Introduction to US Armed Forces

In the United States, the Pentagon is the de facto chief department of the  US Armed Forces. In other nations, this may be referred to as the head department, head quarters, home office or main base of command for a nations military. The exact title given to the Pentagon is not really relevant at the moment, what is relevant is that The Pentagon is in charge of the 3 branches of the US Armed Forces and its Armed Forces Intelligence Services such a DISA, DIA, DLA, MDA, NGA, NRO, CIA and NSA.

In the United States we use the word Chief to indicate a leader of a group or organization because of our Native American Heritage. So the President of the United States is called the Commander and Chief of the US Armed Forces and the Pentagon would also be called the Chief Department of the US Armed Forces. The word chief can be replaced or substituted for a different word meaning leader or main if that makes it easier to understand the US Armed Forces structure but the fact remains that Pentagon is in charge of all 3 Branches of the Military and its Armed Forces Intelligence Services.

The Pentagon is also called the Department of Defense, or DoD for short. The preferred name is The Pentagon, because it is a symbol of the USA’s resilience and determination to prevail as a nation. The Pentagon was the name of the building that Department of Defense used as a head quarters or chief office before 9/11, People used the word as in “I’m heading to The Pentagon”. After 9/11 it came to symbolize both the leadership of the Department of Defense and the actual building. The word started being used exclusively as a metonym for Senior Leadership at Department of Defense, such as “these orders are coming from The Pentagon”.

The Pentagon is run by the Secretary of Defense and is usually the Acting Chief Armed Forces Commander for the United States. The Secretary of Defense is in charge of The Pentagon and 2nd in Command for the US Armed Forces. While the President of the United States is The Commander and Chief of the US Armed Forces, the duties are generally deferred to the Secretary of Defense, especially when the a new President is beginning their term and undergoing training.

There are three agencies that interface between the US Armed Forces and Civilian Federal Agencies and Civilian Law Enforcement. They are the White House National Security Council, the Office of the Director of National Intelligence, and the Joint Chiefs of Staff. The White House National Security Council allows the Director of National Intelligence and Joint Chiefs of Staff to interface with each other in our National Palace  which is the White House. The Director National Intelligence is a Civilian Role whereas the Joint Chiefs of Staff is an Armed Forces Role. The White House is then used to discuss issues where the correct jurisdiction is unclear, exchange information on situations that are being handled by the incorrect agency or armed forces department, and to make ethical decisions based on established agreements and treaties regarding threats to the US that are operating in an undefined or non-legislated “gray area”.

Introduction to US Civilian Defense Forces

Civilian Federal Agencies include the EPA, CDC, NIH, HHS, USGS, NPS, NOAA, DOT, DOE, USDA, FDA, FCC, FTC, USPS, DOC, SEC, FAA, DOI, NARA, LOC, BIA, BLM, USCIS, US CERT, HUD, DOL, FDIC, NCUA, FEMA, NSF, OPM, PCLOB, SBA, SSA, TSA. These are some of the main civilian agencies in the US Federal Government A to Z list. While some of them are under Homeland Security, none of them carry guns during their day to day course of business and mostly deal with administrative paperwork, lawsuits and fines violations of the US Code code occur. They may occasionally may turn over evidence to the FBI or call law enforcement when a serious crime occurs such as murder, racketeering or extortion through one of the industries they have oversight over but generally stick to lawsuits and fines as a policy for day to day business. None of these agencies would be “called upon” to function in the capacity of a Civilian Defense Force with the exception of CDC and EPA during a biological or chemical attack.

The agencies are considered Federal Law Enforcement due to semantics in enforcing the US Code but they are not what most people think of when they think of law enforcement. These are mostly passive agencies that are waiting for reports and complaints to arrive and spend most of their managing civilian resources such as housing, transportation, jobs, food, water quality and outdoor activities for humans. When a report or complaint comes in, they do conduct an inspection and review the US Code to see if a violation has occurred, if so, the most common resolution is to issue a fine. They also review the State Legislative Code for similar violations and then decide if they will file a lawsuit in Federal or State court to get the violator to correct their violations through a court order.

When thinking of Civilian Defense Forces (CDF), in addition to the armed civilians that are US Citizens and have a human right to own, acquire, maintain and carry weapons because it is part of their Nation’s Constitutional Right; The US has Law Enforcement and the National Guard that would be considered Civilian Defense Forces. The National Guard Mainly works on constructing roads and building civilian infrastructure as well as providing some support to border issues. They do occasionally get deployed  to foreign nations and there has been discussions about transferring National Guard members to the regular Army, Navy or Air Force if there is a need to deploy them to foreign nations. In addition to the National Guard, which at the moment includes Air Guard and Coast Guard there are civilian law enforcement that would function as a CDF. These Civilian Law Enforcement Agencies would consist of HSI, FBI, USTE, DEA, ATF, USM, LAPD, NYPD, Sheriffs and State Police. Realistically, gun toting civilians would not randomly go out and engage in conflict with foreign invaders. They would contact law enforcement, FBI and Congress first and would only fire their weapon at someone in self defense, if they were attacked first because that is the guideline from law enforcement for avoiding going to prison if you are a US Citizen and regularly carry a gun.

The National Guard is also going through transitions and restructuring because Sr. Policy Makers and Armed Forces advisors want to maintain the National Guard as a civilian defense force. National Guard is part of the US Army, and US Coast Guard is technically part of US Army since it is part of National Guard, as well as the US Navy and Homeland Security. The Air National Guard is defined as a Federal Military Reserves because it didn’t make sense to make them part of the US Army and US Coast Guard was transitioning to being Homeland Security Federal Waterways Police. So this transition is a work in progress and has been put on hold while Geneva Conventions and IHL are studied further before making the final adjustments. In a scenario where the Air Guard is a CDF, they would mostly be used to escort planes away from buildings, monuments and historical landmarks if a plane were to get hi-jacked again in US Airspace.

Documents for Lawful Armed Forces Combat

US Navy

  • The Commanders Handbook on the Law of Naval Operations (2007)
    Handbook is effective upon receipt. Do not download without reading Geneva Conventions at minimum.
    Homeland Security was formed in 2003 after the 9/11 attacks on the US.
    As of 2020, Coast Guard is predominantly functional as Federal Territorial Waters Police.

US Air Force

US Army


UK Manual of the Law of Armed Conflict

  • Web Portal on JSP 383 (LOAC)
    Last updated in 2014. This is the “UK Version” of the Pentagon War Manual and should be compliant with Geneva Conventions at a minimum. Mentioned in rule 57 of IHL.

IHL References/Sources

  • Treaties
    It is ideal to know the full text of every active and in force treaty but not realistic. Focus on Geneva Conventions and Hague to start along with your nations military manual.
  • Military Manual
    IHL List of Manuals. No Links included, only titles and publication years.


Armed Conflict appears to center around Geneva Conventions and IHL with the ICC being the international court for military criminals. Within the US, each branch of service uses its own court system and there are talks of creating a Pentagon Court to issue final verdicts on exhuast of all appeals and to issue guidance on new and emerging Armed Forces Legislation. To use an analogy, it would be like the Supreme Court for the Armed Forces and it would called Pentagon Court.

Attorneys that work at Pentagon Court or the lower courts on a day to day basis would be able to go before the ICC to request prosecution of war criminals and to request trials for US Armed Forces soldiers captured by foreign nations.