This paper provides an introductory description of the military manpower system and a context for discussion of changes to that system. Although the paper relies on some current and recent manpower policy issues for the sake of illustration, the authors do not prescribe or advocate particular policy alternatives. Instead, they emphasize the importance of assessing the long-term, systemic implications of proposed policy changes. Section II provides information on the size and composition of the armed forces, and demographic data on such factors as the sex, age, education, and race makeup of the forces. The following two sections discuss manpower requirements and selected aspects of the cost of military manpower. The next section discusses the institutional blocs and uses various manpower issues to illuminate their positions and preferences. The final section discusses some manpower policy alternatives bearing on four areas: compensation choices, the retirement system, skill mix and training, and institutional arrangements regarding accession and retention.