Factchecking Republicans on Bill Clinton and Military Spending

The second of two reports from Factcheck.org on the Republican debate which I find worth quoting in whole debunks the common Republican claim that we currently face problems because Bill Clinton drastically cut back on the military:

Rudy’s Historic Rewrite

Giuliani falsely blamed President Clinton for cuts in the military that happened mostly under a Republican administration:

Giuliani: Bill Clinton cut the military drastically. It’s called the peace dividend, one of those nice-sounding phrases, very devastating. It was a 25, 30 percent cut in the military. President Bush has never made up for that. We – our Army had been at 725,000; it’s down to 500,000.

Actually, most of the cutting to which Giuliani refers occurred during the administration of George H.W. Bush. At the end of fiscal year 1993 (which was Bush’s last one in office), the Army had 572,423 active-duty soldiers – a far cry from 725,000. In fact, to get to that number, one has to go back to 1990, during the first gulf war. Moreover, Clinton’s cuts in the military, while large, were nowhere close to 25 percent to 30 percent. Between 1993 and 2001, the Army went from 572,423 to 480,801, which is a decline of 16 percent. The entire military went from 1,705,103 to 1,385,116, a decrease of 18.8 percent.

Compare that with the far larger cuts made during the first Bush administration: In 1989, the military stood at 2,130,229 and the Army had 769,741 soldiers. By 1993, those numbers had declined by 19.9 percent and 25.6 percent, respectively.

And as we’ve pointed out before, it was the first Bush administration – specifically then-Secretary of Defense Dick Cheney – that began bragging openly of the peace dividend.

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  1. 1
    Mark says:

    A few other things worth pointing out:

    1. Wasn’t one of the biggest problems with Rumsfeld that he tried -with some success – to downsize the number of troops in the military (partly in order to pay for missile defense)? In other words, shouldn’t they be criticizing Bush II more for what his administration did in terms of downsizing?

    2. While Clinton oversaw some cuts that were fairly indefensible in hindsight (IIRC from a project I worked on for my Congressman at the time, there were some significant cuts in special forces), a lot of the deepest cuts were directed at mothballing old Navy ships that were useful only in a Cold War context.

    3. There’s also this: “There is almost no difference between the level of funding proposed for defense by President Bush in his last fiscal year (FY) 1994-99 budget plan and the level of funding actually provided for defense over this six-year period under the Clinton Administration. Both Bush planned funding and actual funding amounted to $1.72 trillion (in FY 2001 dollars).”

  2. 2
    wrongagaindem says:

    uh bill clinton took office jan 21st 1993.you said it was bush’s last year.

  3. 3
    Ron Chusid says:

    No, the article from Factcheck refers to “fiscal year 1993 (which was Bush’s last one in office)” not to the calendar year 1993.

  4. 4
    Marti Chartiatika says:

    Three significant errors here:

    1.  You have committed the classic fallacy of “composition” – attributing to Republicans the assertion of Rudy G. 

    2.  You forgive Clinton for cuts that are extraordinarily deep if only because his predecessor’s were larger.  An 18% cut is huge.  Moreover, after the Gulf War the military had been stretched mighty thin by far more deployments (both peacekeeping and enforcing the Iraq ceasefire agreement) than it had under Bush I. 

    I do NOT defend George HW … nor did I like him much.  But Bill Clinton was no friend to the military and his cuts were detrimental … as it turns out. 

    These stats are just too far out of context even though they are a significant part of the larger picture.


  5. 5
    Ron Chusid says:


    You might want to pay attention to what is actually written in a comment claiming there are errors. You have shown no errors here and made some whoppers of your own.

    This post represents a reprint of material form an objective source, Factcheck.org, which shows errors in the Republican debate. There is no fallacy of composition in doing this. It is basic factchecking. This does not claim that Giuliani speaks for Republicans on all matters. It primarily states that one Republican, Rudy Giuliani, was wrong on this matter, and the link shows other areas in which Republicans were wrong during the debate.

    This particular item is of significance as many Republicans in fact do repeat the same incorrect arguments which Giuliani made.

    You totally contradict your first pont in your second point. Your first point claims that Giluliani’s incorrect statements do not represent the views of Republicans. In your second point you then proceed to defend Giluliani’s incorrect claims.

    I am not forgiving Clinton for anything. The purpose of this post is to present objective facts–not to present an opinion on anybody. As factcheck.org points out, the facts upon which you base your opinion of Clinton are incorrect.

  6. 6
    Robert Ramirez says:

    I do believe during this time frame that you state it was Bush, did the Demos have control over both the house and the senate.  I do think that they are they ones that submit the budget, including cuts, to the president.

  7. 7
    Ron Chusid says:

    No, in reality it is the White House which dominates the budget process most years. Presidential policies had far more to do with increasing the deficit than Congress. For example, it was Bush who increased the deficit by running two wars off the books, giving huge tax breaks primarily to the ultra-wealthy, and pushing his Medicare plan. Bush even threatened to fire the chief Medicare actuary if he testified before Congress as to the cost of his plan (which was primarily used to increase corporate welfare for the insurance and pharmaceutical industries.).

  8. 8
    UseSomeCommonSense says:

    The war budget needs to be cut my 2/3 to prevent complete bankruptcy. We can’defend our borders and our people for a fraction of our current war budget. Let corps that send manufacturing jobs abroad pay for private security forces to transport their goods.

  9. 9
    KEVIN says:

    @skeeter10 your mistake is Clinton didn't do it http://t.co/PTub4Baj

  10. 10
    sebastian vitale says:

    Factchecking Republicans on Bill Clinton and Military Spending – http://t.co/A7lHYaQR

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