The U.S. Military’s Force Structure: A Primer, 2021 Update

This CBO guide to the structure of the U.S. military describes the size, functions, and operation and support costs of every major element of the armed forces.
The primer contains entries that describe the size, costs, and functions of every major element of the military’s force structure. Those elements include the major combat units that form the traditional backbone of the armed forces, such as armored brigades, aircraft carrier strike groups, and tactical aircraft squadrons. They also include specialized organizations that provide specific capabilities to DoD, such as special-operations forces and missile defense.

The primer is organized as follows:

  • Chapter 1 describes CBO’s conceptual approach to analyzing the military’s force structure and costs.
  • Chapter 2 discusses the Department of the Army, with descriptions of each type of brigade combat team.
  • Chapter 3 discusses the Department of the Navy, with descriptions of major types of ships and Marine Corps units.
  • Chapter 4 discusses the Department of the Air Force, with descriptions of major types of aircraft squadrons and the new Space Force.
  • Chapter 5 describes some major defense-wide organizations, such as Special Operations Command and the military’s health care system.

Each chapter also focuses on special topics that are important for understanding the military’s force structure, such as the integration of different types of units or the military’s ability to conduct certain kinds of operations.

The primer is designed to be a reference work with discrete entries that do not need to be read in sequence. After reading the overview of CBO’s approach in Chapter 1, someone interested in, for example, the structure of the Air Force or the cost of the Army’s infantry brigade combat teams can turn to the relevant section.   Purchase on Amazon