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United States Department of Defense

Dept. of Defense
Established:July 26, 1947
Activated:September 18, 1947
Renamed:August 10, 1949
Secretary:Donald Rumsfeld
Deputy Secretary:Paul Wolfowitz
Budget:$358.2 billion (2003)
Employees:636,000 civilian
2.3 million military (2003)

The United States Department of Defense (DoD) is the civilian Cabinet organization of the United States government which controls the military of the United States. It is headquartered at The Pentagon and headed by the United States Secretary of Defense.

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Proposals to coordinate the activities of the military services were initially considered by Congress in 1944. Specific plans were put forth in 1945 by the Army, the Navy, and the Joint Chiefs of Staff. In a special message to Congress on December 19, 1945, President Harry Truman proposed creation of a unified Department of National Defense. A proposal reached Congress in April 1946, but was held up by the Naval Affairs Committee held hearings in July 1946 due to objections to the concentration of power in a single department. Truman eventually sent new legislation to Congress in February 1947, where it was debated and amended for several months.

On July 26, 1947, Truman signed the National Security Act of 1947, which set up the National Military Establishment to begin operations on September 18, 1947, the day after the confirmation of James V. Forrestal as the first Secretary of Defense. The Establishment was later renamed the Department of Defense on August 10, 1949 and the secretary was given greater authority over the military departments of the Army, Navy, and Air Force.

It is based in The Pentagon in Arlington County, Virginia near Washington, D.C.. It was created by combining the War Department[?] (founded in 1789) with the Navy Department[?] (founded in 1798; formerly the Board of Admiralty, founded in 1780). The department was formed in order to reduce interservice rivalry which was believed to have reduced military effectiveness in World War II.

It includes Army, Air Force, Coast Guard (wartime only), Navy, Marines and agencies such as the National Security Agency and the Defense Intelligence Agency comprise the Department. Its annual budget is roughly $360 billion (~$1,300 per capita).

The command structure of the Department of Defense is defined by the Goldwater-Nichols Act of 1986[?]. Under the act, the chain of command runs from the President of the United States, through the Secretary of Defense, to the regional commanders within one of several commands who command all military forces within their area of operation. The Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and the several Chiefs of Staff are responsible for readiness of the U.S. military, but are not in the chain of command.

As part of the September 11, 2001 Terrorist Attack, terrorists crashed a plane into one of the sections of The Pentagon, causing part of it to collapse and killing about 190 people.

Operating Units

  • United States Air Force
  • United States Army
  • Defense Agencies
    • Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA)
    • Defense Commissary Agency (DECA)
    • Defense Contract Audit Agency (DCAA)
    • Defense Contract Management Agency (DCMA)
    • Defense Finance and Accounting Service (DFAS)
    • Defense Information Systems Agency (DISA)
    • Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA)
    • Defense Legal Services Agency (DLSA)
    • Defense Logistics Agency (DLA)
    • Defense Security Cooperation Agency (DSCA)
    • Defense Security Service (DSS)
    • Defense Threat Reduction Agency (DTRA)
    • Missile Defense Agency (MDA)
    • National Imagery and Mapping Agency (NIMA)
    • National Security Agency (NSA)
    • Pentagon Force Protection Agency
  • Department of Defense Field Activities
    • American Forces Information Service (AFIS)
    • Defense Prisoner of War/Missing Personnel Office (DPMO)
    • Department of Defense Education Activity (DoDEA)
    • DoD Human Resources Activity (DoDHRA)
    • Office of Economic Adjustment (OEA)
    • Tricare Management Activity (TMA)
    • Washington Headquarters Services (WHS)
  • Office of Administration and Management
  • Joint Chiefs of Staff
  • United States Marine Corps
  • United States Navy
  • Unified Combatant Commands
    • Central Command
    • European Command
    • Joint Forces Command
    • Northern Command
    • Pacific Command
    • Southern Command
    • Special Operations Command
    • Strategic Command
    • Transportation Command

In 2003, the National Communications System was moved to the United States Department of Homeland Security.


The DoD sponsored the research and development of the modern computer and through DARPA subsidized the creation of the Internet. It maintains the global positioning system (GPS). Each of these technologies was made available to the public worldwide at no charge.

The DoD commissioned the design of the Ada programming language.

Related Legislation

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