Has the Military Been Cut 25 Percent?
During last night's debate, Gov. Huckabee said, “We’ve reduced the military by 25 percent under President Obama.” There are a lot of ways to interpret this statement, both in what measure experienced this cut and the timeframe we look at. If we look at spending on the Department of Defense, it has declined by 10 percent in nominal dollars and by 16 percent in inflation-adjusted dollars between 2009 and 2015, according to the Office of Management and Budget. The numbers are closer to what Gov. Huckabee claims if we compare 2015 spending to its peak (2010 and 2011 in inflation-adjusted and nominal dollars, respectively). In that case, spending has declined by 16 percent in nominal dollars and 21 percent in inflation-adjusted dollars. This decline follows a decade of spending increases associated with the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, when spending increased by 134 percent in nominal dollars and 86 percent in inflation-adjusted dollars.
If we look at end strength, how many people are in the Armed Forces at the end of the year, the decline is much smaller than one-quarter. Active-duty end strength has declined by about 7 percent from its recent peak, and the end strength of the Reserve and National Guard has declined by about 3 percent.
In short, Huckabee’s claim is a slight overstatement with regards to spending and a clear overstatement with regards to personnel.