in the Navy, 18–27 in the Air Force, and 18–27 (up to age 32 if qualified for attending guaranteed "A" school) in the Coast Guard. With the permission of a parent or guardian, applicants can enlist at age 17 and participate in the Delayed Entry Program (DEP), in which the applicant is given the opportunity to participate in locally sponsored military activities, which can range from sports to competitions led by recruiters or other military liaisons (each recruiting station's DEP varies).
After enlistment, new recruits undergo basic training (also known as "boot camp" in the Marine Corps, Navy and Coast Guard), followed by schooling in their primary Military Occupational Specialty (MOS) or rating at any of the numerous training facilities around the world. Each branch conducts basic training differently. Marines send all non-infantry MOS’s to an infantry skills course known as Marine Combat Training prior to their technical schools. Air Force Basic Military Training graduates attend Technical Training and are awarded an Air Force Specialty Code (AFSC) at the apprentice (3) skill level. All Army recruits undergo Basic Combat Training (BCT), followed by Advanced Individual Training (AIT), with the exceptions of infantry, combat engineers, and military police recruits who go to One Station Unit Training (OSUT), which combines BCT and AIT. The Navy sends its recruits to Recruit Training and then to "A" schools to earn a rating. The Coast Guard's recruits attend basic training and follow with an "A" school to earn a rating.
Initially, recruits without higher education or college degrees will hold the pay grade of E-1, and will be elevated to E-2 usually soon after basic training. Different services have different incentive programs for enlistees, such as higher initial ranks for college credit, being an Eagle Scout, and referring friends who go on to enlist as well. Participation in DEP is one way recruits can achieve rank before their departure to basic training.
There are several different authorized pay grade advancement requirements in each junior-enlisted rank category (E-1 to E-3), which differ by service. Enlistees in the Army can attain the initial pay grade of E-4 (specialist) with a four-year degree, but the highest initial pay grade is usually E-3 (members of the Army Band program can expect to enter service at the grade of E-4). Promotion through the junior enlisted ranks occurs after serving for a specified number of years (which, however, can be waived by the soldier's chain of command), a specified level of technical proficiency, or maintenance of good conduct. Promotion can be denied with reason.
With very few exceptions, becoming a non-commissioned officer (NCO) in the U.S. military is accomplished by progression through the lower enlisted ranks. However, unlike promotion through the lower enlisted tier, promotion to NCO is generally competitive. NCO ranks begin at E-4 or E-5, depending upon service, and are generally attained between three and six years of service. Junior NCOs function as first-line supervisors and squad leaders, training the junior enlisted in their duties and guiding their career advancement.
While considered part of the non-commissioned officer corps by law, senior non-commissioned officers (SNCOs) referred to as chief petty officers in the Navy and Coast Guard, or staff non-commissioned officers in the Marine Corps, perform duties more focused on leadership rather than technical expertise. Promotion to the SNCO ranks, E-7 through E-9 (E-6 through E-9 in the Marine Corps) is highly competitive. Personnel totals at the pay grades of E-8 and E-9 are limited by federal law to 2.5 percent and 1 percent of a service's enlisted force, respectively. SNCOs act as leaders of small units and as staff. Some SNCOs manage programs at headquarters level and a select few wield responsibility at the highest levels of the military structure. Most unit commanders have a SNCO as an enlisted advisor. All SNCOs are expected to mentor junior commissioned officers as well as the enlisted in their duty sections. The typical enlistee can expect to attain SNCO rank after 10 to 16 years of service.
Each of the five services employs a single Senior Enlisted Advisor at departmental level. This individual is the highest ranking enlisted member within his/her respective service and functions as the chief advisor to the service secretary, service chief of staff, and Congress on matters concerning the enlisted force. These individuals carry responsibilities and protocol requirements equivalent to three-star general and flag officers. They are as follows:
Additionally, all services except for the Air Force have an active warrant-officer corps. Above the rank of Warrant Officer One, these officers may also be commissioned, but usually serve in a more technical and specialized role within units. More recently though they can also serve in more traditional leadership roles associated with the more recognizable officer corps. With one notable exception (Army helicopter and fixed-wing pilots), these officers ordinarily have already been in the military often serving in senior NCO positions in the field in which they later serve as a Warrant Officer as a technical expert. Most Army pilots have served some enlisted time. It is also possible to enlist, complete basic training, go directly to the Warrant Officer Candidate school at Fort Rucker, Alabama, and then on to flight school.
Warrant officers in the U.S. military garner the same customs and courtesies as commissioned officers. They may attend the officer's club, receive a command and are saluted by junior warrant officers and all enlisted service members.
The Air Force ceased to grant warrants in 1959 when the grades of E-8 and E-9 were created. Most non-flying duties performed by warrant officers in other services are instead performed by senior NCOs in the Air Force.
There are five common ways to receive a commission as an officer in one of the branches of the U.S. military (although other routes are possible).
Through their careers, officers usually will receive further training at one or a number of the many staff colleges.
Company grade officers in pay grades O-1 through O-3 (known as "junior" officers in the Navy and Coast Guard) function as leaders of smaller units or sections of a unit, typically with an experienced SNCO (or CPO in the Navy and Coast Guard) assistant and mentor.
Field grade officers in pay grades O-4 through O-6 (known as "senior" officers in the Navy and Coast Guard) lead significantly larger and more complex operations, with gradually more competitive promotion requirements.
General officers, or flag officers in the Navy and Coast Guard, serve at the highest levels and oversee major portions of the military mission.
These are ranks of the highest honor and responsibility in the armed forces, but they are almost never given during peacetime and only a very small number of officers during wartime have held a five-star rank:
No corresponding rank exists for the Marine Corps or the Coast Guard. As with three- and four-star ranks, Congress is the approving authority for a five-star rank confirmation.
The rank of General of the Armies is considered senior to General of the Army, but was never held by active duty officers at the same time as persons who held the rank of General of the Army. It has been held by two people: John J. Pershing who received the rank in 1919 after World War I, and George Washington who received it posthumously in 1976 as part of the American Bicentennial celebrations. Pershing, appointed to General of the Armies in active duty status for life, was still alive at the time of the first five-star appointments during World War II, and was thereby acknowledged as superior in grade by seniority to any World War II–era Generals of the Army. George Washington's appointment by Public Law 94-479 to General of the Armies of the United States was established by law as having "rank and precedence over all other grades of the Army, past or present", making him not only superior to Pershing, but superior to any grade in the Army in perpetuity.
In the Navy, the rank of Admiral of the Navy theoretically corresponds to that of General of the Armies, though it was never held by active-duty officers at the same time as persons who held the rank of Fleet Admiral. George Dewey is the only person to have ever held this rank. After the establishment of the rank of Fleet Admiral in 1944, the Department of the Navy specified that the rank of Fleet Admiral was to be junior to the rank of Admiral of the Navy. However, since Dewey died in 1917 before the establishment of the rank of Fleet Admiral, the six-star rank has not been totally confirmed.
Under current Department of Defense regulation, the various components of the Armed Forces have a set order of seniority. Examples of the use of this system include the display of service flags, placement of Soldiers, Marines, Sailors, and Airmen in formation, etc. When the Coast Guard shall operate as part of the Navy, the cadets, United States Coast Guard Academy, the United States Coast Guard, and the Coast Guard Reserve shall take precedence, respectively, after the midshipmen, United States Naval Academy; the United States Navy; and Navy Reserve.
Note: While the U.S. Navy is older than the Marine Corps, the Marine Corps takes precedence due to previous inconsistencies in the Navy's birth date. The Marine Corps has recognized its observed birth date on a more consistent basis. The Second Continental Congress established the Navy on 13 October 1775 and the Marine Corps on 10 November 1775. The Navy did not officially recognize 13 October 1775 as its birth date until 1972 when, then-Chief of Naval Operations, Admiral Elmo Zumwalt authorized it to be observed as such.
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