What's wrong with ROTC today?
A new AEI report examines the obstacles for those who want to serve

After a faculty meeting today, Yale University is expected to join the ranks of other elite schools where, after four decades of exile and estrangement dating back to the Vietnam War, the Reserve Officers' Training Corps (ROTC) is returning to campus. With the repeal late last year of "don't ask, don't tell," a policy affecting gays in the military, America's leading universities--Harvard, Yale, Columbia, and Stanford--are renewing their ties to the ROTC.

Yet, welcome as these changes are, the ROTC continues to decline in large sections of the country, undermining its original purpose--to create an officer corps that reflects the nation as a whole. In a new American Enterprise Institute (AEI) report, Underserved: A Case Study of ROTC in New York City, Cheryl Miller of AEI's Program on American Citizenship focuses on New York City, America's largest and most diverse metropolis, where the ROTC has been largely abandoned.

In fact, today's ROTC has become increasingly southern and rural. For example, Virginia (population 8 million) has twenty ROTC programs--eleven Army, six Navy, and three Air Force. Alabama (population 4.7 million) has ten Army programs. Mississippi (population 2.9 million) has nine ROTC programs--five Army and four Air Force. By comparison, New York City, with 8.1 million residents, has only four ROTC programs--two Army, one Navy, and one Air Force.

Among the report's key findings:

  • The absence of ROTC units on urban campuses, especially in the Northeast, prevents the military from taking full advantage of their large, ethnically diverse populations.
  • The ROTC's one-size-fits-all approach fails to account for the unique needs of each market. Urban ROTC programs have logistical, outreach, and transportation challenges incomparable to those at the typical southern state school.
  • By overlooking institutions like the City University of New York--among the top producers of African American baccalaureates--the military is not accessing minority officers fully reflective of the population.

Miller demonstrates in Underserved why the military needs to change its ROTC policies to avoid the many missed opportunities seen today. As for New York City, she concludes that "[w]ith the scars of September 11 still visible today, New Yorkers have a large and personal stake in the country's security. They should be afforded equal opportunities as those in other regions of the country to become military officers and to serve in defense of their city and their nation."

Cheryl Miller is available for interview and can be contacted at cheryl.miller@aei.org or 202.419.5208. For help or additional media inquiries, please contact Hampton Foushee at hampton.foushee@aei.org or 202.862.5806.

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