The professional military officer (PMO) represents not only a highly trained and dedicated expert in the field of military science but also a powerful symbol in U.S. culture. Throughout U.S. history, however, advocates of professionalism have often encountered resistance from civilians and politicians as well as career officers. These misgivings were rooted in distrust of standing armies, confidence in the effectiveness of the citizen soldier, assumptions regarding class status, and institutional careerism. This entry looks at the evolution of professionalism in the U.S. military.

The 19th Century

Traditionally, the United States maintained a small military and officer corps. Drawn from their experience as subjects of the British Empire, many Americans believed that professional militaries served as instruments for civilian oppression. As early as 1783, however, leaders like ...

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