Military Education

Introduction to the Military

Total Force Policy

Since the end of the Cold War, our military has conducted many operations that demonstrate a need for a viable Total Force Policy. This policy is described below.


Implemented in 1973, the Total Force Policy guides decisions about how the manpower resources available to the Department of Defense -- active, reserve, retired military, federal civilian, contractor and allied support personnel -- are structured to protect the nation's interests.

There are five armed forces in the United States defense structure:

  • Army
  • Marine Corps
  • Navy
  • Air Force
  • Coast Guard

Within each armed force, there is an Active Component (AC) and at least one Reserve Component (RC). The Army and Air Force each have two reserve components.

Active Component

The Active Component is comprised of men and women assigned to units or special accounts in the active military force structure.

Reserve Component

There are seven reserve components:

  • Army National Guard
  • Army Reserve
  • Marine Corps Reserve
  • Navy Reserve
  • Air National Guard
  • Air Force Reserve
  • Coast Guard Reserve

The Reserve components provide trained units and qualified men and women for active duty in time of war or national emergency and at other times in support of the National Military Strategy.

Within the reserve components, personnel serve in one of three manpower management categories:

  • Ready Reserve
    • Selected Reserve
    • Individual Ready Reserve
    • Inactive National Guard
  • Standby Reserve
  • Retired Reserve

There is no Standby Reserve in the Army National Guard or Air National Guard.

Vision and Challenge

To achieve effective integration, the following basic principles must be applied consistently:

  • Clearly understood responsibility for and ownership of the Total Force by senior leaders
  • Clear and mutual understanding of the mission for each unit -- active, guard, and reserve -- in service and joint/combined operations, during peace and war
  • Commitment to provide the resources needed to accomplish assigned missions
  • Leadership by senior commanders -- active, guard, and reserve -- to ensure the readiness of the Total Force