The United States Military is the armed forces of the United States. It consists 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 is the overall head of the military, and helps form military policy with the United States 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 Secretary of Defense is second in the military's chain of command, just below the President, and serves as the principal assistant to the President in all matters related to the Department of Defense. 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 Department of Defense 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.
The history of the United States Armed Forces 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
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 founding of the Army 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 and gave the President of the United States the responsibility of being the 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 United States Navy (established 13 October 1775) and the United States Marine Corps (established 10 November 1775). The United States 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 U.S. 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 writer Mark Thompson has suggested that with the Global War on Terrorism, the reserves deployed as a single force with the active branches and America no longer has a strategic reserve.
As of 30 September 2010, 1,430,895 people were on active duty in the military, with an additional 848,000
people in the seven reserve components. It is an all-volunteer military, but conscription through the Selective
Service System can be enacted by the request of the President and the approval of Congress. All males aged 18
through 25 who are living in the U.S. are required to register with the Selective Service for a potential future draft.
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. 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 Fiscal Year 2011 Department of Defense budget request plan calls for an active military end strength of 1,406,000, 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 less troops) and Air Force (1,300 less troops) strength.
As in most militaries, members of the U.S. Armed Forces 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. 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.
The failure of the educational systems in the United States may force the armed forces to seek math and science qualified recruits elsewhere, such as through accelerated citizenship for foreign nationals. Currently only one in four Americans of the proper age meet the moral, academic and physical standards for military service.