What are the “Armed Forces” under American law?

For those wondering if the U.S. Armed Forces consist only of the Army, Navy, Air Force, and Marine Corps, here’s the definitive answer:

The term “armed forces” means the Army, Navy, Air Force, Marine Corps, and Coast Guard.

The Coast Guard as established January 28, 1915, shall be a military service and a branch of the armed forces of the United States at all times. The Coast Guard shall be a service in the Department of Homeland Security, except when operating as a service in the Navy.

One objection I saw went like this:

Again, I said he [Admiral Allen] is not in the MILITARY…
Quoting the US Code

The term “military departments” means the Department of the Army, the Department of the Navy, and the Department of the Air Force.

Khun Joe on June 11, 2010 at 4:08 PM

Khun Joe misunderstands the categories he’s quoting. Members of the Armed Forces are military, whether they’re serving in one of the Military Departments or not. Hopefully this Venn diagram will help:
Venn diagram of the U.S. Armed Forces
I won’t use the IANAL disclaimer; I’m an alumnus of both the U.S. Coast Guard Academy and the CWRU School of Law. Hope this helps, Joe!

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