Downsizing America's Armed Forces

June 8, 1990

Report Outline
Special Focus


The Soviet threat has diminished, and the United States is starting to cut the number of its troops. This represents more than a chance to save money. It also provides a rare opportunity to whip the nation's military into shape—first, by getting rid of an excess of middle-level officers; and second, by making early reliance on the reserves in emergencies no longer necessary. But will the opportunity be seized?

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In the summer of 1945, when World War II was coming to an end, there were more than 1.2 million officers and nearly 10.8 million enlisted men on active duty in America's armed forces. Within a year, two-thirds of the officers and three-fourths of the enlisted men were back in civilian clothes.

Forty-five years later, the United States has begun another demobilization. With the stunning transformation of Eastern Europe and the unmistakable change in the Soviet Union, the Cold War seems at last to be over—and with it, the justification for having such a huge U.S. military force. Although the “peace dividend” may not prove as large as liberals in Congress and elsewhere hope, the nearly $300 billion defense budget is indeed being trimmed and so is the number of military personnel, by at least several hundred thousand troops.

ISSUE TRACKER for Related Reports
U.S. Military
Oct. 04, 2019  Veterans' Struggles
Sep. 23, 2011  Military Suicides
Sep. 05, 2008  Rise in Counterinsurgency
Aug. 31, 2007  Wounded Veterans
Nov. 19, 2004  Treatment of Veterans
Jun. 25, 2004  Privatizing the Military
May 30, 2003  Reforming the Corps
Apr. 26, 1996  New Military Culture
Jun. 08, 1990  Downsizing America's Armed Forces
Jul. 20, 1966  American Forces in Europe
Jan. 15, 1964  American Troops Abroad
May 21, 1958  Military Reorganization
Feb. 28, 1952  Benefits for Korean Veterans
May 12, 1948  Militarization
Nov. 06, 1946  Veterans' Bonus
Jul. 17, 1946  War Veterans in Civil Life
Nov. 27, 1941  Government Aid to Ex-Service Men
Sep. 27, 1932  The Bonus After the 1932 Elections
Oct. 06, 1930  Veteran-Aid Policies of the United States
Jan. 07, 1924  Congress and the Bonus
Defense Personnel
Reserves and National Guard