United States armed forces

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United States Armed Forces
United States Joint Service Color Guard on parade at Fort Myer
United States Joint Service Color Guard on parade at Fort Myer, Virginia.
Service branches United States Army seal U.S. Army

United States Marine Corps seal U.S. Marine Corps
United States Navy Seal U.S. Navy
United States Air Force seal U.S. Air Force
United States Coast Guard seal U.S. Coast Guard

Headquarters Washington, D.C and Arlington, Virginia
Commander-in-Chief President Barack Obama
Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta
Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff General Martin Dempsey
Military age 17–62 years old[1]
Conscription No
Available for
military service
73,270,043 males, age 18–49 (2010 est.),
71,941,969 females, age 18–49 (2010 est.)
Fit for
military service
60,620,143 males, age 18–49 (2010 est.),
59,401,941 females, age 18–49 (2010 est.)
Reaching military
age annually
2,161,727 males (2010 est.),
2,055,685 females (2010 est.)
Active personnel 1,464,884[2] (ranked 2nd)
Reserve personnel 1,458,500[3]
Budget $549.1 billion (FY11)[4]
(1st by total expenditure, 11th as percent of GDP)
Percent of GDP 4.9% (2011 est.)
Related articles
History American Revolutionary War
Early national period
Continental expansion
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)
Vietnam War (1959–1975)
Gulf War (1991)
Kosovo War (1999)
War on Terrorism (2001–present)
War in Afghanistan (2001–present)
Iraq War (2003–2011)
Ranks Army officer

Army warrant officer
Army enlisted
Marine Corps officer
Marine Corps warrant officer
Marine Corps enlisted
Navy officer
Navy warrant officer
Navy enlisted
Air Force officer
Air Force enlisted
Coast Guard officer
Coast Guard warrant officer
Coast Guard enlisted

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, 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.

Part of this article consists of modified text from Wikipedia, and the article is therefore licensed under GFDL.


  1. Persons 17 years of age, with parental permission, can join the U.S. armed services.
  2. ARMED FORCES STRENGTH FIGURES FOR SEPTEMBER 30, 2011. United States Office of the Under Secretary of Defense for Acquisition, Technology, and Logistics (September 2011). Retrieved on 2012-01-06.
  3. S.3001 – National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2009. United States Government Printing Office (May 12, 2008). Retrieved on 2011-11-09.
  4. Federal Government Outlays by Function and Subfunction: 1962–2015 Fiscal Year 2011 (Table 3.2). United States Government Printing Office. Retrieved on 2010-12-21.
  5. The United States Coast Guard has both military and law enforcement functions. Title 14 of the United States Code provides that "The Coast Guard as established 28 January 1915, shall be a military service and a branch of the armed forces of the United States at all times." Coast Guard units, or ships of its predecessor service, the Revenue Cutter Service, have seen combat in every war and armed conflict of the United States since 1790, including the Iraq War.
  6. Moisés Naím. Megaplayers Vs. Micropowers. Retrieved on 18 December 2007.