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An officer corps that reflects the country

Wednesday, August 3rd, 2011

Jim Michaels at USA Today reports on the return of the ROTC to Ivy League campuses. Much of his reporting will be familiar to those who’ve been following the ROTC fight, but the article does quote Secretary of the Navy Ray Mabus as follows: “When you’ve got less than 1% of the country serving in uniform I think it’s important that the 1% reflect the rest of the country.”

Secretary Mabus is absolutely correct, which is why he should heed Senator Charles Schumer’s call on the Navy to provide on-campus ROTC at Columbia University or in the Manhattan area. Building an officer corps that fully reflects the country cannot be achieved by mere recognition of ROTC programs by a few Ivies. If the programs are not made accessible to students, they will remain peripheral to student life and continue to graduate only a few students a year. For all the fanfare, this is the likeliest outcome for the newly recognized Columbia NROTC program which requires  cadets to travel for over an hour one-way to SUNY’s Maritime College in The Bronx.

To create an officer corps truly representative of the nation, the military must expand ROTC in currently underserved cities and in the Northeast, and maintain an active presence on the campuses in those areas. Preserving ROTC’s original civic mission is crucial to healthy civil-military relations, and it must be made a priority.