Department of Defense, Protecting America Since 1775
Abraham Lincoln once said, “A house divided against itself cannot stand.” Perhaps the branches of the armed forces were never divided against each other, but in the beginning they lacked a common leader and a common goal, making it hard to sufficiently protect our country. With the creation of a single department (that would soon become the Department of Defense) to serve as the head of the armed forces, they were able to band together with one goal and since then, provide protection for the United States from its inception.
A Timeline of Events
The Department of Defense has had a long and successful history, dating all the way back to the American Revolution. Below is a timeline of some major events in the history of the Department of Defense.
- 1775: The Revolutionary War begins, creating the need for an American armed forces. The first three branches of the military are created: the Army, the Navy, and the Marine Corps.
- 1789: The War Department is created. The War Department is an agency, organized under President George Washington and run by civilians, that oversees the administration procedures of the armed forces.
- 1790: The Coast Guard is established, making it the fourth branch of the United States Armed Forces.
- 1898: At the start of the Civil War, the responsibilities of the War Department expand, and it takes charge of recruiting and training new soldiers and providing medical care, general supplies, transportation, and compensation for the armed forces.
- 1947: The Air Force is created, becoming the fifth and final branch of the American military. In addition to the creation of the Air Force, the War Department is renamed and becomes the National Military Establishment. For the first time in the history of the armed forces, control of the Army, Navy, and Air Force goes to the Secretary of Defense.
- 1949: Harry Truman signs the National Security Act Amendment of 1949, the Department of Defense becomes the new name of the National Military Establishment. Under the Department of Defense, all five branches of the military are united under control of the Secretary of Defense. The National Security Act Amendment of 1949 redesigns the channels of authority within the armed forces for maximum communication and protection.
The Mission of the Department of Defense
The Department of Defense has three main missions. The first is to organize the United States military so that it can best provide the forces necessary to protect the United States. The second is to provide “official, timely, and accurate information about defense policies, organizations, functions, and operations” to military members, their families, and the American general population.
The Department of Defense Today
The Department of Defense is headed by Secretary of Defense Ashton Baldwin Carter, who was appointed to office by President Barack Obama in 2015. Prior to his appointment as Secretary of Defense, Carter was a professor of science and international affairs at Harvard University.
The Pentagon, located in Washington D.C., is the home of the Department of Defense. Built during World War II, the pentagon is one of the largest office buildings in the world, with three times more square footage than the Empire State Building and over 17 miles of halls and corridors. In addition to being one of the largest office buildings, the Pentagon is one of the most energy efficient and environmentally efficient office buildings in the world.
According to the Department of Defense, there are currently 1.3 million men and women on active duty in all five branches of the military. In addition to the troops serving in the armed forces, the Department of Defense employs 742,000 civilians, making the department the largest employer in the nation.