Implosion: Downsizing the U. S. Military, 1987-2015

Implosion: Downsizing the U. S. Military, 1987-2015

Implosion: Downsizing the U. S. Military, 1987-2015

Implosion: Downsizing the U. S. Military, 1987-2015

Synopsis

Since the buildup of U.S. armed forces peaked under Reagan in 1987, many changes have occurred in all four services, including reductions in both human and material resources. This study traces these trends and details the government's vision of how the military will look in the year 2015. Changes in the global security environment and pressure to decrease federal spending have resulted in force restructuring, eliminating major units, and displacing military and civilian personnel. Other consequences include base closures and reduced major weapon system inventories. Brasher discusses the implications of these new policies and assesses their current and future impact on American defense capabilities.

Excerpt

After the Civil War, the U.S. Army demobilized at a high rate and soon found its numbers literally gutted. A captain testified before Congress in 1876 that his unit was so few in number that he frequently performed drill with only four men. He said he once saw a parade carried out in which one company was represented by a lone sergeant forming its front line and its captain occupying the rear line. They were their unit's only participants.

Many Americans know that the U.S. military has undergone a large downsizing effort in the 1990s. Fortunately, it has not been to the extent of that experienced by the Army after the War between the States. Although many equate the initiation of personnel and force structure reductions with the end of the Cold War in 1989 or the breakup of the Soviet Union in 1991, the Department of Defense (DOD), as a whole, started downsizing earlier, in 1988. Troop reductions came about due to the growing pressure to hold defense spending in check. This led two services, the Army and the Air Force, to begin downsizing moderately and internally in 1987. One of the first groups targeted was commissioned service members, in response to congressional attention directed at what the legislative body perceived as a bloated officer corps. The Marine Corps began to grow smaller in 1988. The Navy did not start declining in number until 1990. Its delay in carrying out personnel cuts was due to the fact that it had been pursuing a major program to build up to a fleet of 600 ships. In the late 1980s, the service still did not have the sailors it needed to crew a fleet of that size.

The rise of Gorbachev in the USSR signaled a change in the U.S. security environment. The fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989 was evidence of that transformation. The disintegration of the Soviet Union two years later was proof. This event, probably one of the most important in this century, boded well for the United States. Downsizing of the U.S. war machine, halted tempo-

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