Tag Archives: ROTC

Blueprint for Columbia ROTC

ROTC Cadets and Veterans raise the flag on Columbia's campus during Veterans Day

“I invite you to consider whether the right question may no longer be “How could we ever formally recognize ROTC on our campus,” but, instead, “How can we not welcome them back?””
Columbia College Dean Michele Moody-Adams, October 2, 2010

Columbia ROTC was once a special institutional partnership that educated generations of Columbia students in the civil-military leadership tradition of alumnus and founding father Alexander Hamilton. The partnership was severed when ROTC was effectively barred from Columbia University in 1969. Since 2002, students, alumni, and faculty have organized to restore ROTC on the Columbia campus. The majority of responses to ROTC in the Columbia community have been positive, but Columbia’s acceptance of ROTC has been delayed by opposition to the “don’t ask don’t tell” law (DADT).

Columbia ROTC after DADT

“[The repeal of DADT] effectively ends what has been a vexing problem for higher education, including at Columbia — given our desire to be open to our military.”
Columbia University President Lee Bollinger, December 18, 2010

On December 18, 2010, Congress repealed DADT. On the same day, Columbia President Lee Bollinger declared that the end of DADT is “the opportunity for a new era in the relationship between universities and our military services.” On December 20th, the Student Affairs Committee of the Columbia University Senate, the governing body that must decide whether the university will elect to restore ROTC, announced the formation of the “Task Force on Military Engagement.” The University Senate, which last considered ROTC in 2005, will take up the ROTC issue in the Spring 2011 session.

The repeal of DADT makes all the difference in Columbia welcoming ROTC. Much like the November 2010 Yale student survey on ROTC, a majority of Columbians have expressed support for ROTC on campus but not if having ROTC meant importing DADT. The repeal of DADT means a majority of Columbians now favor having ROTC on campus, period.

For Columbia officials, the question after DADT is whether an ROTC program fulfills the civic responsibility of an American flagship institution and the University’s mission to furnish “a distinctive and distinguished learning environment for undergraduates and graduate students in many scholarly and professional fields.”

Military officials currently judge ROTC programs using an accounting standard, i.e., whether an acceptable number of second lieutenants are produced at an acceptable cost, with some consideration for factors such as the host school’s comity with the military, racial diversity, and regional coverage. The effect of current ROTC metrics has been to view the suppressed cadet numbers, long estrangement, and other suspected challenges at Columbia as drawbacks, whereas Columbia’s preeminent institutional strengths have not been judged as countervailing advantages.

Since the repeal of DADT, skeptics have challenged the practicality of an ROTC program at Columbia from the military’s perspective. However, the issue is not whether the military is able to add an ROTC program at Columbia; since the Columbia ROTC movement was organized in 2002, ROTC programs have been granted to other host schools. The issue is whether university and military officials will determine that a new Columbia ROTC partnership is feasible and worth the cost.

If the evaluation of Columbia as an ROTC host school is limited to the military’s current accounting standard, then Columbia will continue to be doubted as a candidate to host ROTC. Realizing ROTC at Columbia depends on university, government, and military leaders who can see beyond current ROTC metrics and envision the benefits of an institutional partnership that invests Columbia’s strengths in the military and vice-versa.

An ROTC+ vision for Columbia

“Future Army forces require lifelong learners who are creative and critical thinkers with highly refined problem solving skills and the ability to process and transform data and information rapidly and accurately into usable knowledge, across a wide range of subjects, to develop strategic thinkers capable of applying operational art to the strategic requirements of national policy.”
The United States Army Operating Concept 2016-2028

“A healthy force must maintain high standards. Recent analyses emphasize the need for officers who are even more agile, flexible, educated, skilled, and professional.”
The Final Report of the 2010 Quadrennial Defense Review Independent Panel

Leaders in all fields often stress that a vision is important, but 90% of the effort is in implementation. Simply adding ROTC to Columbia would fill an important gap at Columbia, but our goal goes beyond simply adding an ROTC program. We envision Columbia ROTC as the leading, state-of-the-art ROTC program in the nation. Much depends on the degree to which the university, the military, and the alumni are willing to implement an ROTC+ vision at Columbia.

The military’s evolving 21st Century mission aligns the military with Columbia’s global outlook and raises the potential of a Columbia ROTC+ with course offerings that are a plus both to the university and the military. In an increasingly complex global security environment, America needs military leaders able to adapt on a full spectrum, which means officers who are “lifelong learners” and “creative and critical thinkers” with the best possible academic foundation. Columbia University’s gifted students and combination of top-tier academic and New York City resources offer ROTC an ideal setting for innovative programs to attract qualified young men and women, recruit personnel with specialized skills, and prepare officers for a full range of complex missions with enhanced pre-accession training. Columbia already hosts innovative crosscutting programs that rely upon the special reach and multi-dimensional resources of a flagship university in a world city – Columbia ROTC+ would be a rare opportunity to rise to the needs of the nation with an evolutionary officer program that draws upon everything Columbia University in New York City has to offer.

Columbia ROTC+ would take advantage of Columbia’s large diverse pool of top-quality undergraduate and graduate students, a world-class research and learning environment that already trains students in a wide range of scholarly and professional fields, and the unique resources of a world capital. Columbia has top language, anthropology, and civil engineering programs that should immediately interest the Army and Marines, as well as excellent engineering and science programs that should attract the Air Force and Navy.

Navy ROTC is a promising match for Columbia. Columbia owns strong historical ties to Naval officer training. An NROTC program at Columbia would provide the Navy with much-needed access to New York City. NROTC favors strong engineering programs and Columbia’s School of Engineering and Applied Sciences (SEAS) is one of the best in the world. For New York City, a home for NROTC at Columbia would advance Mayor Bloomberg’s initiative to make the city an “applied science and engineering hub.”

ROTC 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 the country — and affirm to Columbia students their nation-building responsibilities in both military and civilian life. The return of ROTC to Columbia University, the flagship academic institution in New York City, would have a positive wider cultural and public relations impact on the military and the university.

Any new ROTC program at Columbia would join a distinguished military heritage and find a fraternal community ready to support the program. Columbia’s military tradition dates back to the students who joined the fight for a new American nation. Indeed, the standard bearer for Columbia officership is founding father Alexander Hamilton and his lifetime of visionary leadership in and out of uniform. The Hamilton Society, the student group for ROTC students and Marine officer candidates founded in 2002, has consciously sought to revive General Hamilton’s Columbia military lineage. Columbia enjoys an active and growing population of over 300 student-veterans, the largest by far in the Ivy League, as well as numerous active-duty officers in the graduate programs. Alumni group Columbia Alliance for ROTC has the express purpose of promoting and supporting ROTC at Columbia. Alumni have served in all the military branches, though none more than the Navy, where Columbia Naval officers once rivaled Annapolis’s output.

Beyond Columbia’s military community, ROTC would find a supportive environment on campus. Since 2005, University leaders have consistently cited DADT as the only significant obstacle to the university welcoming ROTC, and DADT is no longer relevant. The ROTC movement has grown within Columbia from students, alumni, and professors supporting the military on campus. The steady trend on campus has been to support the military, as expressed by University leaders such as Trustees chairman and Army veteran Bill Campbell and Columbia College Student Council president and ROTC advocate Learned Foote, multiple Columbia Spectator staff editorials calling for ROTC at Columbia, Columbia’s outreach to recent veterans with robust participation in the Yellow Ribbon program, the unveiling of the Columbia War Memorial, and highly visible commissioning ceremonies on campus. In 2006, Columbia even amended the university non-discrimination policy to add “military status” as a protected category.

The devil is in the details

As stated earlier, since DADT ended as the justification for separating Columbia and ROTC, skeptics have challenged the practicality of an ROTC program at Columbia from the military’s perspective. Issues cited include student interest, providing satisfactory physical facilities, granting ROTC instructors faculty status and titles, and granting academic credit for ROTC courses. As with any ambitious institutional change, the devil is in the details, but all the issues cited are resolvable:

a. Student interest in ROTC

Skeptics point to the current low number of ROTC students at Columbia in order to claim that student interest is too low to sustain an ROTC program on campus. However, their contention is impossible to prove or disprove without an ROTC program on campus. The damaged status of ROTC at Columbia after 1969, alienation from poor exposure, distance and poor access in urban terms, and lack of institutional assistance likely deter most Columbia students from seriously considering ROTC. It’s simply unfair to judge Columbia students for not joining an ROTC program that isn’t there. We first have to plant the seed in order to grow the tree – building up ROTC student numbers at Columbia first requires ROTC on campus. Then, as Columbia ROTC is nurtured into a fully integrated and supported part of the university, Columbia ROTC student numbers will grow over time. That’s just common sense. Roughly one-fourth of the undergraduate population is renewed every year. After ROTC is established on campus and properly advertised, eventually every student applying to Columbia will know about the ROTC program on campus.

Of course, financial incentives help attract students from elite – and expensive – universities like Columbia to any career field. In order for the military to compete for the best students, the Quadrennial Defense Review Independent Panel recommends:

To attract more youth to military careers and recruit from the nation‘s top colleges, the services should offer full scholarships on a competitive basis, usable anywhere a student chooses to attend, in exchange for enlisted service in the reserves (and summer officer training) during schooling, and 5 years of service after graduation, to include officer training school.

It is worth noting that, of the three ROTC programs, Navy ROTC is viewed by many as the ROTC program most likely to succeed at Columbia. The undergraduate NROTC survey of 2008 originated from SEAS students requesting the pathway to Naval officership, and in spite of the unpopularity of DADT, SEAS students voted in favor of Navy ROTC at Columbia. Unfortunately, despite the demonstrated student interest, Columbia students have zero access to NROTC. The absence of NROTC at Columbia is made doubly tragic by the storied history of Naval officer training at Columbia. Many alumni supporters are Navy veterans who would be particularly supportive of a Navy ROTC on campus.

b. Physical facilities for ROTC

ROTC campus space needs are relatively modest and could reasonably be met at Columbia under current conditions. ROTC-friendly neighboring spaces such as Grant’s Tomb and Central Park would augment the space available for ROTC. Furthermore, the projected timeline of the Manhattanville university expansion coincides with the likely timeline for starting an ROTC program at Columbia, which should increase the space available for ROTC on the main campus.

c. ROTC instructors’ faculty status and titles

A key constraint is the law governing ROTC, the ROTC Vitalization Act of 1964. Its provisions should not block efforts at Columbia to restore ROTC; they include the following:

No unit may be established or maintained at an institution unless the senior commissioned officer of the armed force concerned who is assigned to the program at that institution is given the academic rank of professor… and the institution adopts, as a part of its curriculum, a four-year course of military instruction … which the Secretary of the military department concerned prescribes and conducts.

The faculty appointment issue has been solved well at universities comparable to Columbia. At MIT, for example, ROTC leaders are designated as “visiting professors.” At Princeton, ROTC professors are assigned “a rank equivalent to the senior academic rank of professor.” Both these formulations satisfy the law without undermining the status of regular tenured professors and accord with Columbia’s instructional appointment policy.

d. Academic credit for ROTC courses

The courses of instruction issue has also been solved in ways that fit with the values of comparable universities. Although it has been claimed that “the University would also have to grant credit for ROTC coursework” there is no such requirement in the law. Indeed, Princeton has announced that “credit would not be provided at Princeton” for ROTC courses, despite language in the 1972 Army-Princeton agreement that “academic credit for military professional subjects will be judged by the institution under the same procedure and criteria as for other institutional courses.” Similar conditions for ROTC courses may be observed at MIT.

The Princeton arrangement demonstrates a basic model on which the university and the military can agree. More importantly, efforts at Harvard, Princeton, and Columbia have pointed the way towards an ROTC+ model that builds on the basic model by making available high quality courses valued by both the university and the military. These ROTC+ efforts have been of two types:

Regular faculty arranging ROTC credit: Professors at comparable universities such as Harvard have taught courses that were coordinated with the military and received ROTC as well as university credit. This model can be expanded, especially as the subject areas relevant to military leadership continue to expand. Although universities may have significant gaps in areas of interest to the military, departments are glad for opportunities to hire top scholars to cover important areas.

ROTC faculty arranging university credit: Columbia has discussed having regular university departments co-sponsor ROTC courses deemed worthy of academic credit. With a similar vision, the Army has sent ROTC leaders with PhDs to Princeton, positioning them to have joint appointments in regular departments.

Under these models, some courses could be offered with joint Columbia and ROTC credit. Creating an ROTC+ model in which ROTC students get courses such as military history, international relations, game theory, and anthropology provides to the military a “laboratory of the universities,” and also enhances the course offerings of the university. ROTC+ offers capabilities that are a plus both to the university and the military.

The next steps to Columbia ROTC

“Now, as anyone who has been involved in transformation knows, change can be hard. It can be challenging. And it can be frustrating. Inevitably, all institutions resist change to some degree–even when all recognize that change is needed.”
Army General David Petraeus, May 6, 2010

President Bollinger’s encouraging statement immediately following the repeal of DADT was the necessary first step towards restoring the Columbia ROTC partnership.

The next step is for the University Senate to deliberate, then approve ROTC. Input from the Columbia community will be vital to the University Senate’s decision. If the University Senate approves ROTC, university officials would then reach out to the military to start negotiating an ROTC program at Columbia. In order for the military and Columbia to negotiate constructively, it is important that the two sides deal with each other in good faith, are motivated by compelling interests and tangible benefits, and judge Columbia ROTC by a standard that favors Columbia’s institutional strengths. The intervention of political leaders to break through bureaucratic deadlocks may be necessary. Alumni will also be crucial. Columbia alumni have a strong voice in both the university and in government. Alumni are crucial in encouraging students to apply to Columbia and encouraging them to try ROTC. Alumni are also crucial in transcending bean-counter arguments and providing resources to achieve important goals.

A call to action

“The moral compass of the Army is the P.L. [platoon leader, usually a lieutenant] and the C.O. [commanding officer]. I told every one of my P.L.’s that they have to set that moral standard, that once you slip to the left, you can’t pull your guys back in.”
Army Captain Dan Kearney, February 24, 2008

Few causes are as manifestly impactful as advocating for Columbia ROTC. As it is today, much of the weight of future missions will be borne by young officers. They must be able to lead their soldiers in any combination of homeland defense, disaster relief, crisis stabilization, ministerial training, conflict prevention, security and stability, counterinsurgency, counterterrorism, essential government services, emergency infrastructure, and humanitarian aid. In the short term, young lieutenants and captains prepared by Columbia ROTC will be better equipped to rapidly innovate and adapt to unpredictable challenges. Over their careers, a strong academic foundation will help Columbia officers to master their duties with a commensurately greater acquisition of faculties. Pentagon budget cuts that may lead to leaner capabilities on the ground and the forecast of politically sensitive missions that rely on smaller numbers of forces further point to a heightened need for the exceptional individual officers that Columbia can provide the nation.

The challenges facing America are great, but so are the opportunities. At this crossroads in our history, Columbia must choose: are we an “Ivory Tower” disconnected from the needs of People and nation, and only good for insular thinking and selfish pursuits? Or, are we truly America’s producer of vanguard leaders who pursue the greater good and the improvement of all parts of our society, including the military?

The challenge of our time demands the best leaders from our generation. As Dr. Martin Luther King said in another time of pressing need in American history:

Let us stand with a greater determination. And let us move on in these powerful days, these days of challenge, to make America what it ought to be. We have an opportunity to make America a better nation.

As Columbians and Americans, it is again time for us to stand with a greater determination, for the sake of People and nation. The decision we make for ROTC at Columbia is about more than just ROTC. We are shaping our generation’s vision of Columbia University and of ourselves as fellow citizens.

Recommended reading:
Blueprint for Harvard ROTC
The Changing Landscape of American Higher Education — Panel on the Military and Academe

Photo: columbia.edu

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Needs of the Nation: ROTC at Columbia University and the Quadrennial Defense Review, Part II

Part I: Capabilities and Capacity introduced Columbia University in New York City as the ideal partner for ROTC to produce officers with the capabilities and capacity called for in the 2010 Quadrennial Defense Review (QDR). Needs of the Nation is quilted entirely from QDR text to provide a contextual basis for the partnership, while the links match QDR-identified needs to Columbia sources to further illustrate the investment potential of Columbia ROTC for the nation:

The Secretary has directed that investments be increased in certain capabilities that have been in consistently high demand and have proven to be key enablers of tactical and operational success. (pp 20-21) The Department will work to ensure that all its educational institutions are resourced and staffed with the right mix of civilian and military experts who can help prepare the next generation of leaders. (p 54)

America’s men and women in uniform constitute the Department’s most important resource. (QDR p 49) Our recruiting efforts are long term investments that can yield generational gains. (p 51)  Prevailing in today’s wars while working to prevent future conflict depends on the Department’s ability to create and sustain an all-volunteer force that is trained and resourced to succeed in the wide range of missions we ask them to execute. (p 49) The Department must continue developing innovative programs to attract qualified young men and women into the Armed Forces. (p xii)

Many of our authorities and structures assume a neat divide between defense, diplomacy, and development that simply does not exist. (p 74) A series of powerful cross-cutting trends, made more complex by the ongoing economic crisis, threatens to complicate international relations and make the exercise of U.S. statecraft more difficult. The rising demand for resources, rapid urbanization of littoral regions, the effects of climate change, the emergence of new strains of disease, and profound cultural and demographic tensions in several regions are just some of the trends whose complex interplay may spark or exacerbate future conflicts. (p 7) Although many efforts to protect the United States are led by other federal agencies, including the Department of Homeland Security, the role of the Department of Defense in defending the nation against direct attack and in providing support to civil authorities, potentially in response to a very significant or even catastrophic event, has steadily gained prominence. (p 18) Perhaps more than ever before, the United States requires joint military forces able to function and succeed across a wide geographic and operational spectrum. Moreover, military forces must be capable of working effectively with a range of civilian and international partners. (p 7)

Our enemies are adaptive and will develop systems and tactics that exploit our vulnerabilities. (pp 20-21) The Department will continue to work to ensure that America’s cadre of commissioned and noncommissioned officers are prepared for the full range of complex missions that the future security environment will likely demand. Too often, a focus on weapons acquisition programs and overall force structure crowd out needed attention concerning how the Military Departments generate, train, and sustain their leaders. As part of our commitment to ensure that tomorrow’s leaders are prepared for the difficult missions they will be asked to execute, DoD will place special emphasis on stability operations, counterinsurgency, and building partner capacity skill sets in its professional military education and career development policies. (p 54)

Examples of DoD efforts in this area include: Building expertise in foreign language, regional, and cultural skills. We will continue our emphasis on enhancing these skills in general purpose force officers during pre-accession training. Given the inherent link between language and cultural expertise and mission success, this area requires continued focus. (p 54) Operating in partnership with host nation security forces and among local populations puts a premium on foreign language skills and regional and cultural knowledge. Today’s operating environment demands a much greater degree of language and regional expertise requiring years, not weeks, of training and education, as well as a greater understanding of the factors that drive social change. (p 30)

Preventing conflict, stabilizing crises, and building security sector capacity are essential elements of America’s national security approach. (p 75) Stability operations, largescale counterinsurgency, and counterterrorism operations are not niche challenges or the responsibility of a single Military Department, but rather require a portfolio of capabilities as well as sufficient capacity from across America’s Armed Forces and other departments and agencies. Nor are these types of operations a transitory or anomalous phenomenon in the security landscape. (pp 20-21)

Accordingly, the U.S. Armed Forces will continue to require capabilities to create a secure environment in fragile states in support of local authorities and, if necessary, to support civil authorities in providing essential government services, restoring emergency infrastructure, and supplying humanitarian relief. (pp 20-21) The Department recognizes that in order to ensure that enhancements developed among security forces are sustained, the supporting institutions in partner nations must also function effectively. This ministerial training mission is being conducted in Iraq and Afghanistan today by military officers, contractors, and members of the Department’s Civilian Expeditionary Workforce. (p 30) Ineffective governance can create areas that terrorists and insurgents can exploit. Circumstances are ripe for violent ideologies to spread among a population when governments struggle to provide basic services, justice and security, or the conditions for economic opportunity. Civil affairs forces address these threats by serving as the vanguard of DoD’s support to U.S. government efforts to assist partner governments in the fields of rule of law, economic stability, governance, public health and welfare, infrastructure, and public education and information. Because of their linguistic and cultural skills, civil affairs personnel often serve as liaisons to reduce friction between our military forces and the civilian population. (p 17) Efforts that use smaller numbers of U.S. forces and emphasize host-nation leadership are generally preferable to large-scale counterinsurgency campaigns. (p 28)

DoD is also growing its cadre of cyber experts to protect and defend its information networks and is investing in and developing the latest technologies to enable our forces to operate in cyberspace under a wide range of conditions, including in contested and degraded environments. (p 38)

The wars we are fighting today and assessments of the future security environment together demand that the United States retain and enhance a whole-of-government capability to succeed in large-scale counterinsurgency, stability, and counterterrorism operations in environments ranging from densely populated urban areas and mega-cities, to remote mountains, deserts, jungles, and littoral regions. In some cases, it may be in the U.S. interest to help strengthen weak states, including those facing homegrown insurgencies and transnational terrorist and criminal networks or those that have been weakened by humanitarian disasters. Moreover, there are few cases in which the U.S. Armed Forces would engage in sustained largescale combat operations without the associated need to assist in the transition to just and stable governance. (pp 20-21)

In addition to ongoing conflicts, the United States faces a complex and uncertain security landscape in which the pace of change continues to accelerate. Not since the fall of the Soviet Union or the end of World War II has the international terrain been affected by such far reaching and consequential shifts. The rise of new powers, the growing influence of non-state actors, the spread of weapons of mass destruction and other destructive enabling technologies, and a series of enduring and emerging trends pose profound challenges to international order. (p 5)

The challenges facing the United States are immense, but so are the opportunities. (p 97) As noted above, in this dynamic security environment U.S. forces must continue to adapt. America’s Armed Forces have a long history of devising creative solutions to new challenges and this spirit of innovation will be essential as we further evolve and rebalance the force in the years to come. (p 47)


In conclusion, the Secretary of Defense has made clear: in the complex and evolving security environment, America needs to produce military leaders able to adapt on a full spectrum. Columbia hosts other innovative cross-cutting programs, such as the Earth Institute, that rely upon the special reach and multi-dimensional resources of a global flagship university in a world city. ROTC at Columbia is a rare opportunity to create a partnership that rises to the needs of the nation with an evolutionary officer program that draws upon everything Columbia University in New York City has to offer.

* See Part I: Capabilities and Capacity.

Posted on 14 Aug 2010

Photo: defense.gov/qdr

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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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Capabilities and Capacity: ROTC at Columbia University and the Quadrennial Defense Review

“America’s men and women in uniform constitute the Department’s most important resource. Prevailing in today’s wars while working to prevent future conflict depends on the Department’s ability to create and sustain an all-volunteer force that is trained and resourced to succeed in the wide range of missions we ask them to execute.” (p 49)

The 2010 Quadrennial Defense Review (QDR) is the Secretary of Defense’s “capstone institutional document” that establishes the “policy and programmatic foundation that will enable the next generation to protect the American people and advance their interests.” (QDR p 97) The QDR’s guidance in reshaping the military responds to the demand “America’s Armed Forces rapidly innovate and adapt—the Department’s institutional base must do the same” (p xiv) in a “complex and uncertain security landscape in which the pace of change continues to accelerate.” (p 5) The QDR is clear that readying the force for the challenge requires “innovative programs to attract qualified young men and women into the Armed Forces” (p xii) and reforming how military leaders are developed.

Columbia University, with its gifted students and rich combination of first-tier university and New York City resources, offers an ideal partner for ROTC to “recruit personnel with specialized skills” (p 51) and “ensure . . . officers are prepared for the full range of complex missions” by “enhancing these skills . . . during pre-accession training.” (p 54) Recognizing officers need greater academic breadth and depth to be “better prepared to assume the responsibilities of waging war, peacekeeping, stabilization, and other critical missions carried out by our military” (H.R. 5136 p 5), the Department of Defense has already responded with the Alternative Commissioned Officer Career Track Pilot Program to facilitate their advanced education. In the same vein, cultivating an officer corps with the capabilities identified by the QDR necessitates the best possible intellectual foundation for military leaders. The Department of Defense, therefore, has a compelling interest to produce officers with greater capacity and a strong academic grounding in the formative pre-accession (cadet) stage of their development. ROTC at Columbia meets that need.

As it does today, much of the weight of future missions will fall on young officers. In the short term, Columbia-educated lieutenants and captains who developed broader capabilities and capacity as cadets will be better equipped to “rapidly innovate and adapt” to unpredictable challenges. Over the long term, their strong academic grounding will lead to commensurately greater acquisition of capabilities and capacity growth over the course of their military careers. The QDR’s forecast of politically sensitive efforts using smaller numbers of both special operations and general purpose forces (QDR pp 28-30) further emphasizes the growing need for individually exceptional officers.

Where the QDR seeks to ensure “educational institutions have the right resources and faculty that can help prepare the next generation of military leaders” (p xiii), Columbia provides “one of the world’s most important centers of research and at the same time a distinctive and distinguished learning environment for undergraduates and graduate students in many scholarly and professional fields.” (Columbia University mission statement) Where the QDR describes a heightened need for a full spectrum of engineering, scientific, medical, computer, foreign language, regional, cultural, and other skills, Columbia offers excellent programs in all those areas within a full spectrum of world-class academic departments. Beyond the university’s abundant resources for cadets, Columbia “recognizes the importance of its location in New York City and seeks to link its research and teaching to the vast resources of a great metropolis.” (CU mission) For Columbia, ROTC graduates fulfill the university’s expectation of alumni “to advance knowledge and learning at the highest level and to convey the products of its efforts to the world.” (CU mission)

ROTC will be home at Columbia. Columbia has the largest population of student-veterans in the Ivy League and alumni group Columbia Alliance for ROTC has the express purpose of supporting ROTC at Columbia. Growing calls to restore ROTC on campus have come from students, professors, alumni, campus organizations and publications, and university leaders. After years of dormancy, Columbia is reviving its long military tradition, reminded by the martial memorials spread around campus. Columbia’s famous Core Curriculum, required for College undergraduates, was designed as a classical foundation for officer education. The standard-bearer for Columbia officers is founding father Alexander Hamilton and his lifetime of visionary, innovative leadership in and out of uniform. The Alexander Hamilton Society, the campus group for cadets and officer candidates, invokes his heritage.

Columbia is New York City’s premiere university, and there would be substantial symbolic value for the military in the return of ROTC to the Columbia campus. Moreover, a ROTC program at Columbia would solve the military’s absence of ROTC within Manhattan, which has poor access to ROTC despite hosting the highest concentration of college students in the country. Near Columbia are Barnard College, a premiere women’s college, and City College, GEN Colin Powell’s alma mater and the flagship CUNY.

The QDR concludes “[t]he challenges facing the United States are immense, but so are the opportunities.” (p 97) With the establishment of a ROTC program at Columbia, the military has the opportunity to form a valuable 21st century partnership with a global flagship institution in New York City.

* Go to Part II: Needs of the Nation.

Posted on 28 Jun 2010

photo: advocatesforrotc.org

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Why Are Schools Afraid? The Controversy Over ROTC On Campus

The military is a well-respected profession.  The United States Military Academy, The United States Naval Academy, and Virginia Military Institute were just rated number 1, 2, and 3 respectively by U.S. News and World Report for 2010 as the best public liberal arts colleges in the country.  Service academy appointments in general are highly sought after and extremely competitive.  Military service and veteran status are badges of honor in our society. Civilian employers, as well as prestigious universities, actively seek to recruit veterans into their organizations because of the unique skills, character, and experiences that veterans possess.

Veterans are valued because the personal development that occurs as a result of military service cannot be duplicated anywhere else in our society.  So why do these same prestigious universities (i.e.: Harvard, Yale, Brown, Stanford, and Columbia) ban ROTC (Reserve Officer Training Corps) on their campuses?  Why do they prevent exceptional individuals who are interested in military service from attending their schools via an ROTC scholarship and receiving academic credit for doing so?  In other words, after you’ve served in the military we want you at our school; but before you’ve served, we want to help prevent you from ever becoming involved in the military.  Is this hypocrisy? Elitism? Bureaucratic confusion? Maybe it’s just plain illogical and those of us who notice need to more adamantly address this glaring contradiction.

For years, ROTC scholarships have offered promising high school students with a desire to serve in the military the opportunity to attend top schools with ROTC programs like Cornell, Princeton, Lehigh, Bucknell, and many others.  ROTC bans deny talented individuals the opportunity to attend certain exceptional schools.  What are these schools afraid of?  Some arguments seem to be about discrimination; the fact that the civilian federal law currently bans openly gay individuals from serving (I personally think DADT should go away).

Honestly, the fact that these elitist schools are slamming the military for discrimination is quite laughable given their own reputations for admissions “selectivity” based heavily on who your parents are. Additionally, these schools have far from perfect reputations on past discrimination. (See Brandon and Caplan’s 2009 article on the historical underrepresentation of women at Harvard).  An alternate view on the bans, as Steven White points out in his article about the ROTC ban at Columbia, is that “the ROTC ban is seen less as a stance against discrimination and more as a stance against the military, which isn’t helpful.”

I think it is unfair to ban an organization like ROTC that offers so many opportunities to students simply because an elitist administration disapproves of certain federal laws that determine military regulations. Unfortunately, we do not live in a perfect world and no organization is perfect.  In order to survive in a democracy, compromises are made to establish organizations and to move forward with “good enough” policies.  Without these compromises, the alternative is the status quo: no new policies, no new organizations.  Can anyone name a perfect piece of legislation? How about a piece of faulty legislation that was later changed? In the same way, all organizations have their faults and continue to grow and develop over time.  As a large and visible public organization, the military is constantly working on itself to stay current by improving policies, developing new technology and adapting methods to manage, train, and retain personnel.

Some universities are starting to reconsider their bans on ROTC.  Journalist and Stanford graduate Erica Perez quoted President Barack Obama who weighed in on the issue while visiting his alma mater on a campaign visit,

I recognize that there are students here who have differences in terms of military policy, but the notion that young people here at Columbia aren’t offered a choice or an option in participating in military service is a mistake.

However, some antiwar demonstrators from the past continue to marginalize military service with ignorant simplifications.  Perez also quotes Stanford professor Barton Bernstein from the Stanford magazine asserting that military service is incompatible with a first class education,

ROTC represents a group of pseudo-faculty preparing students for war and training them to kill, and that is fundamentally unacceptable at a university.

I wonder if Mr. Bernstein would refer to Academy Professors as “pseudo-faculty?”  Perhaps he should take a look at what the Army actually trains its Soldiers; the Army values of Loyalty, Duty, Respect, Selfless Service, Honor, Integrity, and Personal Courage.  Killing people is not the military’s goal, defense and service to the nation are.  The ROTC program is an avenue through which future leaders can attain an outstanding civilian education that will aid them in their military duties as they serve their country after graduation.  I would think prestigious universities would want the opportunity to participate in educating these leaders before they enter military service.