U. S. Military


Military of the United States

United States Armed Forces
Military manpower
Military age 17-45 years old[1]
Availability males & females ages 17-49:

109,305,756 (2005 est.).[2]

Citizenship Regular Army: No Citizenship Requirement For Enlisted Members / All Officers must be US Citizens. National Guard: Citizens Only.
Reaching military age annually males & females: 4,180,074 (2005 est.)
Total armed forces 2,685,713 (Ranked 2nd)
Active troops 1,426,713 (Ranked 2nd)
Total troops 2,685,713 (Ranked 7th)
Military expenditures
Dollar figure $522 billion (Ranked 1st.)
Percent of GDP 3.7% (FY2006 est.) (Ranked 26th)
Dollar Figure (per capita) $935.64($1470)[3] (ranked 3rd)

The military of the United States, officially known as the United States Armed Forces, is structured into five branches consisting of the:

  • United States Army
  • United States Navy
  • United States Marine Corps
  • United States Air Force
  • United States Coast Guard

All are also part of the United States Uniformed Services.

All the branches are under civilian control with the President of the United States serving as Commander-in-Chief. All branches except the Coast Guard are part of the Department of Defense, which is under the authority of the Secretary of Defense, who is also a civilian. The Coast Guard falls under the authority of the Department of Homeland Security. During wartime, the Coast Guard may be placed under the Department of Defense through the Department of the Navy in times of need acting as a service to the Navy.[4]

Approximately 1.4 million personnel are currently on active duty in the military with an additional 1,259,000 personnel in the seven reserve components (456,000 of whom are in the Army and Air National Guard).[5] There is currently no conscription. Women are not allowed to serve in some combat positions, but they are allowed to serve in most non-combat specialties. Due to the realities of war some of these non-combat positions see combat regularly. [6]



Much of U.S. military capability is involved in logistics and transportation, which enable rapid buildup of forces as needed. The Air Force maintains a large fleet of C-5 Galaxy, C-17 Globemaster, and C-130 Hercules transportation aircraft. The Marine Corps maintains Marine Expeditionary Units at sea with the Navy's Atlantic and Pacific Fleets. The Navy's fleet of 12 active aircraft carriers, combined with a military doctrine of power projection, enables a flexible response to potential threats. The United States military is considered the most powerful in the world due to its capabilities and strength.

The United States Army is not as expeditionary as the Marine Corps, but Army Chief of Staff General Peter Schoomaker has announced a reorganization of the Army's active-duty units into 48 brigade groups with an emphasis on power projection. There will be three classes of brigade group: light, medium, and heavy, with a different mix of armored and infantry units. In Army reorganization, however, battalions will still be affiliated with traditional regiments, and brigades will still be affiliated with traditional divisions. Reorganized brigades began operation in Iraq in the third quarter of 2005.


Under the United States Constitution, the President of the United States is the Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces. To coordinate military action with diplomatic action, the President has an advisory National Security Council.

Under the President is the United States Secretary of Defense, a Cabinet Secretary responsible for the Department of Defense.

Both the President and Secretary are advised by the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.

The Goldwater-Nichols Department of Defense Reorganization Act of 1986 (PL 99-433) reworked the command structure of the United States Military, introducing the most sweeping changes to the United States Department of Defense since it was established in the National Security Act of 1947. The Goldwater-Nichols Reorganization Act was signed into law by President Ronald Reagan on October 1, 1986.

The Goldwater-Nichols Act streamlined the military chain of command, which now runs from the President through the Secretary of Defense directly to unified combat commanders, bypassing the Joint Chiefs of Staff, who were assigned to an advisory role. Each service is responsible for providing military units to the commanders of the various Unified Commands.

National Command organizational chart

Joint Chiefs of Staff

The 4 Service Chiefs together with the Chairman and Vice Chairman form the Joint Chiefs of Staff.

Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Peter Pace (USMC)
Vice Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Adm. Edmund P. Giambastiani (USN)
Chief of Staff of the United States Army Gen. Peter J. Schoomaker (USA)
Chief of Naval Operations Adm. Michael G. Mullen (USN)
Commandant of the Marine Corps Gen. James T. Conway (USMC)
Chief of Staff of the United States Air Force Gen. T. Michael Moseley (USAF)

Unified Combatant Commands

There are 9 Unified Combatant Commands- 5 geographic and 4 functional.

Command Commander Home Base Area of Responsibility
United States Northern Command (NORTHCOM) Admiral Timothy J. Keating (USN) Peterson Air Force Base, Colorado North American homeland defense and coordinating homeland security with civilian forces.
United States Central Command (CENTCOM), General John Abizaid (USA) MacDill Air Force Base, Florida The Horn of Africa through the Persian Gulf region, into Central Asia.
United States European Command (EUCOM) General John Craddock (USA) (also Supreme Allied Commander Europe (SACEUR)) SHAPE (Supreme Headquarters Allied Powers Europe), Belgium (USEUCOM HQ in Stuttgart, Germany) Europe and African and Middle Eastern nations not covered by CENTCOM.
U.S. Pacific Command (PACOM) Admiral William J. Fallon (USN) Camp H. M. Smith, Oahu, Hawaii The Asia-Pacific region including Hawaii.
U.S. Southern Command (SOUTHCOM) Admiral James Stavridis (USN) Miami, Florida South, Central America and the surrounding waters
U.S. Special Operations Command (SOCOM) General Bryan D. Brown (USA) MacDill Air Force Base, Florida Provides special operations for the Army, Navy, Air Force and Marine Corps.
U.S. Joint Forces Command (JFCOM) General Lance L. Smith (USAF) (also Supreme Allied Commander Transformation (SACT)) Naval Support Activity Headquarters (Norfolk) and Suffolk, Virginia Supports other commands as a joint force provider.
United States Strategic Command (STRATCOM) General James E. Cartwright (USMC) Offutt Air Force Base, Nebraska Covers the strategic deterrent force and coordinates the use of space assets.
U.S. Transportation Command (TRANSCOM) General Norton A. Schwartz (USAF) Scott Air Force Base, Illinois Covers global mobility of all military assets for all regional commands.
The 5 Geographic Commands


The United States military is ranked second largest in the world, and has troops deployed around the globe. As in most militaries, members of the U.S. Armed Forces hold a rank, either officer or enlisted, and can be promoted.

Personnel in each service

As of 2004

Service Total Active Duty Personnel Percentage Female Enlisted Officers
Army 500,203 15.2% 414,325 69,307
Marine Corps 180,000 [7] 6.0% 157,150 19,052
Navy 375,521 14.5% 319,929 55,592
Air Force 358,612 19.6% 285,520 73,091
Coast Guard 40,151 10.7% 31,286 7,835
Total 1,450,689 14.9% 1,196,210 254,479

Personnel deployed

Main article: Deployments of the U.S. Military


As of 1999, the United States occupied military bases in 30 different countries.[8] Some of the largest contingents are:

Germany 69,395
Japan (United States Forces Japan) 35,307  
South Korea (United States Forces Korea) 32,744
Italy 12,258
United Kingdom 11,093

As of mid- 2006, nearly 150,000 U.S. troops are currently deployed in the Middle East. Most of these forces are currently engaged in Operation Enduring Freedom in Afghanistan, and Operation Iraqi Freedom in Iraq.

Within the United States

Including U.S. territories and ships afloat within territorial waters

A total of 1,112,684 personnel are on active duty within the United States including:

Continental U.S. 900,088
Hawaii 33,343
Alaska 17,714
Afloat 109,119
Guam 3,784
Puerto Rico 1,552


Types of Personnel

Junior Enlisted

After enlistment, new Army recruits undergo Basic Military Training (BMT), followed by schooling, referred to as Advanced Individual Training (AIT), in their primary Military Occupational Specialty (MOS) at any of the numerous MOS training facilities around the world. Other branches may use different terminology; for example, Air Force BMT graduates attend Technical Training, colloquially called "Tech School," and upon completion are awarded an Air Force Specialty Code (AFSC) at the apprentice (3) skill level.

Initially, recruits without higher education or college degrees will hold the paygrade of E-1, and will be elevated to E-2 usually after the completion of Basic Combat Training and with a minimum of six months Time-In-Service (TIS). Different services have different incentive programs for enlistees, such as higher initial ranks for college credit and referring friends who go on to enlist as well.

With parent/guardian permission, applicants can enlist at the age of 17 and participate in the Delayed Entry Program (DEP). In this program, the applicant is given the opportunity to participate in locally sponsored military-related activities, which can range from sports to competitions (each recruiting station DEP program will vary), led by recruiters or other military liaisons. Participation in this programs is an example of the different opportunities the recruits have to elevate in rank before their departure to Basic Combat Training.

There are several different authorized paygrade advancement requirements in each junior enlisted rank category (E-1 to E-4), which differ by service. Enlistees in the Army can attain the initial paygrade of E-4 (Specialist) with a full four-year degree, but the highest initial entry paygrade is usually E-3. Promotion through the junior enlisted ranks is generally noncompetitive, with promotions occurring upon attaining a specified number of years of service, a specified level of technical proficiency and maintenance of good conduct.

Noncommissioned Officer

With very few exceptions, the only direct path to the noncommissioned officer ranks in the United States military are through the lower enlisted ranks. Unlike promotion throught the lower enlisted tier, promotion through the NCO ranks are generally competitive. NCO ranks begin at E-4 (E-5 in the Air Force and, with some exceptions, the Army) and are generally attained at between three and six years of service. Junior noncommissioned officers (pay grades E-4, E-5 and E-6) function as front line supervisors, squad leaders, and technical experts, training the junior enlisted in their duties and guiding their career advancement.

Senior Noncommissioned Officer

While by law considered part of the noncommissioned officer corps, senior noncommissioned officers referred to as Chief Petty Officers in the Navy and Coast Guard perform duties more focused on leadership rather than technical expertise. Promotion to the SNCO ranks (E-7 through E-9) is highly competitive. Manning at the pay grades of E-8 and E-9 are limited by Federal law to 2% and 1% of a service's enlisted force respectively. SNCOs function as leaders of small units and staff functions. Some SNCOs manage programs at headquarters level, and a select few wield responsibility at the highest levels of the military structure. 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 at between 13 and 18 years of service.

Each of the four services employs a single senior enlisted advisor at departmental level. This individual is the highest ranking enlisted member within his (no females have yet been so appointed) 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 general and flag officers. They are:

  • Sergeant Major of the Army
  • Master Chief Petty Officer of the Navy
  • Chief Master Sergeant of the Air Force
  • Sergeant Major of the Marine Corps
  • Master Chief Petty Officer of the Coast Guard


There are five common ways for one to receive a commission as an officer in one of the branches of the U.S. military (although other routes are possible).

  • Reserve Officer Training Corps (ROTC)
  • Officer Candidate School (OCS): This can be through active-duty military academies, or, in the case of the National Guard, through state-run military academies.
  • Service Academies (U.S. Military Academy at West Point, New York; U.S. Naval Academy at Annapolis, Maryland; U.S. Air Force Academy at Colorado Springs, Colorado; the U.S. Coast Guard Academy at New London; and the U.S. Merchant Marine Academy at Kings Point, New York.)
  • Direct Commission Officers (DCOs) - civilians who have special skills that are critical to sustaining military operations and supporting troops may receive what are called "direct commissions". These officers occupy leadership positions in the following areas: law, medicine, dentistry, nurse corps, intelligence, supply-logistics-transportation, engineering, public affairs, chaplin corps, oceanography, and others.
  • Direct Battlefield Commission - enlisted personnel who have skills that separate them from their peers can become officers if an overseeing general/commander feels such a promotion is appropriate/necessary. This type of commission is rarely granted and is reserved only for the most exceptional enlisted personnel, and it is done on an ad hoc basis, typically only in wartime. No direct battlefield commissions have been awarded since the Vietnam War. The Air Force and Navy do not employ this commissioning path.

Officers receive a commission assigning them to the Officer Corps from the President (with the consent of the Senate).

Through their careers, officers usually will receive further training at one or a number of the many U.S. military staff colleges.

Company grade officers (pay grades O-1 through O-3) function as leaders of smaller units or sections of a unit, typically with an experienced SNCO assistant and mentor. Field grade officers (pay grades O-4 through O-6) lead significantly larger and more complex operations, with gradually more competitive promotion requirements. General officers, or flag officers, serve at the highest levels and oversee major portions of the military mission, from base command on up.

Warrant Officer

Additionally, all services except for the U.S. Air Force have a Warrant Officer corps. Above the rank of Warrant Officer One, these officers are also commissioned officers, 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, 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. The exception to the NCO rule is the case of helicopter and fixed wing pilots in the U.S. Army; although most Army pilots have indeed 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.

The Air Force ceased to grant warrant officer commissions 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.


Main article: Military history of the United States

Prior to and during the founding of the United States, military forces were supplied by untrained militia commanded by the states. When the Continental Congress first ordered a Continental Army to be formed, it was to be made up of militia from the states. That army, under the command of General George Washington, won the Revolutionary War, but afterwards was disbanded.

However, it soon became obvious that a standing army and navy were required. The United States Navy began when Congress ordered several frigates in 1794, and a standing army was created, however it was still only minimal and it relied mostly on contributions from state militia in times of war.

Between the founding of the nation and the Civil War, American military forces fought and won against Barbary Coast pirates; fought the War of 1812 against the British, which ended in the status quo; and won several southwestern territories from the Mexicans in the Mexican-American War. In 1861, with the beginning of the Civil War, many military forces, including the nation's best generals, became part of the Confederate military, and both armies fought a long, bloody struggle which consumed 600,000 lives and ended in Union (U.S.) victory in 1865.

In the period between the Civil War and the 1890s, the military was allowed to languish, although units of the U.S. Army did fight Native Americans as settlers moved into the center of the United States. By the end of the century, though, America was rapidly becoming a new superpower. The military fought the Spanish-American War and the Philippine-American War, along with several Latin American interventions, and Teddy Roosevelt sent the Great White Fleet around the world in a display of American power. In addition, the Militia Act of 1903 established the National Guard.

The United States entered World War I in 1917 and played a minor role in the Allied victory. It languished in the interwar period, but as tensions mounted leading up to World War II, the force was put back into shape. U.S. Army troops were a large component of the forces that took North Africa, Italy, and landed in France at D-Day, and U.S. Navy, Marine, and Army troops were heavily involved in Pacific campaign against Japan and its allies.

The end of World War II was the start of the Cold War, a large but ultimately non-violent struggle between the United States and its NATO Allies and the Soviet Union and its Warsaw Pact allies. Thousands of U.S. troops were deployed to Europe in anticipation of a struggle that never came.

However, U.S. troops did participate in proxy wars in Korea and Vietnam. The Korean War, with North Korea and China against South Korea, the U.S., and other UN troops, ultimately returned to the status quo. The Vietnam War between North Vietnam and South Vietnam and the U.S., was ultimately a failure, resulting in U.S. pullout and unification of the country under communism.

In the 1980s, the U.S. military fought Operation Just Cause in Panama and Operation Urgent Fury in Grenada. In addition, the Goldwater-Nichols Act completely reorganized the military. By 1989, it was clear the Soviet Union was on the verge of collapse and it looked like the U.S. military would be left with no one to fight. However, when Iraq invaded Kuwait in 1991, the United States entered the Persian Gulf War. The military forces of the U.S. and other nations easily defeated the Iraqi Army with minimal losses, proving the combat readiness of the new all-volunteer military. After this brief war and the breakup of the Soviet Union, the U.S. military had relatively little to do throughout the remainder of the 1990s, barring interventions in Yugoslavia and Kosovo.

After the September 11th terrorist attacks in 2001, U.S. military forces were an integral part of the War on Terror. U.S. and NATO forces invaded Afghanistan in 2001, and in 2003 the U.S. and several other countries invaded Iraq. While the initial invasion was successful, the occupation quickly bogged down, with daily violence and terrorist attacks. However, some milestones have been reached, such as the capture of Saddam Hussein and democratic elections.


Military spending as a percentage of GDP
Military spending as a percentage of GDP
Main article: Military budget of the United States

The military expenditure of the United States Department of Defense for fiscal year 2006 is:

Total Funding $441.6 Billion
Operations and maintenance $124.3 Bil.
Military Personnel $108.8 Bil.
Procurement $79.1 Bil.
Research, Development, Testing & Evaluation $69.5 Bil.
Military Construction $12.2 Bil.
Department of Energy Defense Activities $17.0 Bil.
(The Wars in Iraq, Afganistan are not included)


The United States military budget is larger than the military budgets of the next twenty largest spenders combined, and six times larger than China's, which places second. The United States and its closest allies are responsible for approximately two-thirds of global military spending (of which, in turn, the U.S. is responsible for the vast majority). Military spending accounts for 19% of the United States' federal budget, and approximately half of its federal discretionary spending, which comprises all of the U.S. government's money not accounted for by pre-existing obligations.[1] [12]

However, in terms of per capita spending, the U.S. ranks third behind Israel and Singapore[13]. It is also number 26 in terms of military spending per dollar GDP. [14]

According to the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute, in 2003 the United States spent approximately 47% of the world's total military spending of US $956,000,000,000.

As a percentage of its GDP, the United States spends 3.7% on military, ranking it 26th in the world. This is higher by percent than France's 2.6%, and lower than Saudia Arabia's 10%[15]. This is historically fairly low for the United States. [16]

However it must be remembered that the figure presented for United States military spending has dramatically increased since the attacks of September 11th, 2001, and ensuing military operations in Afghanistan and Iraq.

Also, since it is an all-volunteer force and since most jobs within it require high degrees of technical skill and personnel retention, the United States armed forces have dramatically higher personnel costs, both military and civilian, compared to the militaries of countries which use conscription, many of which have far more troops than the United States. Six countries have more troops than the United States, five of them through conscription. Pay and benefits to U.S. servicemembers are significantly higher than to equal ranking military members of most other nations.

Notes and sources

  1. ^ Persons of 17 years of age, with parental permission, can join the U.S. armed services.
  2. ^ CIA World Fact Book
  3. ^
  4. ^ The United States Coast Guard has both military and law enforcement functions. Title 14, United States Code, Section 1, states "The Coast Guard as established January 28, 1915, shall be a military service and a branch of the armed forces of the United States at all times." In peacetime it is part of the Department of Homeland Security, but in wartime falls under the operational command of the United States Navy. Coast Guard units, or ships of its predecessor service, the Revenue Cutter Service, have seen combat in every war of the United States since 1790, including the U.S. occupation of Iraq.
  5. ^ Additionally, both the Coast Guard and the Air Force have volunteer civilian auxiliaries: the United States Coast Guard Auxiliary (Coast Guard) and the Civil Air Patrol (Air Force).
  6. ^ Go Army. Careers & Jobs. Retrieved on May 8, 2006.
  7. ^ Marines Dispute QDR. Retrieved on July 27, 2006.
  8. ^ Base Structure Report. USA Department of Defense (1999). Retrieved on 2006-09-12.
  9. ^ United States Department of Defense. U.S. Military Deployment. Retrieved on July 21, 2006.
  10. ^ Robert Leckie (2003). The Wars of America. New York City: Castle Books. 
  11. ^ United States Department of Defense. Fiscal Year 2006 Budget. Retrieved on July 18, 2006.
  12. ^ Global Issues That Affect Everyone. High Military Expenditure in Some Places. Retrieved on May 8, 2006.
  13. ^ NationMaster. Military Statistics > Expenditures > Dollar figure (per capita) by country. Retrieved on July 4, 2006.
  14. ^ CIA World Factbook. Rank Order - Military expenditures - percent of GDP. Retrieved on August 4, 2006.
  15. ^ CIA World Factbook. Military expenditures percent of GDP. Retrieved on May 26, 2006.
  16. ^ Truth and Politics. Relative Size of US Military Spending from 1940 to 2003. Retrieved on May 26, 2006.

See also

Portal:Military of the United States
Military of the United States Portal
  • Military history of the United States
    • List of military actions by or within the United States
    • United States military historical joint commands
  • United States military academies
  • Awards and decorations of the United States military
  • United States military staff colleges
  • Servicemembers' Group Life Insurance
  • List of United States military books
  • Full-spectrum dominance
  • List of United States military history events
  • Uniformed services of the United States

This article might use material from a Wikipedia article, which is released under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share-Alike License 3.0.

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