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United States Armed Forces

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The United States Armed Forces are the overall unified 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. While the President is the overall head of the military, the United States Department of Defense (DoD), a federal executive department, is the principal organ by which military policy is carried out. The DOD is headed by the Secretary of Defense, who is a civilian and a member of the Cabinet, who also serves as the President's second-in-command of the military. 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 six-member Joint Chiefs of Staff, which includes the head of each of the service branches, led by the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and the Vice Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.

All five branches are under the direction of the Department of Defense, except the Coast Guard, which was made an agency of the Department of Homeland Security in 2003 following governmental reorganization after the September 11 attacks. The Coast Guard may be transferred to the Department of the Navy by the President or Congress during a time of war.[5] All five armed services are among the seven uniformed services of the United States; the others are the United States Public Health Service Commissioned Corps and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration Commissioned Corps.

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 out of the victorious Barbary Wars, as well as the War of 1812. Even so, the Founders were suspicious of a permanent military force and not until the outbreak of World War II did a peacetime army become officially established.[6]

The National Security Act of 1947, adopted following World War II and during the onset of the Cold War, 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 volunteers; although conscription has been used several times in the past in times of both war and peace, the draft has not been used since 1972. The U.S. spends about $664 billion per year on its military,[4] constituting approximately 40 percent of world military expenditures. The U.S. armed forces as a whole possess large quantities of advanced and powerful equipment, which gives them significant capabilities in both defense and power projection.


As of February 28, 2009 1,454,515 people are on active duty[12] in the military with an additional 848,000 people in the seven reserve components.[3] It is an all volunteer military, however, conscription can be enacted by the request of the President and the approval of Congress. The United States military is the second largest in the world, after the People's Liberation Army of China, and has troops deployed around the globe.

In early 2007, Secretary of Defense Robert Gates proposed to the President to increase the overall size of the Army and Marine Corps to meet the needs of the War on Terrorism.[13] 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.[14] 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.[citation needed]

As in most militaries, members of the U.S. Armed Forces hold a rank, either that of officer, warrant, or enlisted, and can be promoted.

[edit] Personnel in each service

As of May 2009 Female numbers as of 30 September 2008[

Component Military Enlisted Officer Female Civilian
United States Department of the Army Seal.svg Army 548,000 456,651 88,093 73,902 243,172
USMC logo.svg Marine Corps[17] 203,095 182,147 20,639 12,290  
US-DeptOfNavy-Seal.svg Navy 332,000 276,276 51,093 50,008 182,845
Seal of the US Air Force.svg Air Force 323,000 261,193 64,370 64,137 154,032
USCG S W.svg Coast Guard 41,000 32,647 8,051 4,965 7,396
Total Active 1,445,000 1,174,563 224,144 200,337 580,049
National Guard.gif Army National Guard 353,000        
United States AR seal.svg Army Reserve 205,000        
MarforresLogo.jpg Marine Forces Reserve 40,000        
United States NR Seal.svg Navy Reserve 67,000        
Air national guard shield.svg Air National Guard 107,000        
Air Force Reserve Command.png Air Force Reserve 67,000        
United States Coast Guard Reserve emblem.png Coast Guard Reserve 11,000        
Total Reserve 850,000        
Other DOD Personnel