Economics Working Paper 16101
The number of U.S. troops deployed has been trending downward over the short and long terms, and is projected to reach zero before mid-century. This paper analyzes a unified dataset of U.S. troop deployments from 1950 to 2015, including annual estimates of “boots on the ground” in hundreds of countries. Linear and nonlinear forecast models of troop levels agree that total and deployed U.S. troop levels are declining rapidly. The trends are paradoxical as they contrast with an increasing number of countries where U.S. troops are based above three different threshold levels of troops in country per year. Econometric tests of causality indicate a link runs from total troop levels to deployments, but not vice versa, implying that a smaller U.S. military will indeed cause foreign policy to be less directly engaged.