The US military was established by the Second Continental Congress for the purpose of defending the new state against the British Empire at the height of the American Revolution. In 1775, in the light of the Declaration of Independence a year later, the Army, Marine Corps, and Navy were commissioned.
Originally integrated with the Revenue Cutter Service, the US Coast Guard was established in 1790. Later on the United States Life Saving Service joined forces with the Revenue Cutter Service to comprise the Coast Guard. At present, it is under the wings of the Department of Homeland Security. In case of war, however, the Coast Guard can be transferred to the command of the Navy by the President or Congress. The Air Force used to be integrated with the Army as the US Army Air Corps until it became independent in 1947.
Since its establishment, the US Armed Forces had played a key role in American history. A matter of national unity and identity was agreed upon from the Barbary Wars and War of 1812. However, the Founding Fathers aroused suspicions on the establishment of a permanent military force. It was only until the onset of the Second World War that an official peacetime army was created.
The President of the United States acts as the commander-in-chief. The Department of Defense, headed by a Secretary, functioned as the main organ for implementing military policies. With the September 11 attacks, the Department of Homeland Security was established. The function of this new civilian agency was to coordinate and consolidate internal threats to the United States.
Comprising of nearly 3 million personnel, half of which are reservists, the US Armed Forces is considered as one of the biggest militaries in the world in terms of manpower. Most of its personnel were derived from volunteer service and works to maintain professionalism in the force. With annual expenditures amounting to $711 billion, it comprises 50 percent of military spending in the world. It boasts of having huge amount of advanced and powerful weapons, giving them considerable capability in projecting defense and power.
The National Security Council, headed by an advisor, is tasked with coordinating military action and diplomacy. Holding an advisory position is the Joint Chiefs of Staff, consisting of the different heads of the service branches.
As of 2008, women service members are not allowed to volunteer as members of ground forces and on submarines. They can, however, perform duties as military police, fighter pilots, and crew on combat ships.
With the enactment of the “Don’t ask, Don’t tell” Law, members of the GLB (gays, lesbians, bisexuals) can join the military as long as they keep their sexual orientation secret. The government is likewise prohibited from asking members of the military and possible recruits regarding their sexual orientation. Its implementation in 1993 led to the dismissal of thousands of service members when their sexual orientation was revealed to the military.
From the 1990s to the 2000s, the implementation of the two policies was subjected to high-profile controversies. Proponents of military necessity and special requirements of combat as well as critics denying military necessity and considering the policies as unjustified discrimination.
As of 2008, US service members were deployed in over 820 installations in 39 countries. At 142,000 personnel, the Iraq contingent is the largest. However, the number of personnel may regularly change due to continuous recall and deployment. Within the United States, more than 1 million members of the US military are on active duty with more than 800,000 stationed in different military bases in Continental United States.
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