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.
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".
Somewhat earlier, in medieval China, gunpowder had been invented, and was increasingly used by the military in combat. The use of gunpowder in the early vase-like mortars in Europe, and advanced versions of the long bow and cross bow, which all had armour-piercing arrowheads, that put an end to the dominance of the armoured knight. After the long bow, which required great skill and strength to use, the next most significant technological advance was the musket, which could be used effectively, with little training. In time, the successors to muskets and cannon, in the form of rifles and artillery, would become core battlefield technology.
Each service has a uniformed head who is considered the highest-ranking officer within their respective service, with the exception of the chairman and vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and the chief of the National Guard Bureau. They are responsible for ensuring personnel readiness, policy, planning and training and equipping their respective military services for the combatant commanders to utilize. They also serve as senior military advisors to the President, the Secretary of Defense, their respective service secretaries, as well as other councils they may be called to serve on. They are as follows:
The United States has the world's largest military budget. In the fiscal year 2016, $580.3 billion in funding were enacted for the DoD and for "Overseas Contingency Operations" in the War on Terrorism. Outside of direct DoD spending, the United States spends another $218 to $262 billion each year on other defense-related programs, such as Veterans Affairs, Homeland Security, nuclear weapons maintenance and DoD.
The President of the United States is the Commander in Chief, who is responsible for all final decisions. The Secretary of the Department of Defense (DoD) has control over the military and each branch - except the Coast Guard, which is under the Dept. of Homeland Security. With over 2 million civilian and military employees, the DoD is the world's largest "company."
Each of the five services employs a single Senior Enlisted Advisor at departmental level. This individual is the highest ranking enlisted member within that respective service and functions as the chief advisor to the service secretary, service chief and Congress on matters concerning the enlisted force. These individuals carry responsibilities and protocol requirements equivalent to three-star general or flag officers. They are as follows:
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.
As an adjective, military originally referred only to soldiers and soldiering, but it soon broadened to apply to land forces in general, and anything to do with their profession. The names of both the Royal Military Academy (1741) and United States Military Academy (1802) reflect this. However, at about the time of the Napoleonic Wars, 'military' began to be used in reference to armed forces as a whole, and in the 21st century expressions like 'military service', 'military intelligence', and 'military history' encompass naval and air force aspects. As such, it now connotes any activity performed by armed force personnel.
Battlefield commission: under certain conditions, enlisted personnel who have skills that separate them from their peers can become officers by direct commissioning of a commander so authorized to grant them. This type of commission is rarely granted and is reserved only for the most exceptional enlisted personnel; it is done on an ad hoc basis, typically only in wartime. No direct battlefield commissions have been awarded since the Vietnam War. The Navy and Air Force do not employ this commissioning path.
Although concerned with research into military psychology, and particularly combat stress, and how it affect troop morale, often the bulk of military science activities is directed at military intelligence technology, military communications, and improving military capability through research. The design, development, and prototyping of weapons, military support equipment, and military technology in general, is also an area in which lots of effort is invested – it includes everything from global communication networks and aircraft carriers to paint and food.
An important part of the military intelligence role is the military analysis performed to assess military capability of potential future aggressors, and provide combat modelling that helps to understand factors on which comparison of forces can be made. This helps to quantify and qualify such statements as: "China and India maintain the largest armed forces in the World" or that "the U.S. Military is considered to be the world's strongest".
This continued in the 19th century, with publications like Punch in the British Empire and Le Père Duchesne in France, poking fun at the military establishment. This extended to media other print also. An enduring example is the Major-General's Song from the Gilbert and Sullivan light opera, The Pirates of Penzance, where a senior army officer is satirised for his enormous fund of irrelevant knowledge.
Personnel may be recruited or conscripted, depending on the system chosen by the state. Most military personnel are males; the minority proportion of female personnel varyies internationally (approximately 3% in India, 10% in the UK, 13% in Sweden, 16% in the US, and 27% in South Africa). While two-thirds of states now recruit or conscript only adults, as of 2017 50 states still relied partly on children under the age of 18 (usually aged 16 or 17) to staff their armed forces.