Army Explores Ways to Expand ROTC’s Geographic Reach

Army Explores Ways to Expand ROTC’s Geographic Reach

by Jim Garamone

WASHINGTON, June 30, 2015 – The Army is looking at ways to make its ROTC program more representative of the nation, the commander of U.S. Army Training and Doctrine Command said here today.

Army Gen. David G. Perkins told reporters at a Defense Writers Group breakfast that he has had talks with Army leaders about the need to expand ROTC into underserved areas.

Alabama, with a population of just 4.8 million people, has more colleges offering ROTC than in New York City or Los Angeles, a senior Defense Department official said last week at a Center for a New American Security symposium.

More than 3.8 million people live in Los Angles and about 8.4 million live in New York City.

Brad Carson, acting undersecretary of defense for personnel and readiness said 10 Alabama colleges are associated with ROTC.

By comparison, he said, the entire state of New York has 12, and California has a like number.

Many colleges dropped the ROTC program during the latter years of the Vietnam War, and disagreement with the now-repealed policy prohibiting gay men and lesbians from serving openly in the military kept many colleges from associating with ROTC.

But this is changing, Perkins noted. Harvard University re-established an Army ROTC unit at its Cambridge, Massachusetts, campus in 2012, he said, and other colleges are interested.

Geographical and Regional Representation

“One of the things we work very hard in the Army to get is diversity,” Perkins said. “But there are a lot of aspects to diversity, and one of them is geographical and regional representation. If we are the United States Army, then the Army ought to come from [all of] the United States. It shouldn’t be just from one part of the country.”

Over the years -- sometimes in the interests of efficiency -- the Army has tended to focus its efforts in the Midwest and the South, where the propensity for service is high, the general acknowledged.

“I think it is important for our Army to be representative of all economic strata, all political persuasions, all geographic areas, because that really is the strength of our nation – this diversity,” he told the defense writers.

Differing Viewpoints

The diversity would give leaders throughout the Army differing viewpoints of problems and how to solve them, Perkins said. “If we have officers from the Northeast, the West Coast, Alaska, Mississippi [and] Florida -- and the influences that come with them -- we will be a much more capable Army,” he added.

Part of the effort is tied to the service getting smaller, the general said, noting that the Army will need fewer lieutenants in the future. “ROTC is going to have to get smaller, but not [by] giving up certain parts of the country,” he said.

Service leaders will consider what attributes they believe young officers should have entering the force, the general said, and the quality of students entering the force from the various universities and colleges. Also, he said, some savings may be achieved by expanding the command and control reach of ROTC battalions and brigades.

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