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Considering the United States have the biggest military in the world, it would be a prime example to talk about it in this question. It's my understanding that a standing army doesn't have any real duties other training/patrol/etc.

In that case, how come that huge amount of military personal and powerful equipment isn't used for the sake of public benefit like disaster control (helping clean up after the hurricane etc.) or maintaining public order, considering that almost all military personel have VASTLY better training compared to the average policeman.

It would also make sense for foreign diplomacy to have the US military have help with disasters across the globe, security purposes etc to win favors.

I'm sorry if this question doesn't make much sense, considering english isn't my first language.

TL;DR - Why isn't an standing army used for public benefit?

  • Soviet Army was routinely used to dig up potatoes on collective farms, or to build cottages for generals. Not quite disaster control, but somewhat of a "public benefit" – user4012 Oct 25 '16 at 13:42
  • "the United States has" or "these United States have." – Drunk Cynic Oct 25 '16 at 13:55
  • HA/DR is a mission of the US Military. navy.mil/submit/display.asp?story_id=70481 – Drunk Cynic Oct 25 '16 at 14:01
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    Jesus mary and joseph. Did someone just ask why we don't have soldiers who are trained for war (ehrm, defense) as a domestic police force? Those are called police states. And since well, about 20% of soldiers return home and seek careers in law enforcement, with roughly 2.6 million soldiers coming home, that is 520,000 soldiers looking to find jobs as policemen. We have 750,000 officers and a growth rate of 5%. I'd almost say the US police force is essentially the US army. – Chemistpp Oct 27 '16 at 22:43
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First, who says it is not used?

The US National Guard (which is a branch of the USA Armed Forces) is regularly deployed in emergency situations, like for example the Katrina hurricane. And, AFAIK, other branches of the Army can be deployed if the situation is needed.

An important difference between National Guard and the Federal Army, Air and Navy forces is that the Posse Comitatus Act severely limits the roles for the Federal forces1, banning them from being used to enforce laws2 in most of the situations.

To answer why don't you see members of the armed forces immediately at each emergency scenario, a couple of thoughts:

  • National Guards and other units, as part of the Army, are outside the control of civilian agencies and are activated following their own chains of command. That means that the local PD or FD chief or even the major cannot just call the NG barracks nearby to provide manpower, they have to ask the Governor or POTUS to activate them. The time for this procedure means that only a few emergencies are big enough for that.

  • The "fog of war", in an emergency often people need some time to get the info about how difficult the situation is, which resources are available, etc. delays the call for help.

  • The people in charge may fear that calling for help makes them appear in public as unready or uncapable for handling the event. This may cause such people to delay asking for support, in the hope that the emergency improves without external help.

Also,

considering that almost all military personel have VASTLY better training compared to the average policeman.

Usually, military personel have very good training... for waging war. They sheldom have training for managing crowds or firefighting, they do not know what are the operatives, duties and rights of law enforcement officers, they don't have materiel for crowd control or for reducing someone without lethal force.

Their best asset usually is that the are a quick source for manpower and/or equipment (trucks, helicopters, etc.), but using them for keeping order is a significant risk of armed incidents. Sometimes NGs are deployed without weapons to prevent this kind of incidents, sometimes as part of mixed patrols with cops and soldiers.

It would also make sense for foreign diplomacy to have the US military have help with disasters across the globe.

AFAIK it happens, but the procedures above mentioned become even more complicated.

  • The foreign government must have a need for it; if there is an emergency that government forces would probably already be fully activated and providing most of the manpower needed.

  • The foreign government must request3 (or at least accept) USA support and the POTUS must agree and activate the units, lengthening the process.

  • The security of the emergency personnel must be reasonably ensured, which makes if difficult for deployments in countries with the worst humanitarian crisis (civil wars, etc.).

  • Coordination must be stablished with local authorities; this is even more complex than in the USA because most of the USA soldiers will ignore the country language, laws and cultural differences.

All of the above means that usually the relief help accepted is limited; usually specialist units (medics, rescue personnel, air transportation), emergency supplies and perhaps stablishing logistic bases.

1 It is worth mentioning that the Enforcement Acts still allow for the POTUS to use Federal troops into a State that refuses or cannot control attacks on constitutional rights.

2 Appart from that, nothing appears to limit the use of Federal troops (if properly activated) to perform duties not related to law enforcement, like digging an anti-fire trench or distributing food.

3 And there may be reasons of national pride/prejudice/propaganda against requesting or accepting such help, even if needed.

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    This is a good answer, but you are incorrect that the (active duty) Army can be deployed if the situation needed. See for reference the Posse Comitatus Act. Its application has been interpreted by some to mean that active duty personnel can assist in an advisory or support role, but not take part in an active role in domestic police actions, though in some instances even this is found to violate federal law. – Jeff Lambert Oct 25 '16 at 13:41
  • The Coast Guard, which has a law enforcement mandate and operates under the Dept. of Homeland Security, is notably exempt. The Navy and Marines are not mentioned and thus are not restricted by it, but have adopted regulations that bring those branches of the service in line. See also Title 10, SS 375. – Jeff Lambert Oct 25 '16 at 13:44
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    @JeffLambert As I read it (and Drunk Cynic's link to the OP shows), Federal troops can still be deployed if not in law enforcement roles; I have updated the answer to reflect your input and what I have found. Thank you. – SJuan76 Oct 25 '16 at 19:00
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    @Jeff The Posse Comitatus Act is not a blanket ban on use of federal troops for law enforcement. It's a ban on the unauthorized use of federal troops for law enforcement. When the use of the military is authorized by the Constitution or by federal law, soldiers may be used. For instance, if "unlawful obstructions, combinations, or assemblages" mean that federal law can't practically be enforced through normal judicial proceedings, the President may use federal troops to enforce the laws. – cpast Oct 25 '16 at 20:24
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    @cpast My understanding of this question is that it is also not referring to cases of rebellion, which, in the US at least, only happened once when Lincoln suspended habeus corpus and imposed martial law. But that was during a time of outright Civil War and not just a single riot or disaster. I think I'm going to just go ahead and seek clarification on law.se for this, because I think the possibility exists we both may be right. – Jeff Lambert Oct 25 '16 at 20:35
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Army response to Katrina

Note that along with the National Guard, the Army Corps of Engineers participated post-hurricane.

It's also worth noting that levees that broke during the hurricane had previously been built by the Army Corps of Engineers.

Considering the United States have the biggest military in the world

The US has the most expensive military in the world. China has the biggest in terms of numbers of soldiers, which is what would count here. The US is second, a bit ahead of India and North Korea.

It's my understanding that a standing army doesn't have any real duties other training/patrol/etc.

A peacetime army may not (ignoring the Army Corp of Engineers for the moment). Note that the US isn't in peacetime. The US is in Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya, and Syria. Of course, most of those troops may not be the same kind as would be used in disaster relief.

considering that almost all military personel have VASTLY better training compared to the average policeman.

This may be true on average, but in the particular case of tasks needed in law enforcement, the typical US police officer has more training than the typical member of the military, nineteen weeks on average. Military training is more focused on things like shooting, which is rarely required in law enforcement activities.

It would also make sense for foreign diplomacy to have the US military have help with disasters across the globe, security purposes etc to win favors.

There are some language challenges here. Disasters usually don't last long enough for military personnel to learn the local language. This can make them ineffective in coordinating with local personnel and assisting civilians. Note that both those things have been problematic in war zones like Afghanistan and Iraq, where they are there for a long time. Expect it to be worse in disaster relief, which is hopefully brief.

There also can be local resentment of US military personnel. Not every civilian would welcome that help. Some would argue that their own military should be the ones providing that help.

I'm sure that there are examples of this kind of support, but I'm not sure that it is as obvious a win as you cast it.

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