The Online Encyclopedia and Dictionary






United States Department of Defense

Dept. of Defense

Seal of the Department of Defense

Established: July 26, 1947
Activated: September 18, 1947
Renamed: August 10, 1949
Secretary: Donald Rumsfeld
Deputy Secretary: Paul Wolfowitz
Budget: $375.2 billion (2004)
Employees: 700,000 civilian
2.3 million military (2004)

The United States Department of Defense, abbreviated DoD or DOD and sometimes called the Defense Department, is a civilian Cabinet organization of the United States government. The Department of Defense controls the U.S. military and is headquartered at The Pentagon. It is headed by the Secretary of Defense, who is currently Donald Rumsfeld.



Proposals to coordinate the activities of the military services were initially considered by U.S. Congress in 1944. Specific plans were put forth in 1945 by the Army, the Navy, and the Joint Chiefs of Staff. In a special message to U.S. Congress on December 19, 1945, President Harry Truman proposed creation of a unified Department of National Defense. A proposal reached Congress in April 1946, but was held up by the Naval Affairs Committee held hearings in July 1946 due to objections to the concentration of power in a single department. Truman eventually sent new legislation to Congress in February 1947, where it was debated and amended for several months.

On July 26, 1947, Truman signed the National Security Act of 1947, which set up the National Military Establishment to begin operations on September 18, 1947, the day after the confirmation of James V. Forrestal as the first Secretary of Defense. The Establishment had the unfortunate abbreviation 'NME' (the obvious pronunciation being "enemy"), and was renamed to the "Department of Defense" on August 10, 1949; in addition, the secretary was given greater authority over the military departments of the Army, Navy, and Air Force.

The Department of Defense is based in The Pentagon in Arlington County, Virginia outside Washington, DC, across the Potomac River. It was created by combining the War Department (founded in 1789) with the Navy Department (founded in 1798; formerly the Board of Admiralty, founded in 1780), and the newly created Department of the Air Force. The department was formed in order to reduce interservice rivalry which was believed to have reduced military effectiveness during World War II.

It includes Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines, as well as non-combat agencies such as the National Security Agency and the Defense Intelligence Agency.

In wartime, the Department of Defense also has authority over the Coast Guard; in peacetime, that agency is under the control of the Department of Homeland Security. Prior to the creation of DHS, the Coast Guard was under the control of the Department of Transportation. The Coast Guard has not been formally militarized since World War II, although it has participated in various military and law enforcement operations over the years.

The DoD's annual budget is roughly $375 billion (~$1,300 per capita), which does not include billions more in supplemental expenditures allotted by Congress throughout the year.

The command structure of the Department of Defense is defined by the Goldwater-Nichols Act of 1986. Under the act, the chain of command runs from the President of the United States, through the Secretary of Defense, to the regional commanders within one of several commands who command all military forces within their area of operation. The Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and the several Chiefs of Staff are responsible for readiness of the U.S. military and serve as the President's military advisers, but are not in the chain of command. The Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff is by law the highest ranking military officer in the United States.

On February 22, 2002, the Department of Defense Office of the Inspector General has reported that DOD has not and will not account for $1.1 trillion of "undocumentable adjustments."

As part of the September 11, 2001 attacks, terrorists crashed a plane into one of the sections of The Pentagon, causing part of it to collapse, killing 189 people.


  • Department of Defense Field Activities
    • American Forces Information Service
    • Defense Prisoner of War/Missing Personnel Office
    • Department of Defense Education Activity
    • DoD Human Resources Activity
    • Office of Economic Adjustment
    • Tricare Management Activity
    • Washington Headquarters Services

In 2003, the National Communications System was moved to the United States Department of Homeland Security.


The DoD sponsored the research and development of the modern computer and through DARPA subsidized the creation of the Internet. It maintains the global positioning system (GPS). Each of these technologies was made available to the public worldwide at no charge.

The DoD commissioned the design of the Ada programming language.

Related legislation

  • 1947 - National Security Act of 1947
  • 1958 - Department of Defense Reorganization Act PL 85-899
  • 1963 - Department of Defense Appropriations Act PL 88-149
  • 1963 - Military Construction Authorization Act PL 88-174
  • 1967 - Supplemental Defense Appropriations Act PL 90-8
  • 1984 - Department of Defense Authorization Act PL 98-525
  • 1986 - Goldwater-Nichols Act of 1986 or Department of Defense Reorganization Act PL 99-433
  • 1996 - Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act PL 104-132

See also

External links

  • United States Department of Defense website
  • DOD's missing $1.1 trillion

Last updated: 02-04-2005 17:36:24
Last updated: 05-02-2005 12:32:00