The primary reason for the existence of the military is to engage in combat, should it be required to do so by the national defence policy, and to win. This represents an organisational goal of any military, and the primary focus for military thought through military history. How victory is achieved, and what shape it assumes, is studied by most, if not all, military groups on three levels.
While capability development is about enabling the military to perform its functions and roles in executing the defence policy, how personnel and their equipment are used in engaging the enemy, winning battles, successfully concluding campaigns, and eventually the war – is the responsibility of military operations. Military operations oversees the policy interpretation into military plans, allocation of capability to specific strategic, operational and tactical goals and objectives, change in posture of the armed forces, the interaction of Combat Arms, Combat Support Arms, and Combat Support Services during combat operations, defining of military missions and tasks during the conduct of combat, management of military prisoners and military civil affairs, and the military occupation of enemy territory, seizure of captured equipment, and maintenance of civil order in the territory under its responsibility. Throughout the combat operations process, and during the lulls in combat, combat military intelligence provides reporting on the status of plan completion, and its correlation with desired, expected and achieved satisfaction of policy fulfilment.
The military organization is characterized by a strict hierarchy divided by military rank, with ranks normally grouped (in descending order of authority) as officers (e.g. Colonel), non-commissioned officers (e.g. Sergeant), and personnel at the lowest rank (e.g. Private Soldier). While senior officers make strategic decisions, subordinated military personnel (soldiers, sailors, marines, or airmen) fulfil them. Although rank titles vary by military branch and country, the rank hierarchy is common to all state armed forces worldwide.
After World War II, with the onset of the Cold War, the constant technological development of new weapons was institutionalised, as participants engaged in a constant 'arms race' in capability development. This constant state of weapons development continues into the present, and remains a constant drain on national resources, which some[who?] blame on the military-industrial complex.
In broad usage, the terms "armed forces" and "military" are often treated as synonymous, although in technical usage a distinction is sometimes made in which a country's armed forces may include both its military and other paramilitary forces. Armed force is the use of armed forces to achieve political objectives. There are various forms of irregular military forces, not belonging to a recognized state; though they share many attributes with regular military forces, they are less often referred to as simply "military".
Having military intelligence representatives participate in the execution of the national defence policy is important, because it becomes the first respondent and commentator on the policy expected strategic goal, compared to the realities of identified threats. When the intelligence reporting is compared to the policy, it becomes possible for the national leadership to consider allocating resources over and above the officers and their subordinates military pay, and the expense of maintaining military facilities and military support services for them.
The academy, now celebrating its 75th year of service to the nation, reduced the entering-class size from 350 midshipmen per year to some 270 years ago. The infrastructure is there to support larger classes (but not the budget), making this revitalization of the student body an obvious first step. An increase in class size would assure the nation of additional committed Merchant Marine officers available to man any vessels that the U.S. might need to utilize in a national emergency. As investments in national security go, this one is inexpensive.
As in most militaries, members of the U.S. Armed Forces hold a rank, either that of officer, warrant officer or enlisted, to determine seniority and eligibility for promotion. Those who have served are known as veterans. Rank names may be different between services, but they are matched to each other by their corresponding paygrade. Officers who hold the same rank or paygrade are distinguished by their date of rank to determine seniority, while officers who serve in certain positions of office of importance set by law, outrank all other officers in active duty of the same rank and paygrade, regardless of their date of rank. In 2012, it was reported that only one in four persons in the United States of the proper age meet the moral, academic and physical standards for military service.
After World War II, demobilization led to the vast majority of serving women being returned to civilian life. Law 625, The Women's Armed Services Act of 1948, was signed by President Truman, allowing women to serve in the U.S. Armed Forces in fully integrated units during peace time, with only the WAC remaining a separate female unit. During the Korean War of 1950–1953, many women served in the Mobile Army Surgical Hospitals, with women serving in Korea numbering 120,000[dubious – discuss]during the conflict. During the Vietnam War, 600 women served in the country as part of the Air Force, along with 500 members of the WAC and over 6,000 medical personnel and support staff. The Ordnance Corps began accepting female missile technicians in 1974 and female crewmembers and officers were accepted into Field Artillery missile units.