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At a Republican debate in Orlando on Oct. 21, 2007, Mitt Romney blamed President Clinton for shrinking the military.
"During the Clinton years, the president said we're going to take a peace dividend," Romney said. "We got the dividend. We didn't get the peace. He reduced the scale of our military dramatically, took 500,000 troops out, cut back our Navy by 80 ships."
This claim is similar to others made by Romney in campaign speeches that we have previously checked and found were misleading.
In April 2007, he said, "Following the end of the Cold War, President Clinton began to dismantle our military. He reduced our forces by 500,000. He retired almost 80 ships. Our spending on national defense dropped from over 6 percent of GDP to 3.8 percent today."
He is correct that military forces were reduced significantly under Clinton. The active-duty military totaled 1.8-million at the start of his presidency in 1993 and declined to 1.4-million in 2000. Romney is also correct that the naval fleet shrank dramatically. The Navy had 454 ships in 1993, but as vessels were retired and not replaced, the fleet was down to 341 by 2000.
But Romney is selectively choosing numbers that make it appear the military cuts were Clinton's alone. In fact, the cuts were prompted by the end of the Cold War during the presidency of President George H.W. Bush, a Republican.
During Bush's presidency, he and Congress agreed to a sharp drop in military personnel. Active-duty military declined from 2.2-million to 1.8-million. Total defense forces also shrank, from 3.3-million to 2.9-million.
Also, in his April statement, Romney distorts the economics by pulling an old number from the Reagan years. Military spending hasn't been 6 percent of GDP since 1986. So Romney is comparing a Reagan-era defense spending number with a Clinton number, but his comment suggests the whole decline occurred under Clinton.
Contrary to Romney's claim, the post-Cold War shrinkage of the U.S. military was a bipartisan effort. It began under a Republican president and a Democratic Congress and continued under a Democratic president and a Republican Congress.
And so we find, as we did before, that Romney's claim is Half True.
"President Clinton "reduced the scale of military dramatically."
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