ROTC in New York City: An Untapped Resource

John Renehan writes in the Washington Post today about the need for more ROTC programs across the country. In light of Harvard’s policies on access to military recruiters, brought up during Senate hearings for the nomination of Elena Kagan to the Supreme Court, Renehan notes an increasing dearth of opportunities for military officer training, particularly in the Northeast. This raises an important point. The long-standing contention surrounding the presence of ROTC on university campuses has not been limited merely to a select number of Ivy League institutions, though they have often been the most prominent and vocal in opposing the program. Moreover, they are not solely to blame. As this WSJ data shows, the military has been slowly but surely reducing its presence in the urban Northeast in favor of institutions in the South and Midwest. Despite having a population comparable to that of entire states, for example, the resources afforded to New York City for officer training and recruitment appear paltry when compared to its corollaries in other parts of the country. The city deserves better. Here are just a few reasons why:

• New York City has a population of over 8 million people. There are over 605,000 college and graduate students going to school in New York City, the largest university student population of any city in the United States. Yet the city boasts a mere 30 to 40 ROTC graduates each year.

• New York “is the nation’s largest importer of college students.” That is, of students who leave their home state to attend college, more leave for New York than any other place in the country.

• With over 8 million residents, New York City has a greater population than either the state of Virginia or North Carolina.  While both Virginia and North Carolina maintain twelve Army ROTC programs each, however, New York City hosts only two, both of which are granted the same resources and personnel as every other ROTC program in the country despite the enormous differences in population for which they are responsible.

Map of ROTC programs in New York City (green, blue, and white) and their proximity to other colleges and universities.

• Both ROTC Programs are located a significant distance away from the areas most concentrated in colleges and universities and are not easily accessible via subway, a fact that can be problematic given that the vast majority of students in the city do not own cars.

• The Air Force hosts a single ROTC program at Manhattan College in the Bronx. It is the most easily accessible via subway, though the commute is still significant for students attending school in any of the other five boroughs, particularly Queens, Brooklyn, and Staten Island.

• The Navy ROTC program, on the other hand, is located beneath the Throggs Neck Bridge and is almost completely inaccessible via public transportation. Moreover, enrollment in the program is strictly limited to students attending SUNY Maritime Academy, Fordham University, or Molloy College. Thus, out of the 600,000+ university students in New York City the Navy is limited to selecting from a collective population of less than 20,000.

• Nearly 60% of Manhattan residents are college graduates, more than twice the national average. Though the 23 SqMi island is host to over 1.6 million people and 40 colleges and universities alone, not a single school in the borough of Manhattan has an ROTC program.

• Neither is there an ROTC program in Brooklyn, which as CPT Steve Trynosky noted in 2006 is “home to a diverse population about the size of Mississippi, which has five Army ROTC units despite a much lower per capita college attendance. In 2005, two of the top five ZIP codes for Army enlistments were in Brooklyn, yet there are no commissioning opportunities in the borough. Could one imagine no ROTC programs for the population of Mississippi?”

• The City University of New York (CUNY) is the third largest public university system in the nation, ranking behind only California State and the State University of New York systems, though all of its campuses reside within a single city rather than an entire state. It provides post-secondary higher education in all five boroughs of New York.

• The CUNY system has over 450,000 students and confers nearly 3 percent of all bachelor’s degrees awarded to African-Americans in the United States. Gen. Colin Powell graduated from the ROTC program at City College, CUNY’s flagship campus. Yet today there is not a single ROTC program at any CUNY school.

• New York City also has a vast array of private universities, including Columbia University, the fifth oldest institution of higher education in the country, and New York University, the nation’s largest private, non-profit university. Yet neither university hosts a program nor do they graduate more than a handful of military officers per year.

• The recent Quadrennial Defense Review (QDR) emphasizes the need to ensure that “officers are prepared for the full range of complex missions that the future security environment will likely demand” and that the DoD is committed to “building expertise in foreign language, regional, and cultural skills,” and “enhancing these skills in general purpose force officers during pre-accession training.” As Eric Chen noted in a previous Secure Nation post, New York City offers a breadth of resources in these areas that are unmatched elsewhere in the country. Take, for example, the latent talent and skill sets offered by the astoundingly diverse population of Queens, a New York City borough in which 138 different languages are spoken every day. West Point’s Social Sciences Department routinely takes their cadets on trips to nearby Jersey City to immerse them in the city’s large and vibrant muslim community. But why stop at immersing cadets in a cultural center when one can also recruit from it? Jersey City is just a five minute subway ride from the middle of Manhattan, but the closest Army ROTC program is located miles away at Seton Hall University. Mr. Chen goes on to note that Columbia University is particularly well suited to meet the needs espoused within the QDR, an argument which is supported by the high quality of the school’s top-ranked programs in Asian languages, anthropology, and sociology.

• The number of programs in the city correlates directly with the resources that the military departments grant towards both the recruitment and training of military officers there. As CPT Trynosky again noted “The allocation of ROTC recruiting assets in urban areas is insufficient to serve the large population assigned. Three recruiting officers are expected to canvass the more than 100 colleges and 13 million people in New York City, Long Island and Westchester County. Compare this with the 10 recruiters assigned for 4.5 million Alabamans or five for 2.5 million Mississippians.”

• The scarcity of commissioning opportunities in New York City is pronounced. With the scars of September 11th still prominently visible even today, New Yorkers have a distinctly personal stake in the military and its operations overseas. They should be afforded every opportunity to become military officers, and to serve proudly in defense of their city and the nation.

Posted on 4 July, 2010

Photo: http://www.advocatesforrotc.org

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29 thoughts on “ROTC in New York City: An Untapped Resource

  1. Eric says:

    As a NYer, I agree with everything said here. Public and private universities are many in New York, and most heavily represented in Manhattan. Many college students in the city. In fact, NYC houses some of the best universities in the world, including my alma mater, Columbia University.That the military has neglected to provide a single ROTC program to Columbia and the city is incredible. Certainly not in the nation's nor military's interest.

  2. Eric says:

    As a NYer, I agree with everything said here. Public and private universities are many in New York, and most heavily represented in Manhattan. Many college students in the city. In fact, NYC houses some of the best universities in the world, including my alma mater, Columbia University.

    That the military has neglected to provide a single ROTC program to Columbia and the city is incredible. Certainly not in the nation's nor military's interest.

  3. kms2034, CC '06 says:

    Great stats, Sean, and a compelling case for bringing ROTC to Manhattan universities!

  4. kms2034, CC '06 says:

    Great stats, Sean, and a compelling case for bringing ROTC to Manhattan universities!

  5. 1LT James Creedon says:

    Fordham Army ROTC is responsible for approximately 56 schools in New York City — almost every school except for St. John's University, which has its own program. In addition, the Fordham program includes a Cadet platoon at Marist College in Poughkeepsie, which serves as a magnet for local schools.As a previous Battalion Commander and recruiting officer of the program, I can't stress enough how underfunded it is. While schools in other regions may have the same staffing levels, they don't handle nearly as many Cadets, nor are they expected to recruit and retain individuals from so many institutions. That said, I think the argument for having more programs at schools like NYU and Columbia is misguided. Each individual program requires a separate staff, and the Army will not fund an entire office unless the recruitment and retention numbers are high enough to justify the expense. Rather than pushing for new programs to open, there really should be a greater emphasis on supporting the existing programs.For example, Fordham ROTC has two companies: one located at the Bronx campus, and one that trains at Lincoln Center in Manhattan. That second company has students from throughout the borough, and could handle even more students with appropriate funding.As for Brooklyn, however, I couldn't agree more. We had students that had to travel over an hour each way for PT in the mornings, and the inevitable subway problems in NYC often threw a wrench into their attempts to attend every training event. As you can imagine, this had two results: either hurt their academic performance (since they had to wake up at 0400 to make it to training on time), or cause them to leave the program, thereby depriving the Army of vital resources.In the end, regardless of an individual's opinion about opening new programs or supporting existing ones, it is clear that the underfunding of ROTC in New York City has a long-term detrimental effect on readiness. As you point out, we have vast resources of language ability, cultural knowledge, and international experience — exactly the resources COIN requires.

  6. 1LT James Creedon says:

    Fordham Army ROTC is responsible for approximately 56 schools in New York City — almost every school except for St. John's University, which has its own program. In addition, the Fordham program includes a Cadet platoon at Marist College in Poughkeepsie, which serves as a magnet for local schools.As a previous Battalion Commander and recruiting officer of the program, I can't stress enough how underfunded it is. While schools in other regions may have the same staffing levels, they don't handle nearly as many Cadets, nor are they expected to recruit and retain individuals from so many institutions. That said, I think the argument for having more programs at schools like NYU and Columbia is misguided. Each individual program requires a separate staff, and the Army will not fund an entire office unless the recruitment and retention numbers are high enough to justify the expense. Rather than pushing for new programs to open, there really should be a greater emphasis on supporting the existing programs.For example, Fordham ROTC has two companies: one located at the Bronx campus, and one that trains at Lincoln Center in Manhattan. That second company has students from throughout the borough, and could handle even more students with appropriate funding.As for Brooklyn, however, I couldn't agree more. We had students that had to travel over an hour each way for PT in the mornings, and the inevitable subway problems in NYC often threw a wrench into their attempts to attend every training event. As you can imagine, this had two results: either hurt their academic performance (since they had to wake up at 0400 to make it to training on time), or cause them to leave the program, thereby depriving the Army of vital resources.In the end, regardless of an individual's opinion about opening new programs or supporting existing ones, it is clear that the underfunding of ROTC in New York City has a long-term detrimental effect on readiness. As you point out, we have vast resources of language ability, cultural knowledge, and international experience — exactly the resources COIN requires.

  7. 1LT James Creedon says:

    Fordham Army ROTC is responsible for approximately 56 schools in New York City — almost every school except for St. John's University, which has its own program. In addition, the Fordham program includes a Cadet platoon at Marist College in Poughkeepsie, which serves as a magnet for local schools.As a previous Battalion Commander and recruiting officer of the program, I can't stress enough how underfunded it is. While schools in other regions may have the same staffing levels, they don't handle nearly as many Cadets, nor are they expected to recruit and retain individuals from so many institutions. That said, I think the argument for having more programs at schools like NYU and Columbia is misguided. Each individual program requires a separate staff, and the Army will not fund an entire office unless the recruitment and retention numbers are high enough to justify the expense. Rather than pushing for new programs to open, there really should be a greater emphasis on supporting the existing programs.For example, Fordham ROTC has two companies: one located at the Bronx campus, and one that trains at Lincoln Center in Manhattan. That second company has students from throughout the borough, and could handle even more students with appropriate funding.As for Brooklyn, however, I couldn't agree more. We had students that had to travel over an hour each way for PT in the mornings, and the inevitable subway problems in NYC often threw a wrench into their attempts to attend every training event. As you can imagine, this had two results: either hurt their academic performance (since they had to wake up at 0400 to make it to training on time), or cause them to leave the program, thereby depriving the Army of vital resources.In the end, regardless of an individual's opinion about opening new programs or supporting existing ones, it is clear that the underfunding of ROTC in New York City has a long-term detrimental effect on readiness. As you point out, we have vast resources of language ability, cultural knowledge, and international experience — exactly the resources COIN requires.

  8. 1LT James Creedon says:

    Fordham Army ROTC is responsible for approximately 56 schools in New York City — almost every school except for St. John's University, which has its own program. In addition, the Fordham program includes a Cadet platoon at Marist College in Poughkeepsie, which serves as a magnet for local schools.As a previous Battalion Commander and recruiting officer of the program, I can't stress enough how underfunded it is. While schools in other regions may have the same staffing levels, they don't handle nearly as many Cadets, nor are they expected to recruit and retain individuals from so many institutions. That said, I think the argument for having more programs at schools like NYU and Columbia is misguided. Each individual program requires a separate staff, and the Army will not fund an entire office unless the recruitment and retention numbers are high enough to justify the expense. Rather than pushing for new programs to open, there really should be a greater emphasis on supporting the existing programs.For example, Fordham ROTC has two companies: one located at the Bronx campus, and one that trains at Lincoln Center in Manhattan. That second company has students from throughout the borough, and could handle even more students with appropriate funding.As for Brooklyn, however, I couldn't agree more. We had students that had to travel over an hour each way for PT in the mornings, and the inevitable subway problems in NYC often threw a wrench into their attempts to attend every training event. As you can imagine, this had two results: either hurt their academic performance (since they had to wake up at 0400 to make it to training on time), or cause them to leave the program, thereby depriving the Army of vital resources.In the end, regardless of an individual's opinion about opening new programs or supporting existing ones, it is clear that the underfunding of ROTC in New York City has a long-term detrimental effect on readiness. As you point out, we have vast resources of language ability, cultural knowledge, and international experience — exactly the resources COIN requires.

  9. Former Cadet says:

    Great points. Although, I must point out one correction. Army ROTC is also located at Fordham's Lincoln Center campus (in addition to Rose Hill in the Bronx and Hofstra on Long Island).But point still taken. It takes me at least and hour and 20 minutes to get to Manhattan College or Rose Hill.

  10. Former Cadet says:

    Great points. Although, I must point out one correction. Army ROTC is also located at Fordham's Lincoln Center campus (in addition to Rose Hill in the Bronx and Hofstra on Long Island).But point still taken. It takes me at least and hour and 20 minutes to get to Manhattan College or Rose Hill.

  11. 2LT Curry says:

    Eric, the reason why there is no ROTC Battalion is that your Alma Mater will not allow an ROTC Battalion on their campus, and that is incredible that they refuse to do so, and that you do not know that.Also, like Lt. Creedon said, Fordham covers New York City, and St. Johns and Hofstra cover Queens and Long Island.

  12. 2LT Curry says:

    Eric, the reason why there is no ROTC Battalion is that your Alma Mater will not allow an ROTC Battalion on their campus, and that is incredible that they refuse to do so, and that you do not know that.
    Also, like Lt. Creedon said, Fordham covers New York City, and St. Johns and Hofstra cover Queens and Long Island.

  13. Eric says:

    LT Curry,I know the history of ROTC at Columbia, and I know Columbia has a proud military heritage with ROTC that was torn. But moving foward, I'll put it this way: Columbia officials haven't invited (yet) a ROTC program from the military, but military officials aren't offering (yet) a ROTC program to Columbia. Both sides are responsible for the split. To bridge the gap, one side need only approach the other to restore a great partnership. We mostly look to Columbia to make the first move, but the military can make the first move, too.”Fordham covers New York City” That's the problem, LT – Manhattan coverage by Fordham ROTC exists on paper, but it's ineffective in practice.

  14. Eric says:

    LT Curry,

    I know the history of ROTC at Columbia, and I know Columbia has a proud military heritage with ROTC that was torn. But moving foward, I'll put it this way: Columbia officials haven't invited (yet) a ROTC program from the military, but military officials aren't offering (yet) a ROTC program to Columbia. Both sides are responsible for the split. To bridge the gap, one side need only approach the other to restore a great partnership. We mostly look to Columbia to make the first move, but the military can make the first move, too.

    “Fordham covers New York City” That's the problem, LT – Manhattan coverage by Fordham ROTC exists on paper, but it's ineffective in practice.

  15. seanwilkes says:

    Indeed, I am aware of Fordham LC. But even with weekly classes at LC I still recall making my way to Rose Hill way more often than I should have needed to (“CDT Wilkes, you need to sign this form in person, come up to RH immediately following MSIII class.” “uhh I have Spanish class in 30 mins” “I don't care just make it happen”). They need to do everything at both locations, from accessions, to uniform issue, to lead labs. I know that LC doesn't have much space, however, which limits the feasibility of executing many ROTC functions there, particularly if the number of cadets from Manhattan and Brooklyn were expanded. Which is why I suggest establishing either full fledged programs or properly resourced satellite programs (i.e. with a full recruiting, retention, supply, and training staff) at NYU, Columbia, or elsewhere.

  16. seanwilkes says:

    Indeed, I am aware of Fordham LC. But even with weekly classes at LC I still recall making my way to Rose Hill way more often than I should have needed to (“CDT Wilkes, you need to sign this form in person, come up to RH immediately following MSIII class.” “uhh I have Spanish class in 30 mins” “I don't care just make it happen”). They need to do everything at both locations, from accessions, to uniform issue, to lead labs. I know that LC doesn't have much space, however, which limits the feasibility of executing many ROTC functions there, particularly if the number of cadets from Manhattan and Brooklyn were expanded. Which is why I suggest establishing either full fledged programs or properly resourced satellite programs (i.e. with a full recruiting, retention, supply, and training staff) at NYU, Columbia, or elsewhere.

  17. seanwilkes says:

    Indeed, and I would point you back to the map posted with the article. Look at where Fordham is located. Does that seem to be the most strategically sound location for a program that is supposed to support nearly all of New York City? Wouldn't it make more sense to locate the program, or at least the headquarters for an expanded multi-pronged program, in the middle of Manhattan where it is most easily accessible to the majority of schools in the city? Certainly Lincoln Center might be able to serve this purpose. But at present it does not. I simply argue that ROTC should be better resourced and better positioned (both figuratively and geographically) to serve all of NYC.

  18. seanwilkes says:

    Indeed, and I would point you back to the map posted with the article. Look at where Fordham is located. Does that seem to be the most strategically sound location for a program that is supposed to support nearly all of New York City? Wouldn't it make more sense to locate the program, or at least the headquarters for an expanded multi-pronged program, in the middle of Manhattan where it is most easily accessible to the majority of schools in the city? Certainly Lincoln Center might be able to serve this purpose. But at present it does not. I simply argue that ROTC should be better resourced and better positioned (both figuratively and geographically) to serve all of NYC.

  19. Eric says:

    “the Army will not fund an entire office unless the recruitment and retention numbers are high enough to justify the expense.”What's the magic number? ROTC's position is an impasse. Raising the cadet numbers in Manhattan is reasonably accomplished by first providing proper access (ROTC on campus) with proper cadre and leadership, establishing conducive campus relations, then by conducting proper (persistent, tailored) outreach with effective incentives. (I'm tempted to draw an analogy between the way ROTC can raise NYC cadet numbers and the strategic changes our troops made during the “surge” to achieve local cooperation in Iraq seemingly overnight after years of trying and failing to do so.) If you build it, they will come, right? Instead, the ROTC policy for NYC is backward: a prerequirement of higher cadet numbers under conditions that effectively dissuade NYC students from ROTC.I find it hard to believe the ROTC policy that effectively limits NYC cadets is accidental given ROTC's famous reliance on actuarial analysis. In that light, it almost seems as though ROTC purposely sets conditions to limit the number of NYC cadets.

  20. Eric says:

    “the Army will not fund an entire office unless the recruitment and retention numbers are high enough to justify the expense.”

    What's the magic number?

    ROTC's position is an impasse. Raising the cadet numbers in Manhattan is reasonably accomplished by first providing proper access (ROTC on campus) with proper cadre and leadership, establishing conducive campus relations, then by conducting proper (persistent, tailored) outreach with effective incentives. (I'm tempted to draw an analogy between the way ROTC can raise NYC cadet numbers and the strategic changes our troops made during the “surge” to achieve local cooperation in Iraq seemingly overnight after years of trying and failing to do so.) If you build it, they will come, right?
    Instead, the ROTC policy for NYC is backward: a prerequirement of higher cadet numbers under conditions that effectively dissuade NYC students from ROTC.

    I find it hard to believe the ROTC policy that effectively limits NYC cadets is accidental given ROTC's famous reliance on actuarial analysis. In that light, it almost seems as though ROTC purposely sets conditions to limit the number of NYC cadets.

  21. seanwilkes says:

    In fact they do just that. Moreover, the metrics they have used in the past for identifying the prime locations and populations from which to pull cadets are phenomenally myopic and prejudicial. Presuppostions against NYC and other urban markets have been BUILT IN to the ROTC model (perhaps this culture has changed, I don't know, but I haven't seen any evidence of it). As one example: the government statistician DoD charged a few years ago with the task of determining the appropriate markets and targets for recruiting used a huge number of questionable statistical methods (in both my estimation and that of a few sociologists I know) and made some strange assumptions, such as that the typical army officer or officer candidate should be an “adventurer, taking part in such activities as mountain climbing, white water rafting, or hiking.” Now I recognize that there are many officers who are interested in such things, but they are neither indicators of superior officership nor of high interest in service in the armed forces. Such assumptions do, however, serve as a negative bias towards those who may live in urban areas who for example may not have had any opportunities to white water raft or climb mountains but rather have had multitudinous encounters with other cultures as well as perhaps an array of language skills from ancestral origins such as Iran, UAE, Pakistan, China, and so on.

  22. seanwilkes says:

    In fact they do just that. Moreover, the metrics they have used in the past for identifying the prime locations and populations from which to pull cadets are phenomenally myopic and prejudicial. Presuppostions against NYC and other urban markets have been BUILT IN to the ROTC model (perhaps this culture has changed, I don't know, but I haven't seen any evidence of it). As one example: the government statistician DoD charged a few years ago with the task of determining the appropriate markets and targets for recruiting used a huge number of questionable statistical methods (in both my estimation and that of a few sociologists I know) and made some strange assumptions, such as that the typical army officer or officer candidate should be an “adventurer, taking part in such activities as mountain climbing, white water rafting, or hiking.” Now I recognize that there are many officers who are interested in such things, but they are neither indicators of superior officership nor of high interest in service in the armed forces. Such assumptions do, however, serve as a negative bias towards those who may live in urban areas who for example may not have had any opportunities to white water raft or climb mountains but rather have had multitudinous encounters with other cultures as well as perhaps an array of language skills from ancestral origins such as Iran, UAE, Pakistan, China, and so on.

  23. […] first part, Capabilities and Capacity, framed Columbia University in New York City as the ideal partner for ROTC to produce officers owning the heightened capabilities and capacity […]

  24. […] colleges, but with entire regions where they are located.  Sean Wilkes, a recent ROTC graduate, reviewed this issue, and John Renehan, a lawyer with the Defense Department, described the magnitude of the regional […]

  25. Mr Ordo says:

    Wow this guy brings up great points. I am a resident of Brooklyn and I want to commission into the Navy as an Ensign, but just to get better education as a junior in high school I went to New Mexico Military Institute far from my home and for college I want to go to VMI and major in Modern Languages and Cultures. If N.Y.C actually made military high schools and ROTC programs available to youth like me with good language programs, that would be fantastic for such a large population. Many could be recruited and serve with valuable skills. I hope one day this happens.

  26. Mr Ordo says:

    Wow this guy brings up great points. I am a resident of Brooklyn and I want to commission into the Navy as an Ensign, but just to get better education as a junior in high school I went to New Mexico Military Institute far from my home and for college I want to go to VMI and major in Modern Languages and Cultures. If N.Y.C actually made military high schools and ROTC programs available to youth like me with good language programs, that would be fantastic for such a large population. Many could be recruited and serve with valuable skills. I hope one day this happens.

  27. […] at Columbia would help solve the military’s absence of ROTC within Manhattan — which has poor access to ROTC despite having the highest concentration of college students in […]

  28. […] to its Staten Island campus. As Army Captain Sean Wilkes (a 2006 Columbia graduate of Fordham ROTC) notes, New York City is currently underserved by ROTC, and cadets face long commutes for training at […]

  29. […] might encourage the Navy to reinstate a program on campus if invited. At the moment, there’s no Navy commissioning opportunity for Columbia students – and for that matter, the majority of New York City college […]

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