History of rotc introduction

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The undeclared war in Vietnam entangled the ROTC in a controversy of an intensity unparalleled in the programs history.  Concerns about he draft as well as the cost an morality of the war turned many college students and faculty members into virulent opponents of the American involvement in Vietnam.  As the only visible sign of the Army on campus, ROTC became the "lightning rod" for anti-war sentiment.  Anti-ROTC demonstrations became commonplace and, on some university campuses, acts of violence, vandalism, and arson were directed against ROTC instructors and facilities.

During this time of turmoil, many universities reevaluated the desirability and appropriateness of retaining ROTC.  Some of this institutional introspection can be attributed to the unpopularity of the Vietnam War, but some reflected a genuine concern about the quality and substance of ROTC instruction.  Nine universities, including some of the most prestigious, decided to discontinue their connection with the program, while others reduced or eliminated academic credit for military science courses.  The abolition of ROTC units at elite institutions along the eastern seaboard was more than offset, quantitatively at least, by the creation of additional detachments at state institutions in the South and West.  The trend away from elite schools, however, worried some Department of Defense officials.  They feared that the average quality of ROTC student would drop and that the social balance of the Army officer corps would be upset.  There were other officials and officers who were glad to see the Army sever relations with the schools which, in their opinion, had never been avid supporters of the military in any case.

Faced with such widespread and diverse opposition to ROTC, the Defense Department buckled and agreed to reexamine the design and administration of the program with the intent of making the collegiate training curriculum more relevant to the needs of the student.  Taking his cue from a recommendations submitted to him by the Association of State Universities and Land-Grant Colleges, Secretary of Defense Melvin R. Laird set up a committee to review the ROTC curriculum and suggest ways to make the program fit less obtrusively into the academic community.  In June 199 he appointed Dr. George C.S. Benson, former President of Claremont Colleges and long time supporter of the ROTC, to chair the committee.

Even before the report of the Benson Committee was published, the Army introduced a fourth curriculum option, the military Science Core Curriculum or Option C.  Many of the old ideas about collegiate military training advanced by Lyons and Masland in the 1950s were reflected in the new option.  Two widely voiced criticisms of the ROTC curricula were that they were too vocationally oriented and that they were not challenging enough academically.  ROTC texts, one student commented, were written "by and for cretins."  Option C, it was hoped, would eliminate these problems by integrating military instruction more closely with that of regular academic departments and relegating to summer camp those subjects undeserving of academic credit.

Option C went further toward diluting the military content of ROTC than any previous initiative.  It reduced the required number of military contact hours in the advanced course to 120 - down to 43 percent from the 210 hours mandated in the Modified General Military Science curriculum introduced in 1960, and specified that 180 of the total 390 hours of the program could be filled with regular academic subjects believed to be of value to the future officer.  The new liberal approach to pre-commissioning training quickly caught on among institutions that hosted ROTC units.  Gen. William C. Westmoreland, the Army Chief of Staff gave expression to the direction that the ROTC was taking in a letter he wrote to CONARC Commanding General in May 1969:

Many, to include some senior officers as well as junior, will find it difficult to accept the fact hat we no longer expect ROTC to provide trained platoon leaders.  Instead, we expect the program to produce well-educated men with high moral standards who are motivated toward service and who have only a minimum of military training, but who have the potential to become junior officers of high quality.

The deemphasis of the "purely military" aspects of ROTC instruction may have made the program more acceptable to some of its critics on campus, but it did nothing to improve the ROTC cadet's orientation to the military profession.  In fact, the demilitarization of curriculum placed ROTC cadets in a more disadvantageous position than their more thoroughly trained OCS and West Point counterparts.  Even before the advent of Option C, CONARC historical records indicate the ROTC did not do a uniformly good job of preparing cadets for their future roles.  One junior officer of that era complained that when he and dome of his ROTC associates entered the Army, they found themselves woefully unprepared for their jobs.  "We were just a bunch of civilians with uniforms," he said.  Option C only made the situation worse.  It was no surprise to many officers who were familiar with ROTC that an Army review board in the early 1970s found that of the three major commissioning sources, ROTC did the poorest job in preparing its charges for their first assignment.

Support within the Army for this demilitarization of the program was not universal.  An ad hoc committee of officers, convened on the occasion of the Sixth Annual CONARC ROTC conference in 1968, expressed concern about the direction the program was taking.  It warned that things had gone far enough and should be allowed to proceed no farther.

Senior officers became defensive about charges that the military component of ROTC was being emasculated.  Brig. Gen. Melvin A. Goers, Chief of the ROTC directorate of CONARC headquarters, felt compelled to assure ROTC cadre in 1970 that CONARC was "certainly not going to prostitute any of the principles that we hold dear in the military" in promoting Option C and other liberal policies.


The period of transition from a conscript to an all-volunteer military establishment in the early 1970s was a trying time for the three services.  All officer production sources faced new and imposing challenges but those that confronted the Army ROTC were especially daunting.  ROTC production problems surfaced well before the Vietnam drawdown.  As early as the spring of 1967, Army leaders found themselves faced with a choice between "adequate procurement" and "adequate military training" - a dilemma they resolved by opting for adequate procurement.  One undersecretary of the Army summed the matter up quite succinctly:

Adequate procurement and adequate military training prior to graduation are not both obtainable under current conditions.  Since we cannot train unless we first procure, procurement takes precedent where there is conflict.  And, given the trends in American education, we cannot expect in the foreseeable future to met our ROTC requirements without deferring some of the military training and motivational aspects of an ROTC officer's education to the post-commissioning period.

In the years that followed, the dilemma became more acute.  Despite the emphasis placed on recruiting and building an adequate production base, ROTC enrollment plummeted by 75 percent (from 165,430 to 41,294) between school year 1967-1968 and school year 1972-1973.  The end of conscription certainly played a role in this decline.  So too, according to Brig. Gen. Milton E. Key, chief of CONARC's ROTC directorate in 1972, did the virtual elimination of compulsory ROTC and the "apathetic enrollment policies of many PMSs."  The legacy of Vietnam appears to have weighed heavily on many cadre members.  They were reluctant to become to visible on campus.


To boost sagging officer production (especially reserve officer production because the reserve components had  difficult time filling their officer ranks after Vietnam) and to improve program management, Army leaders introduced a new command structure for the ROTC in 1973.  The new arrangements came about as part of the post-Vietnam "Steadfast" reorganization, which replaced CONARC and the U.S. Army Combat Development of the Army promised, would eliminate the "layering and span of control deficiencies" that had plagued the old system.

In the intra-Army discussion that preceded the Steadfast reorganization, calls for the creation of a separate ROTC command were heard and rejected.  Once again, it's appeared that the personnel costs associated with such an organizational solution were considered excessive.  Instead, a weakened version of one of the alternative advanced by the comptroller's study group in 1965 was adopted - the creation of an Office of the DCSROTC at TRADOC level.  In its 1973 form, the ROTC chief was to be the TRADOC DCSROTC, and not, as the study group recommended, the DCSROTC/ROTC commander.  A major general headed the new office, which was essentially the old CONARC ROTC directorate with a different name.  It was approximately the same size (about 60 personnel) and, except for the addition of budgeting and automatic data processing responsibilities, performed the same functions.

Below TRADOC, Army area commands were replaced by four ROTC region commands.  A brigadier general, assisted by a headquarters element of 85 people, commanded each region.  This officer supervised on-campus ROTC activities with in his assigned geographical sector and conducted an annual summer camp.  Regions were further divided into geographical divisions or areas, each of which was commanded by a colonel operating from the region headquarters.  The authors of the final Steadfast plan were convinced that he region commands would provide the ROTC program with a dedicated mid-level supervisory capability to effect "a standardization of control and management" of ROTC instructor groups and an organization that could furnish "close year-round coordination" with installation commanders for summer camp planning.

Close year-round coordination with installation commanders for summer camp planning seemed to have been considered of particular importance.  The nature of coordination that program administrators had in mind had two aspects.  First it was thought necessary that the person in charge of each advanced camp be a general officer.  The old system, in which the senior colonel/PMS in the Army area served as camp commander, did not work, or at least in the opinion of many senior officers, did not work well.  It would take the presence of a general officer to give the camp the prestige and emphasis it needed to deserved.  Gen. Westmoreland, during his tenure as Army Chief of Staff, told the CONARC commander that "ROTC summer camps are of such major importance that we should consider selecting other than professors of military science to be in charge of each advanced camp site."

The second aspect of the close year-round coordination had to do with the issue of camp continuity.  A CONARC-convened ad hoc committee for basic and advanced camps reported in October 1969 that he "lack of continuity" in the prevailing camp system "requires that special measure be taken to preserve the experience of each year's camp for the benefit of the next."  The maintenance of a "full-time, permanent party advanced camp planning staff at he camp site," a measure that a few armies had already implemented on their own initiative by 1969, was one means recommended by the committee to ensure the necessary continuity.

The call for the appointment of a general officer as the commander of each camp and the recommendation for the establishment of a full-time, year-round planning staff at each camp site were both incorporated into the final Steadfast plan.

While the new organization represented progress of a sort, it was not the organizational panacea many had hoped it would be.  The new head of the program (the DCSROTC) was just another staff officer with in TRADOC headquarters.  He posses neither the status nor prerogatives of a commander.   Instead of commanding the ROTC regions, he exercised "operational control" over them.  The DCSROTC, like all staff officers, possessed only the authority he derived from his commander - a situation that made the health of the program fairly dependent on the personal rapport that existed between the two men.

The new organizational setup meant that summer camps, like virtually every other aspect of the ROTC program, would continue to operate in a fragmented and highly diversified manner.  True, the presence of permanent staff at each camp site provided for better coordination and greater continuity but the goal of brining across the board uniformity to the advanced camp system remained a distant goal.


Certain steps were taken during his era to spur recruiting and attract high-caliber students to ROTC.  In 1971, Congress raised the cadet subsistence allowance form $50 to $100 per month and increased scholarship authorizations form 5,500 to 6,500.  Nine years later (1980), with the ROTC still falling short of its assigned production objectives, Congress boosted the number of scholarships again, to 12,000.

Some non-monetary incentives took form of special training programs designed to make the program more exciting.  Cadets attended Airborne School for the first time in 1970.  A two-day reconnaissance and Commando Doughboy (RECONDO) Course was incorporated into advanced camp in 1971.  In the same year, selected cadets were permitted to attend Ranger School in lieu of advanced camp.  The Army Orientation Training Program (renamed Cadet Troop Leader Training in 1979) was introduced the following year.  Based on the Military Academy model, it allowed cadets to serve as apprentice junior officers in active military units.  Later, the Air Assault and Northern Warfare Courses (1979), Flight Orientation/Training (1982), and the Russian Language Course (1983) were added as training options.

A number of other special program in the post-Vietnam ear focused on recruiting for the reserve components.  The Early Commissioning Program initiated in 1966 for military junior colleges, was broadened in 1979 to accommodate cadets who had completed all ROTC requirements but still had not received their undergraduate degree.  It gave them a reserve commission and allowed them to serve in reserve units.  The Simultaneous Membership Program permitted advanced course cadets to serve as officer trainees in reserve component units and receive the drill pay of a sergeant.  Beginning in school year 1983-1984, 5,000 Guaranteed reserve Forces Duty contracts were reserved annually for cadets whose interest in the military extended only to the reserves.

The admission of women into the ROTC was another boon to enrollment.  After a successful test at 10 school during school year 1972-1973, the entire program was opened to female participation in the fall of 1973.  Within two years, women accounted for over 29 percent of ROTC enrollment.

Perhaps the most ambitious and fateful program undertaken to increase officer production was the "Expand the Base" (ETB) initiative introduced at the end of the 1970s.  Its goal was to boost annual output to 10,500 by 985 ("ten-five by eight-five" was the slogan coined to popularize the goal throughout the ROTC community).  This  was to be accomplished by creating more units.  Over 100 extension centers and 36 host institutions were to be established by the end of FY 1983.  Although the ETB did not reach its stated objective, it did result in a substantial expansion of the program.  Between FY 1978 and FY 1983, the number of ROTC units shot up by 40 percent (from 297 to 416).

The DCSROTC had attempted to raise production in the mid-1970s by creating extension centers.  He enjoyed only limited success because they Army refused to give him more than 1,500 officers he already had assigned.  In the ETB, the TRADOC commander and his DCSROTC detoured around this roadblock by tapping the reserve component for the additional officers needed to staff eh new units.  Originally, one active Guard/Reserve officer was authorized for each host unit.  Later, this number was doubled.  By the mid-1980s, almost 630 reserve officers were authorized to serve in ROTC detachments on a full-time basis.  Not everyone in the reserves appreciated this arrangement, but the TRADOC commander and his DCSROTC though it was appropriate given the fact that most of the additional production would go into on of the reserve components.


This massive infusion of money, time, and personnel into the program did obtain results.  Enrollment along with the number of cadets commissioned annually rose steadily in the decade after Vietnam.  Unfortunately, production did not increase enough to meet Army requirements and much of the increase that did occur was achieved at the expense of quality.

William Snyder, associate professor of political science at Texas A&M University and former PMS at Princeton, gave an overview of the major problems that beset the ROTC in an article he wrote in the mid-1970s.  His comments tell the same story as the DSCROTC historical summaries, although his comments are less constrained.  The picture he painted was not a complimentary one.

ROTC graduates, he asserted were less well prepared than the products of other commissioning sources for their first assignment, being "particularly deficient in the degree of familiarity with the overall scope of service activities."  He attributed some of the program's shortcomings to its emphasis on the acquisition of basic military skills and its focus on turning out large numbers of short service officers.

Also detrimental to the quality of ROTC training, Snyder believed, was the small size of many ROTC units.  The existence of small and uneconomical units had been a problem since the very inception of the program, but with the end of the draft, coupled with the virtual abolition of compulsory programs n the early 1970s the problem became more acute than ever before.  By 1975, over half of all units recorded an enrollment of less than 100/  this reduced the effectiveness of much on-campus training and made it difficult for the cadet in a small program to get "a meaningful leadership experience."  It was a situation that would grow worse over the next decade as the number of small, inefficient, and uneconomical units proliferated under "Expand the Base."

Various active Army observers gave pessimistic appraisals of the ROTC product.  Maj. Gen. Charles C. Rogers, DCSROTC from September 1975 to November 1978 was not enthusiastic about the quality of students being admitted into the program.  In a letter dated April  20, 1977, he upbraided the four region commanders for enrolling personnel who "clearly do not have what it takes to be an officer."  The practice of enrolling students with a criminal record particularly disturbed him.  In 1978, a Department of the Army sponsored study group concluded that "intelligence standards" in the Army ROTC were "inadequate."  In 1980, TRADOC's Deputy Commanding General, Lt. Gen. William R. Richardson, complained to the DSCROTC, Brig. Gen. Daniel W. French, about how low ROTC commissioning standards were and expressed the hope that with recent gains in enrollment, TRADOC could be more careful in its selection for commission.


After the Vietnam War, there was a general consensus among senior Army leaders that something had to be done to improve training.  To further this end, the Army introduced the systems approach to training in the 1970s.  The new approach consisted of "performance based instruction" in which subjects were broken down into a number of specific tasks, each of which had to be performed to a prescribed standard.  The old lecture-demonstration-practice training format was replaced by one which was performance oriented and required student hands-on involvement.

Other initiatives that concentrated strictly on officer development were also undertaken in the post-Vietnam era.  In 1978, the Review of Education and Training for Officers (RETO) board convened to develop a uniform system for educating and training Army officer. The RETO group discovered that the four commissioning sources (Military Academy, ROTC, OCS, and National Guard OCS) followed very different agendas and shared few common standards.  To remedy this condition, the group recommended the adoption of the Military Qualification Standards system by all four sources.  This system specified the basic knowledge and skills each officer was to possess at each stage of his professional development. By the early 1980s, the Military Qualifications Standard I, a revised version of the 1970 Option C Program, became the single common curriculum for the entire pre-commissioning education and training community.

The RETO boards also determined that ROTC desperately needed an assessment instrument that could objectively measure cadet leadership ability.  TRADOC introduced the Army Pre-commissioning Assessment System (PAS) in the early 1980s to address this need.  The PAS consisted of nine interrelated parts and formed he basis of a screening and selection process that began prior to enrollment and extended through commissioning.  An important component of the PAS was the Leadership Assessment Program (LAP).  Introduced in 1980, the LAP measured 12 leadership dimensions (which Cadet Command later expanded to 16) by having cadets participate in a variety of behavioral simulations hat replicated situation they might encounter as army officers.  In its original form, LAP behavioral situations featured garrison rather than field settings.  The ROTC cadre were trained to look for and evaluate the critical performance indicators of each dimension.

The programs set in motion by the RETO board represented a step forward in pre-commissioning education and training, at least on the theoretical plane.  Their practical value was, however, strictly limited.  Like previous efforts to reform collegiate military training, these programs were essentially task-oriented.  They focused on the mastery of basic military skills and acquisition of certain bits of knowledge and neglected the far more important area of leadership development.  ROTC's unconventional organization prevented even uniformity in task-oriented training from being realized.  The overhaul of the ROTC needed an organizational architecture to tap the potential of initiates like Military Qualification Standard I.

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