SIC 9711

This classification covers establishments of the armed forces, including the National Guard, primarily engaged in national security and related activities. Establishments primarily engaged in manufacturing ordnance, ships, and other military goods are classified in the manufacturing division. Service academies are classified in SIC 8221: College, Universities, and Professional Schools, but military training schools are classified here. Military hospitals are classified in SIC 8060: Hospitals. Establishments of the Coast Guard primarily engaged in administration, operation, or regulation of transportation are classified in SIC 9621: Regulation and Administration of Transportation Programs.

NAICS Code(s)

928110 (National Security)

Industry Snapshot

National security depends not only on the latest defense technology, but also more importantly, upon the human workforce that creates and develops the technology and carries it into action to defend our country. The United States has one of the only major armed forces in world history that has never been used against its own citizens or to permanently annex other nations.

Organization and Structure

The U.S. Department of Defense is charged with providing the military force needed to deter war and protect the security and interests of the United States and its citizens. Besides its defensive role, the military is the country's largest employer. It provides important training that its employees often utilize in the private sector. The Department of Defense is also a primary source of research and development funding for private sector technology efforts.

The major components of its force are the Army, Air Force, Navy, and Marine Corps. The President of the United States is the Commander in Chief of the armed forces. The Secretary of Defense serves under the President and controls the Department of Defense. Under the Secretary and his Deputy are the Joint Chiefs of Staff, who provide military advice to the President and Secretary. Subordinate to the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff are the Chiefs of Staff for the Army, Air Force, and Navy, as well as the Commandant of the Marine Corps. Also under the immediate direction of the Secretary of Defense and Deputy are the Department of the Army, U.S. Department of the Air Force, and Department of the Navy. Each department is headed by a Secretary. The Marine Corps is under the jurisdiction of the Secretary of the Navy.

When a person enters one of the armed forces, he or she forfeits many rights granted by the U.S. Constitution. Military personnel are governed under a legal system that is completely different from that in the private sector. Personnel are subject to the Uniform Code of Military Justice, though the Department of Justice and other federal and state agencies may become involved with some legal matters.

Divisions of the Armed Forces. The Army is recognized as the major land fighting division of the U.S. armed forces and is the largest segment of the military. Besides combat-related functions, it conducts intelligence gathering and counterintelligence, formulation of strategy, and numerous other responsibilities. In peacetime, the Army's sole duty is to train its reserves and plan for mobilization in the event of a war. The Army has 12 active and eight reserve divisions. The Army also administers environmental management and construction programs and provides disaster relief assistance. The Army employed 481,266 of all active duty military personnel in 2002.

The Navy is the dominant sea-based fighting division, though it also represents a major share of U.S. air power. The second largest armed forces division, it had about 381,901 members in 2002. The Air Force, which specializes in air and space defense functions, had about 362,330 members. The Marine Corps, which had 172,741 members in 2002, fights on land, sea, and in the air. This elite combat division is usually the "first to fight" on land in a military conflict.

The two types of employees in the military are enlisted personnel and officers. Each service has nine enlisted grades and ten officer ranks. Officers account for approximately 15 percent of the armed forces. Only a fraction of the enlisted personnel are designated combat troops.

In addition to a large fighting force, the Department of Defense oversees the largest arsenal of weaponry and equipment in the world. Tens of thousands of tanks, jets, bombers, missiles, guns, armored personnel carriers, and other equipment complement its troops. Furthermore, its nuclear arsenal is the largest in the world.

Reserve Forces. In addition to active duty personnel and Department of Defense employees, the U.S. military is backed by 1.4 million reserve and guard forces in the National Guard and Coast Guard. During times of peace, the Coast Guard operates under the Department of Homeland Security. It promotes marine safety and enforces federal maritime laws. In the event of war, the President can place the Coast Guard under the jurisdiction of the Navy.

The National Guard consists of the Army Guard and the Air Force Guard. Although the Guard utilizes many part-time personnel with military training, it is a major component of the U.S. defense force. The Army Guard, for example, represented about 47 percent of the Army's fighting capability in 2002. The Guard is commanded by state or territory governors during peacetime and is commonly used in state emergencies or civil disturbances. During a war, the President or Congress can call the Guard into active duty.

Military Academies. There are five major U.S. military academies. The U.S. Military Academy (West Point) enrolls about 1,200 candidates each year in its elite institution. Candidates must be unmarried U.S. citizens between the ages of 17 and 22 and must present a nomination from a U.S. Representative or Senator. After graduation, officers must serve in the Army for six years. Similarly, the U.S. Naval Academy in Annapolis and the U.S. Air Force Academy in Denver each have about 4,500 students. Entrance requirements are much like those at West Point, though slightly less selective.

Like the Naval and Air Force academies, the U.S. Coast Guard Academy and the U.S. Merchant Marine Academy in Kings Point, New York, require at least four years of active duty service after graduation. Candidates are admitted to the Coast Guard Academy via a highly competitive national competition. Like those at West Point, Merchant Marine applicants must be nominated by a U.S. Senator or Representative.

Background and Development

Organized defense forces in North America can be traced to the early 1600s. The Continental Congress established the first U.S. army in 1775. The U.S. National Guard originated in 1636, when isolated regiments of North, South, and East Massachusetts combined forces to defend their new-found territory. The National Guard is commonly recognized as the oldest U.S. fighting force and has served the nation in every major conflict since colonial times.

The first national military defense force founded by the United States was the New England Armies—later called the Continental Army. The Continental Congress established this army on June 14, 1775 to fight Britain. The U.S. Navy and Marine Corps were concurrently started in late 1775 to complement the Continental Army's efforts. General George Washington commanded the group of colonial volunteers, which essentially consisted of a band of slightly trained rebels. The Navy started with two vessels.

During the Revolutionary War, which lasted from 1775 to 1783, 4,435 U.S. soldiers died, and more than 6,000 were seriously wounded. A band of only 700 soldiers was left after the war to form a standing army. This force was increased in the early 1790s to meet threats from Native Americans and to defend against French aggression. Congress authorized the construction of six navy frigates in 1794, and launched its first ship, the United States, on May 10, 1797. The Revenue Marine was also established in the 1790s with ten boats; it was renamed the Coast Guard in 1915. In 1802, Congress established the U.S. Military Academy at West Point.

The first major U.S. military conflict after the Revolution was the War of 1812, when the United States resisted British interference with sea trade. The U.S.S. Constitution sank a British frigate, and the United States gained more independence as a result of that conflict. Besides the Mexican American War (1846 to 1848), in which 1,700 U.S. service people died, the next war of consequence was the Civil War (1861 to 1865). By the time General Lee surrendered to General Grant at Appomattox, the Civil War had taken 365,000 lives, or about 17 percent of the total number of soldiers who fought in that war.

Although World War I (1917 to 1918) involved nearly five million U.S. service people and resulted in 116,516 American deaths, World War II (1941 to 1946) soon overshadowed that war's statistics. It was during World War II that the Marines, Navy, and Air Force grew in importance in relation to the Army. As the Army tripled in size over World War I levels, the Navy and Marine Corps swelled about 700 percent and 850 percent, respectively. The Air Force, which was part of the Army, grew so much that it became its own division in 1947. World War II engaged 16 million U.S. service people, 405,399 of whom were killed.

The Cold War. World War II put an end to global military conflicts in the twentieth century, and the United States reduced its active military forces to only 1.5 million people. But the Cold War between the Soviet Union and the United States, with its war-ravaged allies, soon necessitated American military leadership. By 1950, U.S. services were again engaged in battle. This time they were countering Communist expansion in Korea. In the Korean War, 5.7 million Americans served in the armed forces, and 54,246 were killed. To discourage future Communist aggression, the United States maintained a force of about three million troops throughout the 1950s.

After World War II, the United States began to reduce its emphasis on military manpower and started to stress high-tech armaments. As the U.S. military budget escalated during the next three decades, the number of Americans employed in the armed forces dwindled. Even the war in Vietnam during the late 1960s through 1975 had only a modest effect on troop numbers in comparison to previous conflicts. More importantly, American forces utilized new aircraft, including jet-powered fighters and bombers, which had been developed and tested since the Korean War. As a result, U.S. casualties as a percentage of soldiers engaged in battle declined dramatically. Nevertheless, 58,135 of the 8.7 million soldiers sent to Vietnam were killed.

After the Vietnam War, no major military conflicts confronted U.S. forces through the 1980s. The number of U.S. troops remained steady during the late 1970s and 1980s, at about two million. By this time, U.S. forces had been deployed across the globe. Most of them were strategically positioned to thwart Soviet aggression. Indeed, more than 25 percent of U.S. military personnel lived outside U.S. borders by the 1980s.

Despite stable troop strength during the 1980s, the U.S. military budget continued to balloon. Spending on high-tech armaments and nuclear weaponry pushed annual defense expenditures to a staggering $300 billion annually by the late 1980s. In an effort to foil the Soviet nuclear threat, the United States proposed massive expenditures for its Strategic Defense Initiative (SDI). In the early 1990s, U.N. allies hammered Iraqi ground forces with air strikes. Four days after the commencement of a ground war on February 24, 1991, Iraqi troops fled Kuwait. High-tech weaponry and advanced military training contributed to the lowest casualty rate in U.S. war history. Of 532,000 U.S. forces deployed in the Gulf, only 374 were killed.

The Department of Defense planned to retain military dominance through the development of high-tech weapons. While personnel and nuclear warheads had been reduced, spending on advanced armaments continued at relatively high levels in 1996. The Department of Defense continued the development and testing of new jet fighters, for example, and was also engaged in the creation of new satellite and missile systems.

U.S. service men and women now are well educated and trained. Despite the Department of Defense's increased emphasis on technology, its people remained the centerpiece of the U.S. military machine, and they were becoming even more qualified, as 1996 proved. In contrast to the soldiers in Vietnam, who often suffered from low pay, weak morale, and poor leadership, military personnel in the 1990s more closely reflected the private sector work force. In addition, the armed forces were comprised solely of volunteers, resulting in a highly motivated force.

The move to higher standards began in the early 1980s, when about 65 percent of all incoming military personnel were high school dropouts. Congress boosted military pay and benefits and upped the entry requirements. By the early 1990s, 96 percent of new enlistees had a high school diploma, compared to just 82 percent of entrants into the civilian work force. The number of recruits scoring in the highest categories on the government's aptitude test doubled between 1980 and 1987.

In addition to payroll cutbacks, the Department of Defense was also conducting a significant reduction in its nuclear arsenal. For the first time, the Army and Marines will not control nuclear weapons. The Navy and Air Force will split the arsenal. U.S. nuclear warheads were already being dismantled at a rapid pace in the early 1990s. Although 11,500 warheads remained in stock in 1992, 7,000 nuclear devices had been retired since 1990. Furthermore, the total stockpile is scheduled to be reduced to 6,300 by the late 1990s. As of 1997, no new nuclear warheads had been produced in the United States since 1990.

Notwithstanding such a powerful presence in the world, in October 1999, the U.S. Commission on National Security/21st Century advised the House Armed Services Committee that in the twenty-first century, superiority in size will not insulate U.S. citizens from attack. The Committee warned that increased resentment toward the United States and its overseas involvement may hasten attacks on civilians, at home and abroad. Overseas deployments will become more difficult as alliances with other countries shifts. It also warned that the number of troops will not serve to deter cyber attacks and the use of biotechnology by adversaries.

Current Conditions

By the early 2000s, the issue of national security was garnering significant attention. A number of important developments led the government to ramp up efforts to protect U.S. interests at home and abroad. On September 11, 2001, the worst terrorist attacks in U.S. history took place when hijacked commercial airliners were used to destroy the World Trade Center towers in New York. Other attacks that day involved a hijacked jet that damaged the Pentagon, as well as the crash of another hijacked jet in Pennsylvania. Subsequently, mail tainted with deadly anthrax bacteria was circulated in the U.S. postal system, causing several deaths and forcing the U.S. Postal Service to implement a number of security measures.

Conditions such as these led Congress to create the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS). A number of government agencies were transferred to the DHS, including the United States Coast Guard. Along with the Homeland Security Council, this new government agency created the Homeland Security Advisory System that used five warning levels to communicate perceived terrorism "threat conditions" to the American people. These levels were: Low (green), Guarded (blue), Elevated (yellow), High (orange), and Severe (red). As the potential for an attack increased, state and local law enforcement agencies, as well as National Guard units, were increasingly involved in security efforts coordinated by various federal agencies.

The DHS was only one way the United States addressed a new national security landscape. In addition to the DHS, the U.S. Military was forced to take a different approach in protecting the nation. This was evident in the government's budget document for fiscal year 2004, which cited a passage from the National Security Strategy of the United States of America. Beneath a headline entitled "New Enemies—New Threats," the passage read: "Defending our nation against its enemies is the first and fundamental commitment of the federal government. Today, that task has changed dramatically. Enemies in the past needed great armies and great industrial capabilities to endanger America. Now, shadowy networks of individuals can bring great chaos and suffering to our shores for less than it costs to purchase a single tank."

In March of 2003, the United States embarked upon Operation Iraqi Freedom, an invasion of Iraq that sought to topple the regime of Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein and eliminate "weapons of mass destruction" that Hussein was believed to be stockpiling. The operation involved a vast array of high-tech weaponry in the air and on the ground, included precision-guided bombs that helped to lessen unwanted casualties. It involved the deployment of nearly 424,000 military personnel who worked in tandem with approximately 43,000 coalition forces over the course of 720 hours. During this time, roughly 1,800 aircraft flew 41,400 sorties. While 20 aircraft were destroyed, only seven of these were attributed to enemy fire. Allied forces were ultimately successful in securing the city of Baghdad and removing Hussein from power. However, they were unable to confirm whether or not Hussein had been killed in their assault.

In addition to no evidence of Hussein's demise, the reported stockpiles of chemical and biological weapons that were used as a primary basis for the attacks had yet to materialize as of June 2003. This was a point of criticism from many observers; some argued that oil was the real basis for the U.S.-led attacks. U.S. officials claimed that, given their ease of mobility, the weapons identified by U.S. intelligence had likely been moved to other locations. Therefore, their strategy became one of capturing and interrogating Iraqi officials and citizens who could lead them to weapon sites, as opposed to searching blindly for such sites themselves. In addition to devoting 3,000 troops to the hunt, the Pentagon made $200,000 bounties available for uncovered weapons. Immediate payments of $2,500 also were offered for those with information. These costs were part of what amounted to a very costly operation. According to the May 26, 2003 issue of Newsweek , a brief military analysis of Operation Iraqi Freedom revealed that the war had cost an estimated $917.7 million.

After peaking at nearly 12 million during World War II, total military employment in all areas of the armed forces stood at approximately 2.8 million in 2002. Of that amount, 1.4 million were working for the Department of Defense, and 1.4 million belonged to reserve and guard forces. The defense budget for fiscal year 2002 was $344.4 billion. Moreover, the Department of Defense maintained fixed facilities covering 30 million acres in approximately 140 countries.


As the largest American employer, the U.S. military recently employed about 1.7 percent of the nation's workforce in active duty positions. It is an important source of training for individuals who eventually enter the nation's civilian workforce, and it helps millions of recruits and veterans pay to attend college. More than 2,000 occupational specialties are available for enlisted personnel, along with 1,600 for officers. In addition, more than 75 percent of these occupations have civilian counterparts offering opportunities for trained veterans.

Infantrymen, gun crews, and seamanship specialists are the heart of the armed forces. Combat officers plan and direct military actions and lead troops. Among other jobs, enlisted personnel engage in hand-to-hand combat, drive tanks and other combat equipment, demolish enemy equipment and infrastructure, and serve as aircraft crew members. Combat jobs accounted for about 12 percent of all enlisted personnel and 15 percent of officers in the early 2000s.

Electronic equipment repair personnel maintain avionics, missile, radio, navigation, data processing, telephone, and other equipment. Mechanical equipment repair people work with tanks, personnel carriers, planes, and other machines. Together, electrical and mechanical repair people made up about 25 percent of the armed forces in recent years. Communications and intelligence specialists accounted for 8 percent of military workers. These enlisted personnel often work as air traffic controllers, computer programmers, radar and sonar operators, interpreters and translators, intelligence gatherers, and cryptologists.

About 25 percent of all military jobs were classified as administrative and functional support. This group includes many traditional private sector occupations, such as lawyers, accountants, hospital administrators, chaplains, typists, and storekeepers. Health care specialists and medical officers are another large part of the military, representing approximately 7 percent of active duty forces. This group includes doctors, dentists, veterinarians, optometrists, and other medical professionals and assistants. Other occupational groups include craftsmen, supply handlers, scientists, and numerous technical specialists.

Getting Hired. To qualify as an enlistee, you must be between the ages of 17 and 35 (the Marine Corps only accepts enlistees aged 17 to 24). In addition, you must pass a physical exam and have no felony convictions. Most divisions of the armed forces accept applications only from U.S. citizens with high school diplomas or equivalencies. Enlisted personnel typically sign up for an eight-year stint. At least two years must be served on active duty, the remainder in the reserves.

Most commissioned officer positions require a college degree. There are several routes to obtaining a commission. The best way to become an officer is to graduate from one of the military service academies. Those institutions provide recruits with free education and a monthly stipend, and graduates are practically guaranteed a commission. In return, students typically sign a contract to serve five years or more after graduation.

The most common route to a commission, however, is through the Reserve Officer Training Corps (ROTC) at one of 400 colleges in the United States. For example, the ROTC program at Texas A&M, College Station, has produced more military officers than West Point. ROTC programs also offer free tuition and monthly stipends for qualified students. Enlistees who qualify can leave the military, get a free college education, and return as officers. College graduates who do not participate in ROTC can go through Officer Candidate School (OCS) in any of the six military branches to obtain a commission. Finally, some health professionals may qualify for a direct appointment as an officer.

Minority Opportunities. The policy of the U.S. military is to offer equal opportunity to its members. In the early 2000s, about 34.4 percent of all armed forces personnel were minorities. Specifically, more than 20 percent were black, nearly 8 percent were Hispanic, and more than 6 percent belonged to other minority groups.

Women have also availed themselves of military opportunities. Although there were only 41,500 active duty women in the armed forces in 1970, their numbers had ballooned to almost 200,000 by the early 2000s. Women are eligible to enter about 90 percent of all military specialties. They serve as mechanics, heavy equipment operators, technicians, and intelligence personnel, for example. Although federal law has traditionally barred women from direct combat, the military was skirting that restriction in 1994 by allowing women to fly combat aircraft and serve at sea on Navy ships. Women have challenged the combat restriction, pointing out that combat experience is often a factor in promotions.

The armed forces recruit more than 365,000 officers and enlisted personnel per year to replace those leaving the service or retiring. Educational requirements will continue to rise as the military seeks enlisted personnel with some college training. For those who meet the necessary qualifications, opportunities are expected to remain strong through 2010.

America and the World

The United States spends more money on defense and is better equipped than any other armed force in the world, although some nations, such as China and the former Soviet Union, have larger forces. The United States also has the most geographically diverse military machine.

The Department of Defense began implementing overseas force reductions in the early 1990s. It planned significant withdrawals of European NATO forces, for example, and shifted its focus to the development of a U.S. regional defense system. A principal Department of Defense objective in the 1990s was the development of significant force that could be quickly deployed anywhere in the world.

In June of 2003, the United States and South Korea announced that they had agreed to remove U.S. troops from the Demilitarized Zone (DMZ) that serves as a buffer between North Korea and South Korea. The DOD indicated that some troops would be shifted to an area farther south, while some might return to the United States or see deployment in other nations as part of a "global realignment" strategy. The withdrawal announcement was historic in that it was the first time since the Korean War ended in 1953 that American soldiers would not be stationed near the DMZ.

Research and Technology

Several separate agencies within the Department of Defense serve to develop and promote new military technologies. Through the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency's (DARPA) efforts and expenditures, the United States maintains a significant technological lead in weapons and defense systems. This advantage allowed them to vanquish most of their adversaries since World War II, and to literally dominate, with few casualties, every military conflict since the Vietnam War. When the arms race escalated during the 1980s, America's technological superiority increased as Soviet military investments lagged. By the early 2000s, the United States maintained a lethal arsenal of high-tech weaponry.

Some of the most impressive weapons were utilized in 2003's Operation Iraqi Freedom and in the Persian Gulf War during the 1990s. In fact, General Norman Schwarzkopf once dubbed the latter conflict "the technology war," and some observers hailed it as the transition from the traditional bloody ground war to a new era of combat strategy. For the first time, a warring nation was able to directly attack its adversary's political and military infrastructure from long range with pinpoint accuracy. This tactic essentially guaranteed U.N. air superiority in the Gulf and reduced the probability of a protracted ground war.

High-Tech Weapons. The M-1 Abrams Main Battle Tank is among the Army's most powerful land-based vehicles. Developed at a cost of $20.4 billion, the tank was designed to absorb direct hits from certain armorpiercing shells and is powered by a turbine engine that allows the massive vehicle to cruise at 60 miles per hour. A damper allows the 120 mm cannon to "float" as the tank plows across the terrain so that the operator can fire laser-aimed projectiles with accuracy. Tank operators can wear infrared headgear for night vision, an option also available to some ground forces and pilots.

Another important weapon of the Gulf War was the HARM Air-To-Ground Antiradar Missile. These missiles are designed to lock in on an enemy radar signal and follow the beam to the target. U.S. planes can then enter enemy territory undetected. The Tomahawk Sea-Launched Cruise Missile also proved effective. Originally designed to deliver nuclear warheads to the Soviet Union, the missiles can be retrofitted to carry large conventional payloads to small targets. Designed just in time for the Persian Gulf War, the Patriot Missile utilized state-of-the-art homing and propulsion technology to chase and destroy enemy missiles in the air.

The Gulf War also gave U.S. forces an opportunity to test the AW-64 Apache Attack Helicopter. This jetpowered contraption is capable of cruising through battlefields at high speeds and simultaneously launching a barrage of cannon fire, rockets, and laser-guided missiles in multiple directions. The Apache's fatal Hellfire missile system allows a pilot to unleash an armor piercing missile that is aimed and guided by a soldier on the ground, thus allowing the Apache pilot to seek other targets. Similarly, the F-117A Stealth Fighter, allows pilots to enter enemy territory and deliver its bombs before being detected on radar.

In addition to its high-tech weaponry, some of the most advanced U.S. defense devices include high-flying planes and satellite systems that gather intelligence and help ground forces communicate. Advanced military imaging satellites, for example, are capable of reading a car's license plate from space. The armed forces' early warning satellite systems detect launched missiles and relay their flight patterns to observers on the ground. Importantly, the Airborne Warning & Control System (AWACS) is used to monitor and control air battles from a plane in the air.

Further Reading

Barry, John. "War Costs: How Much? Well, How High Can You Count?" Newsweek, 26 May, 2003.

Barry, John, and Evan Thomas. "Not Your Father's Army." Newsweek, 22 November 1999.

DOD at a Glance, 8 June 2003. Available from .

Executive Office of the President of the United States. Budget of the United States Government, Fiscal Year 2004, 8 June 2003. Available from .

Federal Government Budget by Agency, 1999. Available from .

Garamone, Jim. "Rumsfeld Lists Operation Iraqi Freedom Aims, Objectives." Armed Forces Information Service. 21 March 2003. Available from .

Gibbs, Nancy. "Unfinished Business: America's War With Iraq Won't Be Complete Until U.S. Forces Can Resolve Three Key Questions." Time, 28 April 2003.

"Panel Warns Military Could Be Inadequate." Army Times, 25 October 1999.

U.S. Department of Homeland Security. "DHS Organization," 16 May 2003. Available from .

U.S. Department of Labor. Occupational Outlook Handbook, 1998-1999 Edition. Available from .

——. Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2002-2003 Edition, 2003. Available from .

"U.S. Troops to Exit Korea DMZ.", 5 June 2003. Available from .

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