Today’s U.S. military: leaner forces, longer deployments

Released: 
September 05, 2013

President Obama is commander in chief of 1.5 million active duty military troops. That’s less than half the military’s peak level in 1952.

On Wednesday the Senate Foreign Relations Committee voted to approve the limited use of force in Syria to combat the alleged deployment of chemical weapons by the Assad regime. If the resolution passes the full Senate and the House, it will give President Obama and the US Military 90 days to complete a limited mission while prohibiting the use of ground troops. It's not a completely new situation for a military that relies heavily on technology and employs far fewer soldiers than it once did.

President Obama, as commander in chief of the U.S. military, leads a force of 1.5 million active duty troops. That’s less than half the military’s post-World War II peak of 3.6 million during the Korean War in 1952.

The number of active duty service members has declined steadily since the end of the Vietnam War, which also saw an end to the draft and a transition to an all-volunteer force. This smaller force has been stretched thin by the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Troops faced longer deployments and multiple tours of duty to compensate for fewer personnel.

Check out our video for more on the make-up of our military over the years. See “What Do Others Say?” for more perspective, then add to this discussion below. Do you think our current force is adequate to keep the country secure? To carry out our role in international security? What do you think about plans to further reduce troop numbers?