US military deployment numbers

Here are some interesting numbers for you. This is a year by year breakdown of the total number of US military members. I’m putting up the numbers relevant to what I want to discuss. There is a very important reason I’m posting this, too. Oh, and this is probably the longest post I’ve ever done, because there is a lot to examine.

Here’s the punchline – Clinton didn’t gut the military like everyone wants Americans to believe he did. Now read the numbers and facts to see why I say this.

  • Year:Active Duty
  • 1971:2,626,785
  • 1972:2,356,301
  • 1988:2,138,213
  • 1989:2,130,229
  • 1990:2,046,144
  • 1991:1,986,259
  • 1992:1,807,177
  • 1993:1,705,103
  • 1994:1,610,490
  • 1995:1,518,224
  • 1996:1,471,722
  • 1997:1,438,562
  • 1998:1,406,830
  • 1998:1,385,703
  • 2000:1,384,338
  • 2001:1,385,116
  • 2002:1,411,634
  • 2003:1,434,377
  • 2004:1,426,836
  • 2005:1,426,836

Now why would I post all these numbers? Why would anyone care about all this? Because yesterday I had to listen to a cow-orker ranting about how President Clinton cut the US military to less than half the first Gulf War numbers during his 8 years in office. This same “fact” is repeated in various places on the int4rweb, with people apparently just accepting this falsehood as truth. I’ve said this before, but let me emphasize it – If you dislike a politician and want to rant about them, I’m fine with that. But I expect rants to be based on facts, not fiction.

So let’s analyze the “cut the military to less than half” crap, and do a little looking at what these numbers really mean. Look at the 1990 numbers. The Gulf War is viewed by some as starting with the August 2nd, 1990 invasion of Kuwait by Iraq. Realistically, we didn’t start fighting until January 1991, so the analysis I’m going through here is actually a bit unfairly slanted against President Clinton – I should be using the 1991 deployment numbers since that’s when we actually started fighting.

Using 1990 numbers, the Gulf War military was 2,046,144 members. At the end of President Clinton’s two terms, the military was 1,384,338. This means Clinton cut the military to almost exactly 2/3rds the Gulf War numbers. Right off the bat, there is no way to legitimately claim President Clinton cut the military to less than half its Gulf War size. Just by note, here, if you use the 1991 numbers instead, the figures go from a 33% cut to just a 30% cut. Not big, but worth noting.

Now personally, I don’t think we can really count against President Clinton the reduction that took place under the first Bush Presidency in viewing just how much he cut the military. Some people don’t agree with me, in which case, this paragraph won’t matter to you. For those willing to accept the President Bush’s cuts shouldn’t be attributed to President Clinton, we’ll continue. Under President Bush, the military went from the 2,046,144 in 1990 to 1,705,103 when President Clinton took office. That means of the 660,000+ person reduction from the start of the Gulf War until the end of the Clinton era, over 340,000 were cut before President Clinton took office. Suddenly, the actual numbers reveal that President Clinton reduced the military 19% from what he inherited, which doesn’t really compare so horribly to President Bush’s military reduction of 17% from the start of the first Gulf War until he left office. And do any of my readers know what caused these two leaders to cut the military so much? Well, the end of the cold war figures in to those numbers heavily.

Priod to the end of the cold war, General Colin Powell, in preparing for the fall of the Soviet Union, worked on plans for US military needs. His expected military force did not anticipate the complete collapse of the Soviet Union nearly as quickly as it happened, and based on a more distant predicted collapse, the US military force he expressed as necessary in 1995 was roughly 1.6 million active members. If you look at where President Clinton’s numbers are, you’ll see the military was slightly smaller than that, and there was no Soviet threat as had figured into Powell’s estimates.

There are complaints of President Clinton cutting military spending significantly during his administration. However, before leaving office in 1993, President Bush made a proposed military budget for 1994 through 1999. How much did President Clinton end up cutting from that proposed budget?

In January 1993 just before leaving office, President Bush presented the FY 1994-99 defense plan that he would have submitted to Congress had he been reelected. Under this plan, funding for DoD was projected to decline in real terms by some 19 percent over the FY 1992-97 period and then stay flat at that level through FY 1999. By comparison, under the Clinton Administration, DoD funding actually declined by about 18 percent between FY 1992 and FY 1997. Moreover, while actual funding fell by another 2 percent in FY 1998, it then grew by 5.6 percent in FY 1999. Thus, the FY 1999 budget was actually about 15 percent below the FY 1992 level, compared to a projected 19 percent reduction under the last Bush plan.

A year-by-year comparison of projected funding under the last Bush plan and actual funding levels confirms that the United States ended up spending almost exactly the same amount under Clinton as recommended in the last Bush budget for the FY 1994-99 period, a total of $1.72 trillion (in FY 2001 dollars).

So President Clinton reduced military spending less than President Bush had recommended prior to leaving office. Furthermore, after the Republicans took control of both houses of Congress, President Clinton’s proposed military budget was increased approximately 3% each year. Yes, military spending was reduced. Yes, there were fewer members of the military. But as far back as 1989, this reduction was expected. The planning for cuts may have actually begun under President Reagan. And the spending under President Clinton was still above 90% of the Cold War era military spending.

So at this point, I just can’t accept this horrible blast against President Clinton as the great destroyer of the US military. I know others will ignore all the information I’ve presented here, but I’ve satisfied my own desire for information. None of this review includes any personnel savings from more automated attack systems, use of robotics in battle, or increases in distant attacks or airborne only attacks. I suspect these all also play heavily into the validity of reductions throughout the 1990s.

Let me point out one thing briefly in all this mess of verbosity – for the claim that President Clinton cut the military to less than half its first Gulf War size to be valid, that Gulf War would have had to occurred in 1971. The large gap in numbers above from 1972 to 1988 is because every number in that range is fairly simliar to the others, but less than the 1972 number, so irrelevant to this whole review otherwise.

And my final comment and question on the attacks on President Clinton over reductions in military numbers is if the military reductions were so bad and so unnecessary, why has President Bush only increased the military about 3% since taking office? If we need a military the size we had during the first Gulf War, why didn’t the current President Bush make huge investments in military spending to try getting those numbers up? His party had control of the White House and the Congress. After the 9/11 attacks, he had almost a blank check to spend as he saw fit. If we needed an additional 30% to 50% in the military, why weren’t they recruited? And I believe the answer is because he knew, as his father and President Clinton knew, that we no longer need those numbers.

Now, I ask for comments back. I want to know where I messed up and why my review is invalid. I’m looking to learn here, yet every time I write something like this, I get little to no feedback. I can’t become better educated without responses, so let me have it.

[tags]President Clinton didn’t wantonly gut the military, The lies you are being told about President Clinton and military cuts[/tags]

4 thoughts on “US military deployment numbers”

  1. I agree with you..

    Dosen’t really matter who’s at was a stupid move!..And the reason we are getting our butts kicked in Iraq is because OUR government felt too comfy with the thought NO ONE WOULD DARE ATTACK US! It’s not good to get that confident!
    Especially with some of the enemys we seem to make.

  2. I think the confusion on this point arises from the source material used to make the argument. Caspar Weinberger, on an installment of a talk radio show, in 2001, opened this can of worms when he pointed out that, post Clinton, the ARMY (and just the ARMY) was reduced to less than 50% (from 900,000 to just under 400,000) of its Gulf War (part I) strength (just Google it…there are plenty of sites with this information on them).

    Since that time, people have generalized that statistic to include all branches of service and not just the ARMY, to which it was pertainent. This is obviously a misrepresentation of the facts, deliberate or not.

    If you really want to have a meaningful discussion of military reductions under Clinton, the root problem in the fiasco was that military spending reductions (some of which were temporary) were part of the phantom “balanced budget,” which included more creative accounting than my tax return when I was self-employed.

    We can’t really blame President Clinton for wanting to balance the budget or necessarily even for embroidering in claiming that he had done so. He inherited an economy that was in deficit spending, with an electorate that wasn’t happy about it. You know how politicians are with their feel-good, bandaid fixes for complex problems.

    Clinton was just playing his role as a dutiful politician, rearranging the deck chairs on the Titanic to make everyone feel better about sinking to the bottom of the Atlantic. The hit to the military numbers strength of the US (30%ish in this case) was just an incidental casualty–think of it as a friendly-fire incident.

  3. I was in the USAF from 1988-1998.

    The military was downsized after the cold war. Everyone agreed that it was a good idea, and needed. The amount was in dispute, but that is no surprise.

    As someone on the right, and a vet as well, I don’t think Clinton neglected the military. I might complain about some of his policies (the post-“Blackhawk Down” withdrawal, for example), but re-sizing the military is not one of them.

    As someone who gets a lot of news from “right wing” sources and stays in contact with active duty personnel, I can’t say that we spend much thought on Clinton’s military spending policies. Remember, Congress was controlled by the Republicans from the spring of ’95 on (and Congress controls the purse strings). “We” don’t actively blame Clinton for 9/11, though we do say that some of his policies made 9/11 more difficult to detect/interrupt. I would love to know what Sandy “Burgler” stole from the National Archives, but even if it was poorly reflective on the prior administration (which is surely was) it still doesn’t mean that 9/11 was Clinton’s fault.

    BTW, I didn’t find anything on the Web reporting this interview. I’d like to see what was actually said, before I comment on what he said. Never trust a lefty with accurately relating anything said by someone they disagree. 🙂

    Also, “ME”, who says we are getting our butts kicked? Nobody on the right that I listen too ever claimed that our difficulties in Iraq are Clinton’s fault.

    So, I assume you are saying this because people on the left often make this claim, regardless of any other circumstance, simply because it fits their meme. Perhaps you believe it because the military continues to take casualties. By that standard we got our asses REAMED (as opposed to kicked) in WWI, WWII, Korea and Vietnam. If you have some other reason to make this claim, I’d like to know your metric. Because we are certainly NOT getting our asses kicked.

  4. Here is a link to a site referencing Newsmax’s (right-wing news) summary of the Caspar Weinberger appearance on The Sean Hannity Show (right-wing radio):

    I think what Mr V (who reads to me as about 95% righty, 5% lefty, and 100% Smartass) was saying about Clinton and the balanced budget is more in reference to his cutting the budget for production of munitions and other military supplies, yet actively depleting our warehoused stock later in his time in office. This left future administrations holding the bag for spending and any supply/equipment shortages that might occur. The Clinton balanced budget ranks right up there with the Easter Bunny and the Tooth Fairy in terms of authenticity.

    This really fits that administration to a tee. Clinton made all sorts of policy decisions designed to pay off in the short term with little to no regard for the price to be paid over the long haul.

    As for the comment by “me,” the prevalence of the idea that we are getting our butts kicked in Iraq makes no sense and has no basis in reality. I think that people aren’t taking the threat of organized terrorism more seriously than as sound byte material and are indulging themselves in political party-based delusion and grandstanding. I am not sure what it is going to take to wake people up to the fact that it is real; it is dangerous; and it must be stopped.

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