United States armed forces

United States armed forces

Overview
The United States Armed Forces are the military forces
Armed forces
The armed forces of a country are its government-sponsored defense, fighting forces, and organizations. They exist to further the foreign and domestic policies of their governing body, and to defend that body and the nation it represents from external aggressors. In some countries paramilitary...

 of the United States
United States
The United States of America is a federal constitutional republic comprising fifty states and a federal district...

. They consist of the Army
United States Army
The United States Army is the main branch of the United States Armed Forces responsible for land-based military operations. It is the largest and oldest established branch of the U.S. military, and is one of seven U.S. uniformed services...

, Navy
United States Navy
The United States Navy is the naval warfare service branch of the United States Armed Forces and one of the seven uniformed services of the United States. The U.S. Navy is the largest in the world; its battle fleet tonnage is greater than that of the next 13 largest navies combined. The U.S...

, Marine Corps
United States Marine Corps
The United States Marine Corps is a branch of the United States Armed Forces responsible for providing power projection from the sea, using the mobility of the United States Navy to deliver combined-arms task forces rapidly. It is one of seven uniformed services of the United States...

, Air Force
United States Air Force
The United States Air Force is the aerial warfare service branch of the United States Armed Forces and one of the American uniformed services. Initially part of the United States Army, the USAF was formed as a separate branch of the military on September 18, 1947 under the National Security Act of...

, and Coast Guard
United States Coast Guard
The United States Coast Guard is a branch of the United States Armed Forces and one of the seven U.S. uniformed services. The Coast Guard is a maritime, military, multi-mission service unique among the military branches for having a maritime law enforcement mission and a federal regulatory agency...

.

The United States has a strong tradition of civilian control of the military
Civilian control of the military
Civilian control of the military is a doctrine in military and political science that places ultimate responsibility for a country's strategic decision-making in the hands of the civilian political leadership, rather than professional military officers. One author, paraphrasing Samuel P...

. The President
President of the United States
The President of the United States of America is the head of state and head of government of the United States. The president leads the executive branch of the federal government and is the commander-in-chief of the United States Armed Forces....

 is the overall head of the military, and helps form military policy with the United States Department of Defense
United States Department of Defense
The United States Department of Defense is the U.S...

 (DoD), a federal executive department
United States Federal Executive Departments
The United States federal executive departments are among the oldest primary units of the executive branch of the federal government of the United States—the Departments of State, War, and the Treasury all being established within a few weeks of each other in 1789.Federal executive...

, acting as the principal organ by which military policy is carried out. The DoD is headed by the Secretary of Defense
United States Secretary of Defense
The Secretary of Defense is the head and chief executive officer of the Department of Defense of the United States of America. This position corresponds to what is generally known as a Defense Minister in other countries...

, who is a civilian and Cabinet
United States Cabinet
The Cabinet of the United States is composed of the most senior appointed officers of the executive branch of the federal government of the United States, which are generally the heads of the federal executive departments...

 member. The Secretary of Defense is second in the military's chain of command
Chain of Command
Chain of Command may refer to:* Chain of command, in a military context, the line of authority and responsibility along which orders are passed* "Chain of Command" , the fifth episode of the first season of Beast Wars...

, just below the President, and serves as the principal assistant to the President in all matters related to the Department of Defense.
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Encyclopedia
The United States Armed Forces are the military forces
Armed forces
The armed forces of a country are its government-sponsored defense, fighting forces, and organizations. They exist to further the foreign and domestic policies of their governing body, and to defend that body and the nation it represents from external aggressors. In some countries paramilitary...

 of the United States
United States
The United States of America is a federal constitutional republic comprising fifty states and a federal district...

. They consist of the Army
United States Army
The United States Army is the main branch of the United States Armed Forces responsible for land-based military operations. It is the largest and oldest established branch of the U.S. military, and is one of seven U.S. uniformed services...

, Navy
United States Navy
The United States Navy is the naval warfare service branch of the United States Armed Forces and one of the seven uniformed services of the United States. The U.S. Navy is the largest in the world; its battle fleet tonnage is greater than that of the next 13 largest navies combined. The U.S...

, Marine Corps
United States Marine Corps
The United States Marine Corps is a branch of the United States Armed Forces responsible for providing power projection from the sea, using the mobility of the United States Navy to deliver combined-arms task forces rapidly. It is one of seven uniformed services of the United States...

, Air Force
United States Air Force
The United States Air Force is the aerial warfare service branch of the United States Armed Forces and one of the American uniformed services. Initially part of the United States Army, the USAF was formed as a separate branch of the military on September 18, 1947 under the National Security Act of...

, and Coast Guard
United States Coast Guard
The United States Coast Guard is a branch of the United States Armed Forces and one of the seven U.S. uniformed services. The Coast Guard is a maritime, military, multi-mission service unique among the military branches for having a maritime law enforcement mission and a federal regulatory agency...

.

The United States has a strong tradition of civilian control of the military
Civilian control of the military
Civilian control of the military is a doctrine in military and political science that places ultimate responsibility for a country's strategic decision-making in the hands of the civilian political leadership, rather than professional military officers. One author, paraphrasing Samuel P...

. The President
President of the United States
The President of the United States of America is the head of state and head of government of the United States. The president leads the executive branch of the federal government and is the commander-in-chief of the United States Armed Forces....

 is the overall head of the military, and helps form military policy with the United States Department of Defense
United States Department of Defense
The United States Department of Defense is the U.S...

 (DoD), a federal executive department
United States Federal Executive Departments
The United States federal executive departments are among the oldest primary units of the executive branch of the federal government of the United States—the Departments of State, War, and the Treasury all being established within a few weeks of each other in 1789.Federal executive...

, acting as the principal organ by which military policy is carried out. The DoD is headed by the Secretary of Defense
United States Secretary of Defense
The Secretary of Defense is the head and chief executive officer of the Department of Defense of the United States of America. This position corresponds to what is generally known as a Defense Minister in other countries...

, who is a civilian and Cabinet
United States Cabinet
The Cabinet of the United States is composed of the most senior appointed officers of the executive branch of the federal government of the United States, which are generally the heads of the federal executive departments...

 member. The Secretary of Defense is second in the military's chain of command
Chain of Command
Chain of Command may refer to:* Chain of command, in a military context, the line of authority and responsibility along which orders are passed* "Chain of Command" , the fifth episode of the first season of Beast Wars...

, 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
Diplomacy
Diplomacy is the art and practice of conducting negotiations between representatives of groups or states...

, the President has an advisory National Security Council
United States National Security Council
The White House National Security Council in the United States is the principal forum used by the President of the United States for considering national security and foreign policy matters with his senior national security advisors and Cabinet officials and is part of the Executive Office of the...

 headed by a National Security Advisor
National Security Advisor (United States)
The Assistant to the President for National Security Affairs, commonly referred to as the National Security Advisor , serves as the chief advisor to the President of the United States on national security issues...

. Both the President and Secretary of Defense are advised by a six-member Joint Chiefs of Staff
Joint Chiefs of Staff
The Joint Chiefs of Staff is a body of senior uniformed leaders in the United States Department of Defense who advise the Secretary of Defense, the Homeland Security Council, the National Security Council and the President on military matters...

, which includes the head of each of Department of Defense service branches, led by the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff
Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff
The Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff is by law the highest ranking military officer in the United States Armed Forces, and is the principal military adviser to the President of the United States, the National Security Council, the Homeland Security Council and the Secretary of Defense...

 and the Vice Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff
Vice Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff
The Vice Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff is by law the second highest ranking military officer in the United States Armed Forces ranking just below the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff...

. The Commandant of the Coast Guard is not a member of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.

All of the branches work together during operations and joint missions, under the Unified Combatant Command
Unified Combatant Command
A Unified Combatant Command is a United States Department of Defense command that is composed of forces from at least two Military Departments and has a broad and continuing mission. These commands are established to provide effective command and control of U.S. military forces, regardless of...

s, under the authority of the Secretary of Defense with the exception of the Coast Guard. The Coast Guard falls under the administration of the Department of Homeland Security
United States Department of Homeland Security
The United States Department of Homeland Security is a cabinet department of the United States federal government, created in response to the September 11 attacks, and with the primary responsibilities of protecting the territory of the United States and protectorates from and responding to...

 and receives its operational orders from the Secretary of Homeland Security
United States Secretary of Homeland Security
The United States Secretary of Homeland Security is the head of the United States Department of Homeland Security, the body concerned with protecting the American homeland and the safety of American citizens. The Secretary is a member of the President's Cabinet. The position was created by the...

. The Coast Guard may be transferred to the Department of the Navy
United States Department of the Navy
The Department of the Navy of the United States of America was established by an Act of Congress on 30 April 1798, to provide a government organizational structure to the United States Navy and, from 1834 onwards, for the United States Marine Corps, and when directed by the President, of the...

 by the President or Congress during a time of war. All five armed services are among the seven uniformed services of the United States
Uniformed services of the United States
The United States has seven federal uniformed services that commission officers as defined by Title 10, and subsequently structured and organized by Title 10, Title 14, Title 33 and Title 42 of the United States Code.-Uniformed services:...

; 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
History of the United States
The history of the United States traditionally starts with the Declaration of Independence in the year 1776, although its territory was inhabited by Native Americans since prehistoric times and then by European colonists who followed the voyages of Christopher Columbus starting in 1492. The...

. A sense of national unity and identity was forged out of the victorious Barbary Wars
Barbary Wars
The Barbary Wars were a series of wars between the United States of America and the Barbary States of North Africa in the late 18th and early 19th centuries. At issue was the Barbary pirates' demand of tribute from American merchant vessels in the Mediterranean Sea. If ships failed to pay, pirates...

, as well as the War of 1812
War of 1812
The War of 1812 was a military conflict fought between the forces of the United States of America and those of the British Empire. The Americans declared war in 1812 for several reasons, including trade restrictions because of Britain's ongoing war with France, impressment of American merchant...

. Even so, the Founders
Founding Fathers of the United States
The Founding Fathers of the United States of America were political leaders and statesmen who participated in the American Revolution by signing the United States Declaration of Independence, taking part in the American Revolutionary War, establishing the United States Constitution, or by some...

 were suspicious of a permanent military force and not until the outbreak of World War II
World War II
World War II, or the Second World War , was a global conflict lasting from 1939 to 1945, involving most of the world's nations—including all of the great powers—eventually forming two opposing military alliances: the Allies and the Axis...

 did a large standing army become officially established.

The National Security Act of 1947
National Security Act of 1947
The National Security Act of 1947 was signed by United States President Harry S. Truman on July 26, 1947, and realigned and reorganized the U.S. Armed Forces, foreign policy, and Intelligence Community apparatus in the aftermath of World War II...

, 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
United States Department of War
The United States Department of War, also called the War Department , was the United States Cabinet department originally responsible for the operation and maintenance of the United States Army...

 and the Department of the Navy
United States Department of the Navy
The Department of the Navy of the United States of America was established by an Act of Congress on 30 April 1798, to provide a government organizational structure to the United States Navy and, from 1834 onwards, for the United States Marine Corps, and when directed by the President, of the...

 into the National Military Establishment
United States Department of Defense
The United States Department of Defense is the U.S...

 (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
Volunteer military
A volunteer military or all-volunteer military is one which derives its manpower from volunteers rather than conscription or mandatory service. A country may offer attractive pay and benefits through military recruitment to attract volunteers...

; although conscription
Conscription in the United States
Conscription in the United States has been employed several times, usually during war but also during the nominal peace of the Cold War...

 has been used in the past in various times of both war and peace, it has not been used since 1972. As of 2011, the United States spends about $550 billion annually to fund its military forces, and appropriates approximately $160 billion to fund Overseas Contingency Operations
War on Terrorism
The War on Terror is a term commonly applied to an international military campaign led by the United States and the United Kingdom with the support of other North Atlantic Treaty Organisation as well as non-NATO countries...

. Put together, the United States constitutes roughly 43 percent of the world's military expenditures. The U.S. armed forces as a whole possess large quantities of advanced and powerful equipment, along with widespread placement of forces around the world, giving them significant capabilities in both defense and power projection
Power projection
Power projection is a term used in military and political science to refer to the capacity of a state to conduct expeditionary warfare, i.e. to intimidate other nations and implement policy by means of force, or the threat thereof, in an area distant from its own territory.This ability is a...

.

History



The history of the United States Armed Forces dates to 1775, even before the Declaration of Independence
United States Declaration of Independence
The Declaration of Independence was a statement adopted by the Continental Congress on July 4, 1776, which announced that the thirteen American colonies then at war with Great Britain regarded themselves as independent states, and no longer a part of the British Empire. John Adams put forth a...

 marked the establishment of the United States. The Continental Army
Continental Army
The Continental Army was formed after the outbreak of the American Revolutionary War by the colonies that became the United States of America. Established by a resolution of the Continental Congress on June 14, 1775, it was created to coordinate the military efforts of the Thirteen Colonies in...

, Continental Navy
Continental Navy
The Continental Navy was the navy of the United States during the American Revolutionary War, and was formed in 1775. Through the efforts of the Continental Navy's patron, John Adams and vigorous Congressional support in the face of stiff opposition, the fleet cumulatively became relatively...

, and Continental Marines
Continental Marines
The Continental Marines were the Marine force of the American Colonies during the American Revolutionary War. The corps was formed by the Continental Congress on November 10, 1775 and was disbanded in 1783. Their mission was multi-purpose, but their most important duty was to serve as on-board...

 were created in close succession by the Second Continental Congress
Second Continental Congress
The Second Continental Congress was a convention of delegates from the Thirteen Colonies that started meeting on May 10, 1775, in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, soon after warfare in the American Revolutionary War had begun. It succeeded the First Continental Congress, which met briefly during 1774,...

 in order to defend the new nation against the British Empire
British Empire
The British Empire comprised the dominions, colonies, protectorates, mandates and other territories ruled or administered by the United Kingdom. It originated with the overseas colonies and trading posts established by England in the late 16th and early 17th centuries. At its height, it was the...

 in the American Revolutionary War
American Revolutionary War
The American Revolutionary War , the American War of Independence, or simply the Revolutionary War, began as a war between the Kingdom of Great Britain and thirteen British colonies in North America, and ended in a global war between several European great powers.The war was the result of the...

.

These forces demobilized in 1784 after the Treaty of Paris
Treaty of Paris (1783)
The Treaty of Paris, signed on September 3, 1783, ended the American Revolutionary War between Great Britain on the one hand and the United States of America and its allies on the other. The other combatant nations, France, Spain and the Dutch Republic had separate agreements; for details of...

 ended the War of Independence. The Congress of the Confederation
Congress of the Confederation
The Congress of the Confederation or the United States in Congress Assembled was the governing body of the United States of America that existed from March 1, 1781, to March 4, 1789. It comprised delegates appointed by the legislatures of the states. It was the immediate successor to the Second...

 created the United States Army
United States Army
The United States Army is the main branch of the United States Armed Forces responsible for land-based military operations. It is the largest and oldest established branch of the U.S. military, and is one of seven U.S. uniformed services...

 on 3 June 1784, although the founding of the Army is celebrated as occurring on 14 June 1775. The 1787 adoption of the Constitution
United States Constitution
The Constitution of the United States is the supreme law of the United States of America. It is the framework for the organization of the United States government and for the relationship of the federal government with the states, citizens, and all people within the United States.The first three...

 gave the Congress
United States Congress
The United States Congress is the bicameral legislature of the federal government of the United States, consisting of the Senate and the House of Representatives. The Congress meets in the United States Capitol in Washington, D.C....

 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
Declaration of war by the United States
A declaration of war is a formal declaration issued by a national government indicating that a state of war exists between that nation and another. For the United States, Article One, Section Eight of the Constitution says "Congress shall have power to ... declare War"...

 and gave the President of the United States
President of the United States
The President of the United States of America is the head of state and head of government of the United States. The president leads the executive branch of the federal government and is the commander-in-chief of the United States Armed Forces....

 the responsibility of being the military's commander-in-chief
Commander-in-Chief
A commander-in-chief is the commander of a nation's military forces or significant element of those forces. In the latter case, the force element may be defined as those forces within a particular region or those forces which are associated by function. As a practical term it refers to the military...

.

Rising tensions at various times with Britain
United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland
The United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland was the formal name of the United Kingdom during the period when what is now the Republic of Ireland formed a part of it....

 and France
France
The French Republic , The French Republic , The French Republic , (commonly known as France , is a unitary semi-presidential republic in Western Europe with several overseas territories and islands located on other continents and in the Indian, Pacific, and Atlantic oceans. Metropolitan France...

 the ensuing Quasi-War
Quasi-War
The Quasi-War was an undeclared war fought mostly at sea between the United States and French Republic from 1798 to 1800. In the United States, the conflict was sometimes also referred to as the Franco-American War, the Pirate Wars, or the Half-War.-Background:The Kingdom of France had been a...

 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
United States Life-Saving Service
The United States Life-Saving Service was a United States government agency that grew out of private and local humanitarian efforts to save the lives of shipwrecked mariners and passengers...

 in 1915 to establish the Coast Guard. The United States Air Force
United States Air Force
The United States Air Force is the aerial warfare service branch of the United States Armed Forces and one of the American uniformed services. Initially part of the United States Army, the USAF was formed as a separate branch of the military on September 18, 1947 under the National Security Act of...

 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
Aeronautical Division, U.S. Signal Corps
The Aeronautical Division, Signal Corps was the world's first heavier-than-air military aviation organization and the progenitor of the United States Air Force. A component of the U.S...

 in 1907 and was part of the U.S. Army before becoming an independent service.

The reserve branches formed a military strategic reserve
Strategic reserve
For the military term see: Military reserveA strategic reserve is a term used to describe a reserve of a commodity or items, held back from normal use by governments, organisations or business in pursuance of a particular strategy or to cope with unexpected events.A strategic reserve can be:*...

 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.

Budget


The United States has the largest defense budget in the world. In fiscal year 2010, the Department of Defense has a base budget of $533.8 billion. An additional $130.0 billion was requested for "Overseas Contingency Operations" in the War on Terrorism
War on Terrorism
The War on Terror is a term commonly applied to an international military campaign led by the United States and the United Kingdom with the support of other North Atlantic Treaty Organisation as well as non-NATO countries...

, and over the course of the year, an additional $33 billion in supplemental spending was added to Overseas Contingency Operations funding. Outside of direct Department of Defense spending, the United States spends another $218–262 billion each year on other defense-related programs, such as Veterans Affairs, Homeland Security, nuclear weapons maintenance, and the State Department.

By service, $225.2 billion was allocated for the Army, $171.7 billion for the Navy and Marine Corps, $160.5 billion for the Air Force and $106.4 billion for defense-wide spending. By function, $154.2 billion was requested for personnel, $283.3 billion for operations and maintenance, $140.1 billion for procurement, $79.1 billion for research and development, $23.9 billion for military construction, and $3.1 billion for family housing.

In fiscal year 2009, major defense programs also saw continued funding. $4.1 billion was requested for the next generation fighter, F-22 Raptor
F-22 Raptor
The Lockheed Martin/Boeing F-22 Raptor is a single-seat, twin-engine fifth-generation supermaneuverable fighter aircraft that uses stealth technology. It was designed primarily as an air superiority fighter, but has additional capabilities that include ground attack, electronic warfare, and signals...

, which will roll out an additional twenty planes for FY 2009. $6.7 billion was requested for the F-35 Lightning II
F-35 Lightning II
The Lockheed Martin F-35 Lightning II is a family of single-seat, single-engine, fifth generation multirole fighters under development to perform ground attack, reconnaissance, and air defense missions with stealth capability...

, 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
Medium Extended Air Defense System
Medium Extended Air Defense System is a military project intended to replace the aging Patriot missile system through a NATO-managed development. The USA, Germany and Italy are contributing toward the project...

, PAC-3
MIM-104 Patriot
The MIM-104 Patriot is a surface-to-air missile system, the primary of its kind used by the United States Army and several allied nations. It is manufactured by the Raytheon Company of the United States. The Patriot System replaced the Nike Hercules system as the U.S. Army's primary High to Medium...

 and SBIRS-High
Space-Based Infrared System
The Space-Based Infrared System is a consolidated system intended to meet the United States' infrared space surveillance needs through the first two to three decades of the 21st century...

 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
United States Africa Command
The United States Africa Command is one of nine Unified Combatant Commands of the United States Armed Forces, headquartered at Kelley Barracks, Stuttgart, Germany. It is responsible for U.S. military operations and military relations with 53 African nations – an area of responsibility covering all...

, $389 million was requested to develop and maintain the new command.

Historically, defense-related spending in the United States is at its highest inflation-adjusted level since World War II. Per-capita spending is at approximately the same inflation-adjusted level as the peak of the late-1980s Cold War military build-up and the 1968 peak of the Vietnam War. In his Fiscal Year 2011 budget, President Obama has proposed a 4% increase in Department of Defense spending, followed by a 9% decrease in FY 2012, with funding remaining level in subsequent years.

Critical parts of the Obama future years plan are the cost containment measures provided by the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act
Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act
The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act is a United States federal statute signed into law by President Barack Obama on March 23, 2010. The law is the principal health care reform legislation of the 111th United States Congress...

 and the Energy policy of the Obama administration
Energy Policy of the Obama Administration
The energy policy of the Obama administration, stated on the website of U.S. President Barack Obama, lists the guiding principles of the administration regarding energy and the environment...

 as health care and fuel costs are the two fastest growing parts of the defense budget.

Personnel



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
Selective Service System
The Selective Service System is a means by which the United States government maintains information on those potentially subject to military conscription. Most male U.S. citizens and male immigrant non-citizens between the ages of 18 and 25 are required by law to have registered within 30 days of...

 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
People's Liberation Army
The People's Liberation Army is the unified military organization of all land, sea, strategic missile and air forces of the People's Republic of China. The PLA was established on August 1, 1927 — celebrated annually as "PLA Day" — as the military arm of the Communist Party of China...

 of China, and has troops deployed around the globe.

In early 2007, Secretary of Defense Robert Gates
Robert Gates
Dr. Robert Michael Gates is a retired civil servant and university president who served as the 22nd United States Secretary of Defense from 2006 to 2011. Prior to this, Gates served for 26 years in the Central Intelligence Agency and the National Security Council, and under President George H. W....

 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
Military rank
Military rank is a system of hierarchical relationships in armed forces or civil institutions organized along military lines. Usually, uniforms denote the bearer's rank by particular insignia affixed to the uniforms...

, either that of officer
Officer (armed forces)
An officer is a member of an armed force or uniformed service who holds a position of authority. Commissioned officers derive authority directly from a sovereign power and, as such, hold a commission charging them with the duties and responsibilities of a specific office or position...

, warrant
Warrant Officer (United States)
In the United States military, the rank of warrant officer is rated as an officer above the senior-most enlisted ranks, as well as officer cadets and candidates, but below the officer grade of O-1...

, or enlisted
Enlisted rank
An enlisted rank is, in most Militaries, any rank below a commissioned officer or warrant officer. The term can also be inclusive of non-commissioned officers...

, 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.

Personnel in each service


As of May 2009 Female numbers as of 30 September 2009
Component Military Enlisted Officer Female Civilian
Army 548,000 456,651 88,093 74,411 243,172
Marine Corps 203,095 182,147 20,639 12,290
Navy 332,000 276,276 51,093 51,029 182,845
Air Force 323,000 261,193 64,370 64,137 154,032
Coast Guard 41,000 32,647 8,051 4,965 7,396
Total Active 1,445,000 1,174,563 224,144 203,375 580,049
Army National Guard
Army National Guard
Established under Title 10 and Title 32 of the U.S. Code, the Army National Guard is part of the National Guard and is divided up into subordinate units stationed in each of the 50 states, three territories and the District of Columbia operating under their respective governors...

403,616
Army Reserve
United States Army Reserve
The United States Army Reserve is the federal reserve force of the United States Army. Together, the Army Reserve and the Army National Guard constitute the reserve components of the United States Army....

205,000
Marine Corps Forces Reserve
United States Marine Corps Reserve
The Marine Forces Reserve is the reserve force of the United States Marine Corps. It is the largest command in the U.S...

40,000
Navy Reserve
United States Navy Reserve
The United States Navy Reserve, until 2005 known as the United States Naval Reserve, is the Reserve Component of the United States Navy...

67,000
Air National Guard
Air National Guard
The Air National Guard , often referred to as the Air Guard, is the air force militia organized by each of the fifty U.S. states, the commonwealth of Puerto Rico, the territories of Guam and the U.S. Virgin Islands, and the District of Columbia of the United States. Established under Title 10 and...

107,000
Air Force Reserve
Air Force Reserve Command
The Air Force Reserve Command is a major command of the U.S. Air Force with its headquarters at Robins AFB, Georgia.It stood up as a major command of the Air Force on 17 February 1997....

67,000
Coast Guard Reserve
United States Coast Guard Reserve
The United States Coast Guard Reserve is the reserve component of the United States Coast Guard. It is organized, trained, administered, and supplied under the direction of the Commandant of the Coast Guard through the Director of Reserve and Leadership....

11,000
Total Reserve Components
Reserve components of the United States armed forces
The reserve components of the United States armed forces are military organizations whose members, generally perform a minimum of 39 days of military duty per year and who augment the active duty military when necessary. The reserve components are also referred to collectively as the Guard and...

833,616
Other DOD Personnel 97,976

Overseas


As of 31 December 2010, U.S. Armed Forces were stationed at more than 820 installations in at least 135 countries. Some of the largest contingents are the 85,600 military personnel deployed in Iraq
Iraq
Iraq ; officially the Republic of Iraq is a country in Western Asia spanning most of the northwestern end of the Zagros mountain range, the eastern part of the Syrian Desert and the northern part of the Arabian Desert....

, the 103,700 in Afghanistan
Afghanistan
Afghanistan , officially the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan, is a landlocked country located in the centre of Asia, forming South Asia, Central Asia and the Middle East. With a population of about 29 million, it has an area of , making it the 42nd most populous and 41st largest nation in the world...

, the 52,440 in Germany
Germany
Germany , officially the Federal Republic of Germany , is a federal parliamentary republic in Europe. The country consists of 16 states while the capital and largest city is Berlin. Germany covers an area of 357,021 km2 and has a largely temperate seasonal climate...

 (see list), the 35,688 in Japan
Japan
Japan is an island nation in East Asia. Located in the Pacific Ocean, it lies to the east of the Sea of Japan, China, North Korea, South Korea and Russia, stretching from the Sea of Okhotsk in the north to the East China Sea and Taiwan in the south...

 (USFJ
United States Forces Japan
The refers to the various divisions of the United States Armed Forces that are stationed in Japan. Under the Treaty of Mutual Cooperation and Security between the United States and Japan, the United States is obliged to defend Japan in close cooperation with the Japan Self-Defense Forces for...

), the 28,500 in Republic of Korea (USFK
United States Forces Korea
United States Forces Korea refers to the ground, air and naval divisions of the United States armed forces stationed in South Korea....

), the 9,660 in Italy
Italy
Italy , officially the Italian Republic languages]] under the European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages. In each of these, Italy's official name is as follows:;;;;;;;;), is a unitary parliamentary republic in South-Central Europe. To the north it borders France, Switzerland, Austria and...

, and the 9,015 in the United Kingdom
United Kingdom
The United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern IrelandIn the United Kingdom and Dependencies, other languages have been officially recognised as legitimate autochthonous languages under the European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages...

 respectively. These numbers change frequently due to the regular recall and deployment of units.

Altogether, 77,917 military personnel are located in Europe, 141 in the former Soviet Union
Post-Soviet states
The post-Soviet states, also commonly known as the Former Soviet Union or former Soviet republics, are the 15 independent states that split off from the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics in its dissolution in December 1991...

, 47,236 in East Asia
East Asia
East Asia or Eastern Asia is a subregion of Asia that can be defined in either geographical or cultural terms...

 and the Pacific, 3,362 in North Africa
North Africa
North Africa or Northern Africa is the northernmost region of the African continent, linked by the Sahara to Sub-Saharan Africa. Geopolitically, the United Nations definition of Northern Africa includes eight countries or territories; Algeria, Egypt, Libya, Morocco, South Sudan, Sudan, Tunisia, and...

, the Near East
Near East
The Near East is a geographical term that covers different countries for geographers, archeologists, and historians, on the one hand, and for political scientists, economists, and journalists, on the other...

, and South Asia
South Asia
South Asia, also known as Southern Asia, is the southern region of the Asian continent, which comprises the sub-Himalayan countries and, for some authorities , also includes the adjoining countries to the west and the east...

, 1,355 in sub-Saharan Africa
Sub-Saharan Africa
Sub-Saharan Africa as a geographical term refers to the area of the African continent which lies south of the Sahara. A political definition of Sub-Saharan Africa, instead, covers all African countries which are fully or partially located south of the Sahara...

 and 1,941 in the Western Hemisphere
Western Hemisphere
The Western Hemisphere or western hemisphere is mainly used as a geographical term for the half of the Earth that lies west of the Prime Meridian and east of the Antimeridian , the other half being called the Eastern Hemisphere.In this sense, the western hemisphere consists of the western portions...

 excepting the United States itself.

Within the United States


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

As of 31 December 2009, a total of 1,137,568 personnel were on active duty within the United States and its territories (including 84,461 afloat). The vast majority, 941,629 of them, were stationed at various bases within the Contiguous United States
Contiguous United States
The contiguous United States are the 48 U.S. states on the continent of North America that are south of Canada and north of Mexico, plus the District of Columbia....

. There were an additional 37,245 in Hawaii and 20,450 in Alaska. 84,461 were at sea, 2,972 in Guam
Guam
Guam is an organized, unincorporated territory of the United States located in the western Pacific Ocean. It is one of five U.S. territories with an established civilian government. Guam is listed as one of 16 Non-Self-Governing Territories by the Special Committee on Decolonization of the United...

, and 179 in Puerto Rico
Puerto Rico
Puerto Rico , officially the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico , is an unincorporated territory of the United States, located in the northeastern Caribbean, east of the Dominican Republic and west of both the United States Virgin Islands and the British Virgin Islands.Puerto Rico comprises an...

.

Enlisted



Prospective service members are often recruited
Military recruitment
Military recruitment is the act of requesting people, usually male adults, to join a military voluntarily. Involuntary military recruitment is known as conscription. Many countries that have abolished conscription use military recruiters to persuade people to join, often at an early age. To...

 from high school
High school
High school is a term used in parts of the English speaking world to describe institutions which provide all or part of secondary education. The term is often incorporated into the name of such institutions....

 and college, the target age being those ages 18 to 28. With the permission of a parent or guardian, applicants can enlist at the age of 17 and participate in the Delayed Entry Program
Delayed Entry Program
The Delayed Entry Program, also called the Delayed Enlistment Program, is a program where individuals going into active duty in the United States Armed Forces enlist first into the DEP before they ship out to Basic Training, or "boot camp". This is not a legally binding contract, but an agreement...

 (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.

After enlistment, new recruits undergo Basic Training
Recruit training
Recruit training, more commonly known as Basic Training and colloquially called Boot Camp, is the initial indoctrination and instruction given to new military personnel, enlisted and officer...

 (also known as boot camp in the Navy, Coast Guard and Marines), followed by schooling in their primary Military Occupational Specialty (MOS) or rating at any of the numerous training facilities around the world. Each branch conducts basic training differently. For example, Marines send all non-infantry MOS’s to an infantry skills course known as Marine Combat Training
United States Marine Corps School of Infantry
The School of Infantry is the second stage of initial military training for enlisted United States Marines after Recruit Training. Since the initial training pipeline is divided between coasts, Marines from areas east of the Mississippi River usually graduate from MCRD Parris Island and move on to...

 prior to their technical schools, while Air Force Basic Military Training graduates attend Technical Training and are awarded an Air Force Specialty Code
Air Force Specialty Code
The Air Force Specialty Code is an alphanumeric code used by the United States Air Force to identify an Air Force Specialty . Officer AFSCs consist of four characters and enlisted AFSCs consist of five characters. A letter prefix or suffix may be used with an AFSC when more specific identification...

 (AFSC) at the apprentice (3) skill level. The terms for this vary greatly, all non-infantry Army recruits undergo Basic Combat Training (BCT), followed by Advanced Individual Training (AIT), while all combat arms recruits go to OSUT, one station unit training which combines basic and AIT, while the Navy send its recruits to Recruit Training and then to "A" schools to earn a rating. The Coast Guard's recruits attend basic training and follow with an "A" school to earn a rating.

Initially, recruits without higher education or college degrees will hold the pay grade of E-1, and will be elevated to E-2 usually soon after the completion of Basic Training. 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 pay grade 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 pay grade of E-4 (Specialist) with a full four-year degree, but the highest initial entry pay grade is usually E-3 (Members of the Army Band program can expect to enter service at the grade of E-4). Promotion through the junior enlisted ranks occurs upon attaining a specified number of years of service (which can be waived by the Soldiers chain of command), a specified level of technical proficiency, and/or maintenance of good conduct. Promotion can be denied with reason.

Non-commissioned officers


With very few exceptions, becoming a non-commissioned officer
Non-commissioned officer
A non-commissioned officer , called a sub-officer in some countries, is a military officer who has not been given a commission...

 (NCO) in the United States military is accomplished by progression through the lower enlisted ranks. However, unlike promotion through the lower enlisted tier, promotion to NCO is generally competitive. NCO ranks begin at E-4 or E-5, depending upon service, and are generally attained between three and six years of service. Junior NCOs function as first-line supervisors and squad leaders, training the junior enlisted in their duties and guiding their career advancement.

While considered part of the non-commissioned officer corps by law, senior non-commissioned officers (SNCOs) referred to as Chief Petty Officer
Chief Petty Officer
A chief petty officer is a senior non-commissioned officer in many navies and coast guards.-Canada:"Chief Petty Officer" refers to two ranks in the Canadian Navy...

s in the Navy and Coast Guard, or staff non-commissioned 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 (E-6 through E-9 in the Marine Corps) is highly competitive. Personnel totals at the pay grades of E-8 and E-9 are limited by federal law to 2.5 percent and 1 percent 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 after 10 to 16 years of service.

Each of the five services employs a single Senior Enlisted Advisor
Senior Enlisted Advisor
A Senior Enlisted Advisor in the United States armed forces is the most senior enlisted service member in a unit, and acts as an advisor to the commanding officer. Most units will have a formal billet for the senior enlisted advisor, from a platoon's platoon sergeant to the Senior Enlisted Advisor...

 at departmental level. This individual is the highest ranking enlisted member within his/her 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 three-star general and flag officer
Flag Officer
A flag officer is a commissioned officer in a nation's armed forces senior enough to be entitled to fly a flag to mark where the officer exercises command. The term usually refers to the senior officers in an English-speaking nation's navy, specifically those who hold any of the admiral ranks; in...

s. They are as follows:
  • Senior Enlisted Advisor to the Chairman
    Senior Enlisted Advisor to the Chairman
    Senior Enlisted Advisor to the Chairman is a military position within the United States Department of Defense and is the most senior noncommissioned or petty officer overall in the United States Armed Forces...

  • Sergeant Major of the Army
    Sergeant Major of the Army
    The Sergeant Major of the Army is a unique non-commissioned rank in the United States Army. The holder of this rank is the most senior enlisted member of the Army, unless an Army NCO is serving as the Senior Enlisted Advisor to the Chairman, when in that case that NCO will be the most senior...

  • Sergeant Major of the Marine Corps
    Sergeant Major of the Marine Corps
    Sergeant Major of the Marine Corps is a unique non-commissioned rank and billet in the United States Marine Corps....

  • Master Chief Petty Officer of the Navy
    Master Chief Petty Officer of the Navy
    The Master Chief Petty Officer of the Navy is a unique non-commissioned rank in the United States Navy, which has a paygrade of E-9. The holder of this rank and post is the most senior enlisted member of the U.S...

  • Chief Master Sergeant of the Air Force
    Chief Master Sergeant of the Air Force
    The Chief Master Sergeant of the Air Force is a unique non-commissioned rank in the United States Air Force. The holder of this rank and post represents the highest enlisted level of leadership in the Air Force, and as such, provides direction for the enlisted corps and represents their interests,...

  • Master Chief Petty Officer of the Coast Guard
    Master Chief Petty Officer of the Coast Guard
    The Master Chief Petty Officer of the Coast Guard is a unique non-commissioned rank in the United States Coast Guard.The holder of this rank and post is the senior enlisted member of the U.S...


Warrant officers


Additionally, all services except for the Air Force have an active warrant-officer
Warrant Officer (United States)
In the United States military, the rank of warrant officer is rated as an officer above the senior-most enlisted ranks, as well as officer cadets and candidates, but below the officer grade of O-1...

 corps. Above the rank of Warrant Officer One, these officers may also be commissioned, 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 (helicopter and fixed wing pilots in the U.S. Army), 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. Most Army pilots have served some enlisted time. It is also possible to enlist, complete basic training, go directly to the Warrant Officer Candidate school
Warrant Officer Candidate School (U.S. Army)
The United States Army's Warrant Officer Candidate School , located at Fort Rucker, Alabama, provides training to become a commissioned warrant officer in the U.S. Army. Warrant officer candidates are typically drawn from enlisted members and inter-service transfers. In this case, Inter-Service...

 at Fort Rucker
Fort Rucker
Fort Rucker is a U.S. Army post located mostly in Dale County, Alabama, United States. It was named for a Civil War officer, Confederate General Edmund Rucker. The post is the primary flight training base for Army Aviation and is home to the United States Army Aviation Center of Excellence and...

, Alabama, and then on to flight school.

Warrant officers in the U.S. military garner the same customs and courtesies as commissioned officers. They may attend the Officer's club, receive a command and are saluted by junior warrant officers and all enlisted service members.

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.

Commissioned officers


There are five common ways to receive a commission
Officer (armed forces)
An officer is a member of an armed force or uniformed service who holds a position of authority. Commissioned officers derive authority directly from a sovereign power and, as such, hold a commission charging them with the duties and responsibilities of a specific office or position...

 as an officer in one of the branches of the U.S. military (although other routes are possible).
  • Reserve Officers' Training Corps
    Reserve Officers' Training Corps
    The Reserve Officers' Training Corps is a college-based, officer commissioning program, predominantly in the United States. It is designed as a college elective that focuses on leadership development, problem solving, strategic planning, and professional ethics.The U.S...

     (ROTC)
  • Officer Candidate School
    Officer Candidate School
    Officer Candidate School or Officer Cadet School are institutions which train civilians and enlisted personnel in order for them to gain a commission as officers in the armed forces of a country....

     (OCS): This can be through active-duty OCS academies, or, in the case of the National Guard, through state-run academies.
  • Service academies (United States Military Academy
    United States Military Academy
    The United States Military Academy at West Point is a four-year coeducational federal service academy located at West Point, New York. The academy sits on scenic high ground overlooking the Hudson River, north of New York City...

     at West Point, New York; United States Naval Academy
    United States Naval Academy
    The United States Naval Academy is a four-year coeducational federal service academy located in Annapolis, Maryland, United States...

     at Annapolis, Maryland; United States Air Force Academy
    United States Air Force Academy
    The United States Air Force Academy is an accredited college for the undergraduate education of officer candidates for the United States Air Force. Its campus is located immediately north of Colorado Springs in El Paso County, Colorado, United States...

     at Colorado Springs, Colorado; the United States Coast Guard Academy
    United States Coast Guard Academy
    Founded in 1876, the United States Coast Guard Academy is the military academy of the United States Coast Guard. Located in New London, Connecticut, it is the smallest of the five federal service academies...

     at New London, Connecticut; and the United States Merchant Marine Academy
    United States Merchant Marine Academy
    The United States Merchant Marine Academy is one of the five United States Service academies...

     at Kings Point, New York.)
  • Direct commission
    Direct commission officer
    A direct commission officer is a uniformed officer who has received a commission without the typical prerequisites for achieving a commission, such as a four year service academy, a four year or two year college ROTC program, or one of the officer candidate school or officer training school...

    : civilians who have special skills that are critical to sustaining military operations and supporting troops may receive direct commissions. These officers occupy leadership positions in the following areas: law, medicine, dentistry, pharmacy, nurse corps, intelligence, supply-logistics-transportation, engineering, public affairs, chaplain corps, oceanography, and others.
  • Battlefield commission: Under certain conditions, enlisted personnel who have skills that separate them from their peers can become officers by direct commissioning of a commander so authorized to grant them. This type of commission is rarely granted and is reserved only for the most exceptional enlisted personnel; it is done on an ad hoc basis, typically only in wartime. No direct battlefield commissions have been awarded since the Vietnam War
    Vietnam War
    The Vietnam War was a Cold War-era military conflict that occurred in Vietnam, Laos, and Cambodia from 1 November 1955 to the fall of Saigon on 30 April 1975. This war followed the First Indochina War and was fought between North Vietnam, supported by its communist allies, and the government of...

    . The Air Force and Navy do not employ this commissioning path.
  • Limited Duty Officer
    Limited Duty Officer
    A Limited Duty Officer is an officer in the United States Navy or United States Marine Corps who was selected for commissioning based on his/her skill and expertise, and is not required to have a bachelor's degree. They are employed in situations where it is desirable to have an officer with...

    : Due to the highly technical nature of some officer billets, the Navy employs a system of promoting proven senior enlisted members to the ranks of commissioned officers. They fill a need that is similar to, but distinct from that filled by Warrant Officers (to the point where their accession is through the same school). While Warrant Officers remain technical experts, LDOs take on the role of a generalist, like that of officers commissioned through more traditional sources. LDOs are limited, not by their authority, but by the types of billets they are allowed to fill. However, in recent times, they have come to be used more and more like their more-traditional counterparts.


Officers receive a commission assigning them to the officer corps from the President (with the consent
Advice and consent
Advice and consent is an English phrase frequently used in enacting formulae of bills and in other legal or constitutional contexts, describing a situation in which the executive branch of a government enacts something previously approved of by the legislative branch.-General:The expression is...

 of the Senate
United States Senate
The United States Senate is the upper house of the bicameral legislature of the United States, and together with the United States House of Representatives comprises the United States Congress. The composition and powers of the Senate are established in Article One of the U.S. Constitution. Each...

). To accept this commission, all officers must take an oath of office.

Through their careers, officers usually will receive further training at one or a number of the many staff college
Staff college
Staff colleges train military officers in the administrative, staff and policy aspects of their profession. It is usual for such training to occur at several levels in a career...

s.

Company-grade officers in pay grades O-1 through O-3 (known as "junior" officers in the Navy and Coast Guard) function as leaders of smaller units or sections of a unit, typically with an experienced SNCO assistant and mentor.

Field-grade officers in pay grades O-4 through O-6 (known as "senior" officers in the Navy and Coast Guard) lead significantly larger and more complex operations, with gradually more competitive promotion requirements.

General officers, or flag officer
Flag Officer
A flag officer is a commissioned officer in a nation's armed forces senior enough to be entitled to fly a flag to mark where the officer exercises command. The term usually refers to the senior officers in an English-speaking nation's navy, specifically those who hold any of the admiral ranks; in...

s in the Navy and Coast Guard, serve at the highest levels and oversee major portions of the military mission.

Five-star ranking



These are ranks of the highest honor and responsibility in the armed forces, but they are almost never given during peacetime service and have only been held by a very few officers during wartime:
  • General of the Army
    General of the Army (United States)
    General of the Army is a five-star general officer and is the second highest possible rank in the United States Army. A special rank of General of the Armies, which ranks above General of the Army, does exist but has only been conferred twice in the history of the Army...

  • Fleet Admiral
  • General of the Air Force
    General of the Air Force (United States)
    General of the Air Force is a five-star general officer rank and is the highest possible rank in the United States Air Force. General of the Air Force ranks immediately above a general and is equivalent to General of the Army in the United States Army and Fleet Admiral in the United States Navy;...



No corresponding rank exists for the Marine Corps or the Coast Guard. As with three- and four-star ranks, Congress is the approving authority for a five-star rank confirmation.

The rank of General of the Armies
General of the Armies
General of the Armies of the United States, or more commonly referred to as General of the Armies, is the highest possible officer rank of the United States Army.Only two soldiers have been granted the rank of General of the Armies; John J...

 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
John J. Pershing
John Joseph "Black Jack" Pershing, GCB , was a general officer in the United States Army who led the American Expeditionary Forces in World War I...

 who received the rank in 1919 after World War I, and George Washington
George Washington
George Washington was the dominant military and political leader of the new United States of America from 1775 to 1799. He led the American victory over Great Britain in the American Revolutionary War as commander-in-chief of the Continental Army from 1775 to 1783, and presided over the writing of...

 who received it posthumously in 1976 as part of the American Bicentennial celebrations. Pershing, appointed to General of the Armies in active duty status for life, was still alive at the time of the first five-star appointments during World War II, and was thereby acknowledged as superior in grade by seniority to any World War II era Generals of the Army. George Washington's appointment by Public Law 94-479 to General of the Armies of the United States was established by law as having "rank and precedence over all other grades of the Army, past or present," making him not only superior to Pershing, but superior to any grade in the United States Army in perpetuity.

In the Navy, the theoretically corresponding rank to General of the Armies is Admiral of the Navy
Admiral of the Navy (United States)
Admiral of the Navy is a rank in the United States Navy that has only been held once in history, by George Dewey. In recognition of his victory at Manila Bay in 1898, Congress authorized a single officer to hold the rank of Admiral, and promoted Dewey to this rank in March 1899...

. It was never held by active duty officers at the same time as persons who held the rank of Fleet Admiral. George Dewey
George Dewey
George Dewey was an admiral of the United States Navy. He is best known for his victory at the Battle of Manila Bay during the Spanish-American War...

 is the only person to have ever held this rank. After the establishment of the rank of Fleet Admiral in 1944, the Department of the Navy specified that the rank of Fleet Admiral was to be junior to the rank of Admiral of the Navy. However, since Dewey died in 1917 before the establishment of the rank of Fleet Admiral, the six-star rank status has not been totally confirmed.

Order of precedence


Under current Department of Defense regulation, the various components of the Armed Forces have a set order of seniority. Examples of the use of this system include the display of service flags, placement of Soldiers, Marines, Sailors, and Airmen in formation, etc. When the United States Coast Guard shall operate as part of the Navy, the cadets, United States Coast Guard Academy, the United States Coast Guard, and the Coast Guard Reserve shall take precedence, respectively, after the midshipmen, United States Naval Academy; the United States Navy; and Naval Reserve.
  • Cadets, US Military Academy
  • Midshipmen, US Naval Academy
  • Cadets, United States Coast Guard Academy (when the Coast Guard shall operate as part of the Navy)
  • Cadets, US Air Force Academy
  • Cadets, United States Coast Guard Academy (when the Coast Guard shall operate as part of the Department of Homeland Security)
  • Midshipmen, US Merchant Marine Academy
  • United States Army
  • United States Marine Corps
  • United States Navy
  • United States Coast Guard (when the Coast Guard shall operate as part of the Navy)
  • United States Air Force
  • United States Coast Guard (when the Coast Guard shall operate as part of the Department of Homeland Security)
  • Army National Guard of the United States
  • United States Army Reserve
  • United States Marine Corps Reserve
  • United States Naval Reserve
  • United States Coast Guard Reserve (when the Coast Guard shall operate as part of the Navy)
  • Air National Guard of the United States
  • United States Air Force Reserve
  • United States Coast Guard Reserve (when the Coast Guard shall operate as part of the Department of Homeland Security)
  • Other training and auxiliary organizations of the Army, Marine Corps, United States Merchant Marine
    United States Merchant Marine
    The United States Merchant Marine refers to the fleet of U.S. civilian-owned merchant vessels, operated by either the government or the private sector, that engage in commerce or transportation of goods and services in and out of the navigable waters of the United States. The Merchant Marine is...

    , Civil Air Patrol
    Civil Air Patrol
    Civil Air Patrol is a Congressionally chartered, federally supported, non-profit corporation that serves as the official civilian auxiliary of the United States Air Force . CAP is a volunteer organization with an aviation-minded membership that includes people from all backgrounds, lifestyles, and...

    , and United States Coast Guard Auxiliary
    United States Coast Guard Auxiliary
    The United States Coast Guard Auxiliary is the uniformed volunteer component of the United States Coast Guard and was established on June 23, 1939 by an act of Congress as the United States Coast Guard Reserve, and was re-designated as the United States Coast Guard Auxiliary on February 19, 1941...

    , as in the preceding order.


Note: While the United States Navy is actually older than the United States Marine Corps, the Marine Corps takes precedence over the Navy due to previous inconsistencies in the Navy's birth date. The Marine Corps has recognized its observed birth date on a more consistent basis. The Second Continental Congress established the Navy on 13 October 1775 and the Marine Corps on 10 November 1775. The Navy did not officially recognize 13 October 1775 as its birth date until 1972 when, then-Chief of Naval Operations
Chief of Naval Operations
The Chief of Naval Operations is a statutory office held by a four-star admiral in the United States Navy, and is the most senior uniformed officer assigned to serve in the Department of the Navy. The office is a military adviser and deputy to the Secretary of the Navy...

, Admiral Elmo Zumwalt authorized it to be observed as such.

See also



  • Awards and decorations of the United States military
    Awards and decorations of the United States military
    Awards and decorations of the United States Military are military decorations which recognize service and personal accomplishments while a member of the United States armed forces...

  • Full-spectrum dominance
    Full-spectrum dominance
    Full-spectrum dominance is a military concept whereby a joint military structure achieves control over all elements of the battlespace using land, air, maritime and space based assets....

  • List of active United States military aircraft
  • List of currently active United States military land vehicles
  • List of currently active United States military watercraft
  • Military expression
    Military expression
    Military expression is an area of military law pertaining to the United States military that relates to the free speech rights of its service members.- Limitations on military expression :...

  • Military justice
  • Servicemembers' Group Life Insurance
    Servicemembers' Group Life Insurance
    Servicemembers' Group Life Insurance is a life insurance available to all active duty and reserve members of the uniformed services of the United States...

  • State Defense Force
  • TRICARE
    TRICARE
    TRICARE, formerly known as the Civilian Health and Medical Program of the Uniformed Services , is a health care program of the United States Department of Defense Military Health System. TRICARE provides civilian health benefits for military personnel, military retirees, and their dependents,...

     - Health care plan for the U.S. uniformed services
  • United States military casualties of war
  • United States Service academies


External links