I keep seeing crap about the “shrinking U.S. Military”and how it’s this administration’s fault…. Do people really buy this ignorance? Seriously…WTF??? Have the American people become so ignorant and unable to analyze the statements of politicians and pundits that they believe everything that is told to them?
YES, the U.S. Military has been shrinking…since the end of the Vietnam War where it peaked at 3,547,902 personnel in 1968. Of course it’s been shrinking. HOWEVER, people aren’t treating this as a historical trend, but as something that the current administration is responsible for.
Well let’s call that what it is. A lie. Military manning is cyclical. It always has been. At the end of the Korean Conflict, enlistment rolls shrank from 3.3 million to 2.5 million before Southeast Asia heated up and brought that number back up to the 3.5 million range. Since then the size of the U.S. military has steadily dropped under every single administration since Nixon (who ended the peacetime draft).
Since 2008 the U.S. military has “shrunk” from 1,401,757 personnel to 1,354,054 personnel. A grand total of 47,703 people, or ~3.5% over 8 years. OR about 1/12th the reduction of force (RiF) during the Reagan administration (599,852 personnel) and abuout 1/8th the RiF during the Clinton Administration (421,474).
Sen. Lindsey Graham was quoted during the Republican primaries; “We’re on course to have the smallest army since 1940, and the smallest Navy since 1915.” Well, the size of the U.S. Army in 1940 was 269,023 personnel. Today that number is 490,000. We are far from being on course to reach 1940 levels. Of course, Graham also ignores the fact that in 1940 the Selective Training and Service Act of 1940 was passed and initiated a peacetime draft that by 1941 grew the U.S. Army from 269,023 to 1,462,315, and by 1942 to 3,075,608… all just prior to the United States entering the largest military conflict in the HISTORY OF MAN. The United States Army would reach its peak strength in 1945 at 8,267,958 personnel. By 1950, that strength would be reduced to 593,167, a little over 100,000 more troops than we have today. In fact the only army larger than the United States is the Chinese Army – and let’s be honest, China will always be able to deploy more troops than the United States.
As to the Navy, any comparison of today’s fleet to the fleet in 1915 is ludicrous. In 1915, the U.S. Navy had 231 Hulls. Today the Navy deploys 282 hulls. But merely quoting hull numbers is meaningless given that a single Virginia class attack submarine could sink or cripple any and all 1915 ships in the U.S. Navy, all by herself (we had 32 Battleships, the largest of which was the Dreadnought Class, a Virginia Class Attack Sub carries 38 Torpedoes and Missiles – and if a Mark XIII torpedo can blow the Bismark’s stern to pieces, then a Mk 48 ADCAP can certainly send a much smaller ship – one not designed to take a 300kg blast from below – to the bottom – to get a good comparison of such damage though, one needs to look at British Special operations against the Tirpitz). Never mind what a modern Aegis Cruiser or Destroyer would do to a ship from the early 20th Century.
The US Navy today deploys 10 carrier groups, 85 large surface combatants of the first order, 55 Attack Subs (Russia deploys 40, mostly older boats), 4 frighteningly powerful Guided Missile Submarines, and fourteen SSBNs, any one of which can deploy more firepower than has ever been unleashed in history since the a Dinosaur killing asteroid plowed into the Yucatan.
Given advances in technology, communications, tactics, today’s (SLIGHTLY) smaller military is much, much more capable than the larger military of the Vietnam era. Are there problems? Yes. The LCS’s should be transferred to the Coast Guard where they belong and a real Aegis Frigate should be designed or adopted from an ally that has already designed one. The Zumwalt is all wiz-bang and stuff, but given the cost, the Navy has decided to cut that class to four hulls (and I’d be surprised given the performance of DDG-1000 if it wasn’t cut more), and return to an upgraded Arleigh Burke class design. The Navy is spending too much money on a new patrol class ship (the MK VI PB) instead of sticking with the Cyclone class and upgrading them, the Navy could even adopts the USCGs Sentinel-class boats, and get a much more capable boat for a lot less money. Do I need to get into the boondoggle that is the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter?
IF the U.S. military is weak, it is because of leadership, both at the executive level (which has had an incredibly schizophrenic foreign policy, though I do think we’re about to get schooled on schizophrenic policies in this next administration) and at the legislative level. Why should any young person actually want to serve having seen the way we treat our returning veterans? Additionally, those who complain about cuts placed at the foot of the executive office have to ignore that congress cut the requested military budget in 2015-2016 by 1.8% (and Congress wanted to cut the budget by 6% – But you won’t hear the Republicans talking about that, will you?).
Is the military getting “smaller?” Yes. Even so, overall, the United States still has the best, most capable military on the planet. What we don’t have is a sane foreign policy that prevents us from being in a constant state of war in a constantly changing list of nations. We currently have operations going on worldwide in at least 80 – yes, you read that right – 80 different countries that involve combat in one sort of the other – by some counts, we are involved in combat ops in 134 (SOCOM, Special Operations Command, has been involved in combat, advising, training, and “special” missions in 134 countries in 2013 – and that’s just the ones that SOCOM would admit to! Tell me again how this is not World War III? Oh, I just read the AUMF again…it is World War III… it’s just that WWIII is a low-intensity conflict…. THAT I did not expect. So really, we’re only involved in a single war, a war that encompasses the entire world. Only it’s not being sold as such, is it? No matter how you count it, given the words of Thomas Jefferson – “Our desire is to pursue ourselves the path of peace as the only one leading surely to prosperity.” Thomas Jefferson, 1793, it is one too many.
Data from the Defense Manpower Data Center, Office of the Secretary of Defense, U.S. Department of Defense. Figures through 1976 are for the count at June 30 of that year. Figures for 1977 through 2013 are for September 30 of that year. Figures for 2014 are through March 31.