Each year, the Department of Defense (DoD) releases a rundown of what the United States’ fighting force looks like through their Profile of the Military Community report. It is the most extensive report of the year on the services’ demographics, and includes active duty, Guard and Reserve numbers.
As of 2016, the active duty force, which includes the four service branches and Coast Guard active duty, is over 1.3 million. When Guard and Reserve forces are added, DoD’s military personnel stands at over 2.4 million. For comparison, the U.S. population was about 324 million in 2016; so those that serve our country in uniform are less than one percent of the total population (0.7 percent to be exact).
Overall, the force is about six percent smaller in 2016 than it was in 2000. While the report doesn’t go into why this may be, DoD has been concerned about this decline for a while (check out this New York Times piece from 2005!). However, the recent National Defense Authorization Act included funding for more troop members from every branch (read more about the NDAA here). Time will tell whether the increase included in the NDAA will reverse this decline, but it will be something IAVA continues to monitor.
In terms of what the armed forces look like, it’s mostly young, a lot of Army, and a growing proportion of women. The Army has the most service members across all branches for active duty, Guard, and Reserve. For age, over half of active duty enlisted service members are 25 or younger, with the overall age of the force (enlisted and officers) at 28.5 years old.
And women are growing in numbers across all services; in the active duty force, they make up 16 percent of the force with over 204,000 serving. In the Guard and Reserve, women make up 19 percent of the force, numbering 158,000. That’s over 360,000 women currently serving in uniform.
Service Women and #SWBTB
Today’s service women are tomorrow’s women veterans. Ensuring that the service and sacrifices of women veterans are recognized is the cornerstone of IAVA’s #SheWhoBorneTheBattleCampaign. And for good reason; in our latest Member Survey, only 27 percent of IAVA’s women veterans felt that the general public treats women veterans with respect. As women continue to grow in numbers both as servicewomen and veterans, it is more important than ever that their service is recognized and respected.
Find our more about our #SheWhoBorneTheBattle campaign here and check out our full Member Survey here. And you can find the Department of Defense’s full 2016 Demographics Report: Profile of the Military Community here.