The first time I ever heard the term "RIF" was in 1991. "RIF" stands for reduction in force which is an involuntary separation action in the US military. What was odd about 1991 was "RIF" occurred right after Desert Storm. Soldiers who had beat the snot out of Saddam Hussein returned to Germany to find many of their kaserns (posts) had closed while they were gone. The soldiers families had been sent back home. Closing bases overseas was much easier as there are no constituents to piss off. By 1992, the base overseas closures had not produced enough troop reductions so the Department of Defense started involuntary troop reductions or "RIF". At the time, our unit was seeing an increase in commitments (Somalia, the Barcelona Olympics, plus Northern and Southern Watch in Iraq). Ninety-five percent of officers commissioned between 1980-85), excluding rated officers, could be forced out.
Of course this wasn't the first time the military underwent a drawdown. The US Army went from 213,000 to 175,000 right after World War I. Congress wanted to take the Army down to 150,000 causing the Army to halt all recruiting in 1922. The United States was wholly unprepared entering World War II as a result. Troop strength had to be built up rapidly to where by 1945, the US Army strength was over 8 million. By 1948, the US Army was down to 554,000 troops. Two years later, the US would enter the Korean War against North Korea and China which saw it as a war of attrition. Troop strength doubled by 1951 to over 1 million. After the ceasefire, US Army troop levels fell to around 880,000 going into the Vietnam War. The US Army grew back to 1,460,00 troops during the height of the Vietnam War. After the US pulled out of Vietnam in 1973, troop strength for the Army remained around 600,000 into the 21st Century.
Some will point to the drop in troop strength as a pre-cursor to WWI, Korea and Vietnam. The argument assumes that North Korea and North Vietnam declared war on the US as result, instead of the US taking actions to prevent the spread of Communism. However, it is accurate that the reduced troop strength did adversely impact the US operations, costing more money and lives had a larger force been available in the first place. Having a large standing military can lead to imperial tendencies that the framers of the US Constitution tried to avoid. Large standing militaries cost money and tempt leaders to use them indiscriminately.
Now after fighting two major wars, the US military is facing yet another drawdown. What is different this time is we are drawing forces down while trying to prevent Iran from developing a nuclear weapon. Even if the US does not engage in military actions, Israel just might leading to a major conflict. Of course the majority of combat vets will be out applying for unemployment.