What is the United States Department of Defense?
The United States Department of Defense (DOD, sometimes written as DoD) is the federal department responsible for coordinating and supervising all agencies and functions of the government relating directly to national security and the military. The organization and functions of the Department of Defense are outlined in Title 10 of the United States Code.
The Department of Defense (DoD) is an executive branch department of the United States government responsible for coordinating and supervising all agencies and functions of the government relating directly to national security and the armed forces. Its primary mission is to protect and defend the United States and its interests.
The DOD plays a crucial role in the United States national security. It is responsible for three main priorities:
- Maintaining military readiness
- Deterring potential adversaries
- Defending the nation against external threats
Also, the department supports civil authorities in domestic disaster response. In addition, it provides humanitarian assistance in times of crisis.
When was it established?
The Department of Defense was established on September 18, 1947. It is headquartered at the Pentagon in Arlington, Virginia. It is led by the Secretary of Defense, a civilian appointed by the President and confirmed by the Senate. The Secretary of Defense is responsible for formulating defense policy, overseeing military operations, and managing the various military departments and agencies.
The DoD has several major components, including the military departments: the Army, Navy, Air Force, and Marine Corps. Each military department is headed by a civilian Secretary who reports to the Secretary of Defense. These departments are responsible for their respective military services’ recruitment, training, equipping, and readiness.
In addition to the military departments, the DoD includes several defense agencies and combatant commands. Defense agencies, such as the Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA) and the Defense Logistics Agency (DLA), provide specialized services and support to the military. Combatant commands, such as the U.S. Central Command (CENTCOM) and U.S. European Command (EUCOM), have geographic or functional responsibilities for military operations in specific world regions.
The DoD collaborates closely with intelligence agencies, international partners, and other government departments to ensure effective defense and security strategies. It conducts research and development to advance military capabilities and technologies and engages in diplomatic efforts to promote peace and stability.
Budget and Funding
The DoD has a budget that is one of the largest in the federal government. The budget accounts for a significant portion of the overall federal discretionary spending. The budget allocates funds for:
- Department personnel
- Operations, and facility maintenance
- Research and development (R&D)
- Procurement of equipment and weapons systems
- Other defense-related activities.
Overall, the Department of Defense is a vital institution that safeguards the nation and its interests, ensuring the security of the United States at home and abroad.
Among the many Department of Defense agencies are:
- The Missile Defense Agency
- The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA)
- The Pentagon Force Protection Agency (PFPA)
- The Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA)
- The National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency (NGA)
- The National Security Agency (NSA)
The department operates several joint service schools and training academies, including the National War College. For example, the following are military training academies sponsored by the DOD:
- Air Force Academy (Colorado Springs, Colorado)
- Coast Guard Academy (New London, Connecticut)
- Merchant Marine Academy (Kings Point, N.Y.)
- Military Academy (West Point, N.Y.) – Provides education and training for the U.S. Army.
- Naval Academy (Annapolis, Maryland) – The undergraduate college of the United States Navy that trains men and women to become professional Navy officers.
The Pentagon: The United States Department of Defense Headquarters
The Pentagon is the headquarters of the United States Department of Defense and is located in Arlington, Virginia. “The Pentagon” refers to the Department of Defense rather than the building itself.
American architect George Bergstrom (1876 – 1955) designed the building. John McShain, a Philadelphia general contractor, built the facility. Construction began on September 11, 1941. The finished Pentagon facility was dedicated on January 15, 1943.
The Department of Defense is the primary tenant of The Pentagon building near Washington, D.C., and has three major components: The Department of the Army, The Department of the Navy, and the Department of the Air Force.
The Pentagon Reservation
The Pentagon Reservation is located in southeastern Arlington County, Virginia. It is between a large man-made lagoon (the Lagoon, formed during construction) and the southeastern corner of Arlington National Cemetery. The northeastern and eastern facades have unobstructed views of the Monumental Core of the Nation’s Capital across the Potomac River.
Also, The Pentagon’s relatively low profile permits clear vistas of Washington from the highlands of Arlington National Cemetery. The Pentagon is the world’s largest office building by floor area. In fact, it has about 6,500,000 square feet, of which 3,700,000 square feet is office space. In comparison, the Pentagon building is twice the size of the Merchandise Mart in Chicago, Illinois. Also, it has three times the floor space of the Empire State Building in New York.
The U.S. National Capitol could fit into any of the building’s five wedge-shaped sections. Approximately 23,000 military and civilian employees and about 3,000 non-defense support personnel work in the Pentagon. The Pentagon has five sides. Five of the floors are above ground (plus two basement levels below ground), and five ring corridors per floor with 17.5 miles of corridors.
The building includes a five-acre central plaza, which is shaped like a pentagon. The central plaza is informally known as “ground zero,” a nickname originating during the Cold War and based on the presumption that the Soviet Union would target one or more nuclear missiles at this central location in the outbreak of a nuclear war.
The Pentagon Official Website – Provides information on the Pentagon, the history of the Pentagon, Pentagon tour booking information, facts and figures, and more.
To learn more, visit the official Department of Defense website. The website includes the latest news and issues the department is dealing with. Provides a list of all DOD sites and other resources.
Learn about other government intelligence agencies.