The Military Build-Down in the 1990s

April 22, 1988

Report Outline
Special Focus


The Reagan administration's campaign to “rearm America” is at an end, and now the armed services face immediate cutbacks and even deeper ones ahead. With “austerity” as a watchword for the 1990s, the nagging question is whether these budget cuts require strategic changes as well.

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The next occupant of the White House will inherit a far different kind of defense crisis than the one that propelled Ronald Reagan to the presidency. In 1980, Reagan was elected largely on the basis of his promise to “make America strong again,” He vowed to close the “window of vulnerability” he claimed his predecessors had opened by allowing the Soviet Union to catch up with and then surpass the United States in weapons development and deployment. Together with Defense Secretary Caspar W. Weinberger, Reagan launched his campaign to “rearm America.” They enjoyed broad bipartisan support for their effort: Congress approved $2 trillion in defense spending over the next seven years. This enormous expenditure, the highest peacetime military budget in the post-World War II era, amounted $21,000 for each American household.

The Reagan defense buildup is at an end. Since he replaced Weinberger last November. Defense Secretary Frank C. Carlucci has called for a new approach to meeting the nation's defense needs, Presenting a revised defense spending request in February. Carlucci took the unusual step of asking Congress for less money—a $33 billion cut—than the administration had previously requested for fiscal 1989. He called for the elimination of several weapons programs as well as cuts in manpower while stressing the need to improve the readiness of the shrunken forces. “Simply put.” he told Congress, “the priorities reflected in this budget are people, training, and no artificial program stretches,” by which he meant the deferral of weapons production to later years, a technique the Pentagon frequently uses to meet budget targets.

ISSUE TRACKER for Related Reports
Weapons of Mass Destruction
Jul. 29, 2016  Modernizing the Nuclear Arsenal
Mar. 08, 2002  Weapons of Mass Destruction
Jan. 31, 1997  Chemical and Biological Weapons
Jun. 24, 1994  Nuclear Arms Cleanup
Jun. 05, 1992  Nuclear Proliferation
Jun. 29, 1990  Obstacles to Bio-Chemical Disarmament
Apr. 22, 1988  The Military Build-Down in the 1990s
May 24, 1987  Euromissile Negotiations
Jul. 11, 1986  Chemical Weapons
Apr. 27, 1984  Reagan's Defense Buildup
Jun. 04, 1982  Civil Defense
Jul. 17, 1981  Controlling Nuclear Proliferation
Jun. 05, 1981  MX Missile Decision
Aug. 15, 1980  The Neutron Bomb and European Defense
Sep. 07, 1979  Atomic Secrecy
Mar. 17, 1978  Nuclear Proliferation
May 27, 1977  Chemical-Biological Warfare
May 13, 1977  Politics of Strategic Arms Negotiations
Nov. 15, 1974  Nuclear Safeguards
Jul. 01, 1970  Nuclear Balance of Terror: 25 Years After Alamogordo
Jun. 18, 1969  Chemical–Biological Weaponry
Jun. 30, 1965  Atomic Proliferation
Mar. 21, 1962  Nuclear Testing Dilemmas
Aug. 16, 1961  Shelters and Survival
Oct. 12, 1959  Chemical-Biological Warfare
May 13, 1959  Nuclear Test Ban
Dec. 04, 1957  Scientific Cooperation and Atlantic Security
May 15, 1957  Changing Defense Concepts
Jul. 03, 1956  Civil Defense, 1956
Nov. 16, 1955  International Arms Deals
Oct. 04, 1954  Industrial Defense
Apr. 15, 1954  National Defense Strategy
Feb. 10, 1954  New Aproaches to Atomic Control
Oct. 10, 1953  Atomic Information
Apr. 11, 1952  Biological Warfare
Oct. 03, 1951  World Arms Race
Feb. 04, 1948  International Control of Atomic Energy
Dec. 06, 1946  International Inspection
Aug. 27, 1943  Gas Warfare
Jul. 24, 1937  The New Race in Armaments
May 05, 1932  Abolition of Aggressive Weapons
Defense Budget