Command over the U.S. Armed Forces is established in the Constitution. The sole power of command is vested in the President by Article II as Commander-in-Chief. The Constitution presumes the existence of "executive Departments" headed by "principal officers", whose appointment mechanism is provided for in the Appointments Clause. This allowance in the Constitution formed the basis for creation of the Department of Defense in 1947 by the National Security Act. The DoD is headed by the Secretary of Defense, who is a civilian and member of the Cabinet. The Defense Secretary is second in the U.S. Armed Forces chain of command, with the exception of the Coast Guard, which is under the Secretary of Homeland Security, and is just below the President and serves as the principal assistant to the President in all defense-related matters. Together, the President and the Secretary of Defense comprise the National Command Authority, which by law is the ultimate lawful source of military orders.
The Armed Services Vocational Aptitude Battery (ASVAB) is a comprehensive test that helps determine students’ eligibility and suitability for careers in the military. Students who score in the 31st percentile are eligible for a wide variety of careers (combined with standards such as physical condition and personal conduct). Students and schools are also encouraged to take advantage of a free career exploration program that links personal interests with demonstrated aptitudes from the 9 ASVAB subtests, half of which relate to vocational skills, in addition to math and verbal skills.
As in most militaries, members of the U.S. Armed Forces hold a rank, either that of officer, warrant officer or enlisted, to determine seniority and eligibility for promotion. Those who have served are known as veterans. Rank names may be different between services, but they are matched to each other by their corresponding paygrade. Officers who hold the same rank or paygrade are distinguished by their date of rank to determine seniority, while officers who serve in certain positions of office of importance set by law, outrank all other officers in active duty of the same rank and paygrade, regardless of their date of rank. In 2012, it was reported that only one in four persons in the United States of the proper age meet the moral, academic and physical standards for military service.
The Armed Forces Qualification Test (AFQT) is used by all of the Services to determine if an applicant is eligible for the military. Four of the ASVAB subtests are combined to form the AFQT. It measures general cognitive ability and is composed of verbal and mathematics subtests. AFQT scores are grouped into categories for reporting purposes. The table below shows the AFQT categories and the percentile score ranges corresponding to the categories. Applicants that score in AFQT category IIIA or higher may qualify for enlistment incentives.