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At a Republican debate in Manchester, N.H., on Jan. 5, 2008, Rudy Giuliani blamed President Clinton for shrinking the military.
"Bill Clinton cut the military drastically," Giuliani said. "It was called the peace dividend, one of those nice-sounding phrases: very devastating. It was a 25, 30 percent cut in the military."
This claim is similar to others made by Mitt Romney in campaign speeches that we have previously checked and found were misleading.
In April 2007, Romney 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."
The two Republicans are 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. They are 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 they are selectively choosing numbers that make it appear that 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.
The Republicans are trying to portray Clinton and the Democrats as weak on defense and to make the peace dividend look like a partisan effort. But contrary to the Republicans' claims, the post-Cold War shrinkage of the U.S. military was very much 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 this claim is Half True.
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