The United States Armed Forces are the overall unified military forces of the United States. The United States military was first formed during the Continental Congress to defend the new nation against the United Kingdom in the American Revolutionary War. The Army, Marine Corps and Navy were commissioned in 1775 in anticipation of the declaration of independence in 1776. The Coast Guard was formed in 1790. Though possessing one of the largest air forces in the world, the United States Air Force did not emerge as an independent service until 1947.
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 and War of 1812, with the latter sometimes referred to as America's "Second War of Independence". Even so, the Founding Fathers were suspicious of a permanent military force and not until the outbreak of the Second World War did a peacetime army become officially established.
The President serves as the Commander-in-chief of the military, with the Secretary of Defense, Department of Defense and Department of the Navy playing a part in the coordination of the military. The 9/11 attacks prompted the formation of the Department of Homeland Security to counter internal threats to the United States.
The Military is composed of almost 3 million personnel, half of which are on active duty and the other half on reserve. The Military draws its Manpower from a large pool of volunteers and as such conscription is not needed. Much of the personnel are involved in the logistics of the military, whose immense power projection capabilities are made possible by the large fleet of C-5 Galaxy, C-17 Globemaster, and C-130 Hercules transportation aircraft. A substantial fleet of aerial refueling tankers provide the necessary fuel. The military's 11 Aircraft carriers, along with her other blue water navy assets gives the United States the most powerful and flexible arms in the world, and is occasionally referred to as a hyperpower.
All branches are part of the United States Uniformed Services and are under civilian control with the President serving as Commander-in-chief, per the United States Constitution. All except the Coast Guard are part of the Department of Defense, which is under the authority of the Secretary of Defense, also a civilian. The Coast Guard falls under the authority of the Department of Homeland Security during peacetime, but during wartime, the Coast Guard is placed under the Department of Defense through the Department of the Navy.
To coordinate military action with diplomacy, the President has an advisory National Security Council headed by a National Security Advisor. Under the President is the United States Secretary of Defense, a Cabinet Secretary responsible for the Department of Defense. Both the President and Secretary of Defense are advised by the Joint Chiefs of Staff, which includes the service branch chiefs led by the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and the Vice Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.
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 many of 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 world power. 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 major 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 the 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 against the Soviet Union and its Warsaw Pact allies. Hundreds of 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 the status quo ante. The Vietnam War between North Vietnam and South Vietnam and the U.S. resulted in a cease-fire; after U.S. troops were pulled out of the country North Vietnam invaded South Vietnam.
In the 1980s, the U.S. military fought Operation Just Cause in Panama and Operation Urgent Fury in Grenada. The United States conducted various combat operations in the Persian Gulf against Iran, most notably Operation Praying Mantis. In addition, the Goldwater-Nichols Act completely reorganized the military.
By 1989, it was clear the Soviet Union was on the verge of collapse. However, when Iraq invaded Kuwait in 1991, the United States entered the Persian Gulf War. The coalition of U.S. military forces and other nations easily defeated the Iraqi Army with minimal losses, proving the viability on a large scale of the all-volunteer military. After this brief war and the breakup of the Soviet Union, the U.S. military was used in a variety of roles throughout the remainder of the 1990s, including Yugoslavia, Kosovo, Somalia and other "hot spots".
The United States has an extensive military involvement around with world, with 290,178 troops in foreign countries. 22,625 of them are afloat.
The U.S. military also assists in natural disasters in the United States. About 58,000 National Guard troops from all fifty states responded in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina in 2005. More recently, the National Guard assisted in the evacuation of citizens before and after Hurricane Ike made landfall in 2008.
In 2009, national defense spending continued to rise. The Department of Defense requested about $515.4 billion for the base budget. $70 billion was allocated for the War on Terrorism, plus an additional $65 billion in expected supplemental spending, though this number is expected to rise. By service, $140.7 billion was allocated for the Army, $124.4 billion for the Navy, $24.9 billion for the Marine Corps, $143.9 billion for the Air Force and $81.6 billion for defense wide spending. By function, $125.2 billion was requested for personnel, $179.8 billion for operations and maintenance, $104.2 billion for procurement, $79.6 billion for research and development, $21.2 billion for military construction, $2.9 billion for family housing and $2.7 billion for revolving funds.
Major defense programs also see continued funding. $4.1 billion was requested for the next generation fighter, F-22 Raptor, which will roll out an additional twenty planes for FY 2009. $6.7 billion was requested for the F-35 Lightning II, which is still in development. Sixteen planes will be built as part of the funding. The Future Combat System program is expected to see $3.6 billion for its development. A total of $12.3 billion was requested for missile defense, which includes Patriot CAP, PAC-3 and SBIRS-High systems. $720 million was also included for a third missile defense site in Europe. $4.2 billion was also requested to continue the aircraft carrier replacement program. With the addition of AFRICOM, $389 million was requested to develop and maintain the new command.
In addition, with the continued efforts in the War on Terrorism, $20.5 billion was requested to expand the Army and Marine Corps, while $49.1 billion was requested for the recruitment, training and sustainment of the National Guard and Reserves.
As of July 31, 2008 about 1,436,642 people are on active duty in the military with an additional 848,056 people in the seven reserve components. 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. 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.
|Army National Guard||352,600|
|Marine Forces Reserve||39,600|
|Air National Guard||106,756|
|Air Force Reserve||67,400|
|Coast Guard Reserve||10,000|
|Other DOD Personnel||94,461|
A total of 1,083,027 personnel are on active duty within the United States and its territories (including those afloat): The vast majority, 883,430 of them, are stationed at various bases within the Continental United States. There are an additional 36,827 in Hawaii and 19,828 in Alaska. 90,218 are at sea while there are 2,970 in Guam and 137 in Puerto Rico.
After enlistment, new recruits undergo Basic Training (also known as boot camp in the Navy and Marines), followed by schooling in their primary Military Occupational Specialty (MOS) at any of the numerous MOS training facilities around the world. Each branch conducts basic training differently. For example, Marines send all non-infantry MOSs to an infantry skills course known as Marine Combat Training prior to their technical schools, while Air Force Basic Military Training graduates attend Technical Training and are awarded an Air Force Specialty Code (AFSC) at the apprentice (3) skill level. The terms for this vary greatly, for example, new Army recruits undergo Basic Combat Training (BCT), followed by Advanced Individual Training (AIT), while the Navy send its recruits to Recruit Training and then to "A" schools to earn a rating.
Initially, recruits without higher education or college degrees will hold the paygrade of E-1, and will be elevated to E-2 usually soon after the completion of Basic Training (with a minimum of six months Time-In-Service). 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. Participation in DEP is one way recruits can achieve rank before their departure to Basic Training.
There are several different authorized paygrade 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 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/or maintenance of good conduct.
While by law considered part of the non-commissioned officer corps, senior noncommissioned officers (SNCOs) referred to as Chief Petty Officers in the Navy and Coast Guard, or staff noncommissioned 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 in the Navy and Coast Guard; E-6 through E-9 in the Marine Corps) is highly competitive. Manning at the pay grades of E-8 and E-9 are limited by Federal law to 2.5% and 1% 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 at between 10 and 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 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 as follows:
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.
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. Officers in pay grades O-1 through O-4 are informally considered junior officers; those serving in pay grades O-5 and O-6 are sometimes recognized as senior officers. General officers, or flag officers, serve at the highest levels and oversee major portions of the military mission.
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. While it is unclear whether Pershing's acknowledged seniority to the World War II era Generals of the Army was due to his rank being superior or because his appointment was earlier, in Washington's appointment by Public Law 94-479, General of the Armies of the United States was established as having "rank and precedence over all other grades of the Army, past or present," clearly making it superior to General of the Army.