Department of Defense

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The United States Department of Defense (DOD or DoD) is the federal department charged with coordinating and supervising all agencies and functions of the government relating directly to national security and the military. The organization and functions of the DOD are set forth in Title 10 of the United States Code.


The Army, Navy, and Marine Corps were established in 1775, in concurrence with the American Revolution. The War Department was established in 1789, and was the precursor to what is now the Department of Defense.

The Department of the Navy, was founded in 1798. The Coast Guard (part of Homeland Security in peacetime), can trace it's history back to 1790. Congress, in 1947, established a civilian, Cabinet-level Secretary of Defense to oversee an also newly created National Military Establishment. The U.S. Air Force was also created, along with a new Department of the Air Force. The War Department was converted to the Department of the Army. Finally, the three services, Army, Navy, and Air Force, were placed under the direct control of the new Secretary of Defense.

In 1949, an amendment to the Act consolidated further the national defense structure, creating what we now know as the Department of Defense, and withdrawing cabinet-level status for the three Service secretaries.


Directions for military operations emanate from the National Command Authority, a term used to collectively describe the President and the Secretary of Defense. The President, as commander-in-chief of the armed forces, is the ultimate authority. The Office of the Secretary of Defense carries out the Secretary’s policies by tasking the military departments, the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and the unified commands.

  • The military departments train and equip the military forces.
  • The Chairman plans and coordinates military deployments and operations.
  • The unified commands conduct the military operations.

Unified Commanders

The unified commanders are the direct link from the military forces to the President and the Secretary of Defense.

  • Five commanders have geographical responsibilities.
  • Four commanders have worldwide responsibilities.

The Secretary of Defense exercises his authority over how the military is trained and equipped through the Service secretaries; but uses a totally different method to exercise his authority to deploy troops and exercise military power. This latter authority is directed, with the advice of the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, to the nine unified commands.

Geographic Commands

Northern Command

Northern Command oversees the defense of the continental United States, coordinates security and military relationships with Canada and Mexico, and direct military assistance to U.S. civil authorities. For detailed information about U.S. Northern Command please visit:

European Command

The European Command covers more than 13 million square miles and includes 93 countries and territories, to include Iceland, Greenland, the Azores, more than half of the Atlantic ocean, the Caspian sea, and Russia. This territory extends from the North Cape of Norway, through the waters of the Baltic and Mediterranean seas, most of Europe, and parts of the Middle East to the Cape of Good Hope in South Africa. For detailed information about U.S. European Command please visit:

Central Command

Central Command oversees the balance of the Mid-East, parts of Africa and west Asia, and part of the Indian Ocean. For detailed information about U.S. Central Command please visit:

Southern Command

Southern Command guards U.S. interests in the southern hemisphere, including Central America, South America, and the Caribbean. For detailed information about U.S. Southern Command please visit:

Pacific Command

Pacific Command covers 50 percent of the Earth's surface including Southwest Asia, Australia, and shares with U.S. Northern Command responsibility for Alaska. For detailed information about U.S. Pacific Command please visit:

Worldwide Commands

Joint Forces Command

Joint Forces Command is the "transformation laboratory" for the U.S. military, in this capacity it searches for promising alternative solutions for future operations through joint concept development and experimentation; defines enhancements to joint warfighting requirements; develops joint warfighting capabilities through joint training and solutions; and delivers joint forces and capabilities to warfighting commanders. For detailed information about U.S. Joint Forces Command please visit:

Strategic Command

The Strategic and Space Commands merged in 2002 and is now known as the Strategic Command which is responsible for controlling space; deterring attacks on the United States and its allies, launching and operating the satellites systems that support our forces worldwide and should deterrence fail, direcing the use of our strategic forces. For detailed information about U.S. Strategic Command please visit:

Special Operations Command

Special Operations Command provides counter-paramilitary, counter-narcotics, guerilla, psychological warfare, civil education, and insurgency capabilities in support of U.S. national and international interests. Special Operations Command is responsible for special military support. For detailed information about U.S. Special Operations Command please visit:

Transportation Command

The Transportation Command provide air, land, and sea transportation for the Department of Defense in times of peace and war. It moves people and property around the world. For detailed information about U.S. Transportation Command please visit:


External links