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.
In broad usage, the terms "armed forces" and "military" are often treated as synonymous, although in technical usage a distinction is sometimes made in which a country's armed forces may include both its military and other paramilitary forces. Armed force is the use of armed forces to achieve political objectives. There are various forms of irregular military forces, not belonging to a recognized state; though they share many attributes with regular military forces, they are less often referred to as simply "military".
For almost a century, the U.S. military has been a pioneer in the field of using aptitude tests to evaluate an individual’s potential for service. The organization also uses the test to determine aptitude for various military occupational specialties (MOS). The use of aptitude tests began during World War I. While the group-administered Army Alpha test measured verbal and numerical ability as well as general knowledge, the Army Beta test was used to evaluate illiterate, unschooled and non-English speaking volunteers and draftees. The Army and Navy General Classifications Tests replaced the Alpha and Beta tests as a means to measure cognitive ability during World War II. The results of these tests, as well as additional classification exams, were used to assign recruits to a particular MOS.
In the 2000s, women can serve on U.S. combat ships, including in command roles. They are permitted to serve on submarines. Women can fly military aircraft and make up 2% of all pilots in the U.S. Military. In 2003, Major Kim Campbell was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross for landing her combat damaged A-10 Thunderbolt II with no hydraulic control and only one functional engine after being struck by hostile fire over Baghdad.