What does the military do for our country?
The five branches of the US military are part of the Executive Department. Each branch is headed by both a civil servant ("Secretary") and a uniformed military officer ("Chief of Staff"), who is also a member of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. The President of the United States, who is the head of the Executive Branch, is also the Commander-in-Chief of the US military. He or she has the ability to mobilize troops to a limited extent. Only Congress can declare war.
Each year, the President sets the National Security Strategy, which is a comprehensive look at the current and future security issues that face our nation today and how the administration plans on facing them. This is then further refined by the National Military Strategy and National Defense Strategy, which quantitatively spell out how many Soldiers, Sailors, ships, aircraft, and other programs we need today and ten years from now. They describe what capabilities we have and what we don't, and how we plan to bridge those gaps.
Congress debates and approves the appropriate amount of funding for operations, research and development, manufacture, and maintenance of our programs. In 2014, the US spent roughly $600 billion on Defense, which is very nearly what the rest of the world spends combined. The size and allocation of the Defense budget is under constant public scrutiny, to the point that multiple government shutdowns have occurred recently due to arguments in Congress. While the budget is massive, it comprises between 15-20% of federal spending, which is a little more than average among the world's nations. Much of our Defense budget is spent on research and development. Most other militaries don't spend very much because they either buy or replicate American technology.
The US wants to minimize personnel casualties by maintaining technological dominance. American culture values individual lives very highly, so there is a huge emphasis on personnel and equipment safety and security. Most foreign militaries are either large or well-equipped, but very rarely both.
The US military has roughly 2.5 million personnel in uniform, ranking #7 in the world in size (as of 2014). Historically, Congress authorized the expansion of our military during wars and contracted its size during peacetime. The intention has been to maintain a "core cadre" of experienced warfighters who could get the military rapidly trained when a new war broke out, and reduce resources when they weren't needed. However, in the last century, we have struggled to get "up to speed" by the time such conflicts were already happening. The Defense Department, supported by intelligence services, watches for worldwide threats against our nation and pushes our cability to deal with them.
Culture is driven by technology. Technology continues to change at an exponential rate. Worldwide culture is changing at such a mind-boggling rate that it is becoming very difficult to maintain our nation perfectly safe from harm. No matter what the circumstances are, it is still the military's job to defend the country. Defense strategies are constantly evolving to give individual warfighters the ability to overcome incredible challenges. Most of those ideas are generated from America's youngest generation of veterans.
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