General Information

In the United States maintaining a strong national defense encompasses such diverse activities as running a hospital, commanding a tank, programming computers, operating a nuclear reactor, or repairing and maintaining a helicopter. The military provides training and work experience in these and many other fields for more than 2.5 million people.

More than 1.4 million people serve in the active Army, Navy, Marine Corps, and Air Force, and more than 1.1 million serve in their Reserve components, and the Air and Army National Guard. The Coast Guard, part of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, is also a military position.

The military distinguishes between enlisted and officer careers. Enlisted personnel, who make up about 85 percent of the Armed Forces, carry out the fundamental operations of the military in areas such as combat, administration, construction, engineering, health care, and human services. Officers, who make up the remaining 15 percent of the Armed Forces, are the leaders of the military, supervising and managing activities in every occupational specialty of the Armed Forces.

Special Operations


Military expenditures

dollar figure: aggregate real expenditure on arms worldwide in 1999 remained at approximately the 1998 level, about three-quarters of a trillion dollars (1999 est.)
percent of GDP: roughly 2% of gross world product (1999 est.)