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JROTC History (unofficial)



     The two decades after World War II were austere ones for JROTC. From 1947 until the passage of the ROTC Vitalization Act of 1964, the Army froze JROTC growth due to funding and manpower constraints. This freeze was something of a boon to the NDCC, which did not rely on federal funding for its growth or maintenance. Seventy-five of the 109 NDCC units active in 1963 were established after the imposition of the 1947 freeze – after the schools on the JROTC waiting list (approximately 400 in 1963) concluded they had practically no chance of getting a unit.

     When Robert S. McNamara became Secretary of Defense in 1961, JROTC entered a period of intense scrutiny. McNamara found that the $4.7 million needed annually to run the program and the 700 active duty personnel needed as instructors was an excessive price to pay for a program that, despite its title, produced no officers and made no "direct contribution to military requirements." McNamara’s solution was to convert JROTC into NDCC units. He saw the two programs performing the same mission but differing in one critical respect – cost. The entire NDCC cost less that $100,000 a year to administer. As a result, the FY 1964 budget contained no provision to fund JROTC, except in military high schools. Monies were reserved, however, for those JROTC schools agreeing to convert to the NDCC.

     Ironically, McNamara’s attempt to eliminate JROTC ultimately resulted in the program’s expansion. Shortly after McNamara’s intentions were announced, the Department of Defense received over 300 letters and telegrams, and the Department of the Army received 90 from senators, representatives, heads of educational institutions and individual citizens. Almost all expressed disapproval of the proposed DOD action. Parents, teachers and community leaders believed that the junior ROTC program was in the national interest, that it had a salutary effect on juvenile delinquency and helped to produce potential leaders. Many members of Congress shared their views, notably Congressman Herbert. At the same time, JROTC supporters in the House of Representatives introduced legislation proposing the expansion of the program from the existing 254 to a maximum of 2,000 units, and its extension to both the Navy and the Air Force. During the congressional hearing on JROTC legislation, the Defense Department, taken aback by the storm of criticism which its proposal had unleashed, backtracked and requested that it be allowed to reconsider the matter. Its reconsideration took the form of a review of the JROTC/NDCC for the purpose of asserting the desirability of maintaining its support for the program. The House Subcommittee holding the hearings agreed, and an 11-member Defense Department commission was appointed to undertake the review. The commission surveyed a cross-section of secondary school officials, community leaders and parents, and published its findings and recommendations in a report entitled "Future Operations in the Junior Division ROTC and the national Defense Cadet Corps," dated June 1963.

     While the report reiterated the Defense Department’s position that JROTC produced no officers and served no direct military purpose, it conceded both the desirability of program expansion and the importance of JROTC to the nation. It also admitted that the program provided the military and the nation with certain benefits. Foremost among these benefits was the fostering of favorable attitudes among American youth toward military service. An important ancillary benefit, the report went on to say, was the promotion of "good citizenship." No part of the curriculum during this period was specifically aimed at instilling "good citizenship" traits in cadets, but the military training and indoctrination received during the normal course of instruction was believed to lead impressionable adolescents toward discipline, orderliness, respect for authority, and other character traits conducive to the development of law-abiding citizens.

     The Defense Department, realizing that it could not block the expansion, wanted to guide it along the most cost-effective lines. To achieve this end, the Department of Defense commission recommended that, in the future, greater use be made of military retirees as JROTC instructors. This would free up 700 active duty personnel for employment elsewhere and save a substantial sum of money. At this time, enrollment in JROTC totaled just under 60,000. The commission’s assessment of the NDCC’s future was decidedly less optimistic than the one it had given to the JROTC. The lack of resources and general Army support for the program it was felt, were harbingers of the NDCC’s eventual demise.

     On Oct. 13, 1963, 40 days before his assassination, President John F. Kennedy signed Public Law 88-647, the ROTC Vitalization Act of 1964. The law required the services to increase the number of JROTC programs under their jurisdiction and also charged them to achieve a more homogeneous geographical distribution of units across the nation. The 1916 rule mandating a minimum enrollment of 100 U.S. citizens, ages 14 or older, was retained for the continuation or establishment of JROTC units as were many other provisions of the original legislation.

     To facilitate the expansion envisaged in the Vitalization Act, a new provision was added that gave incentives to high schools that hired military retirees as JROTC instructors. These retired military employees were to be paid by the school district in an amount which, when added to an instructor’s retired pay, equaled their active duty base pay plus allowances (subsistence, quarters, and uniform allowances). Furthermore, half of the cost incurred by the school district would be reimbursed by the military departments. Similar incentives were not extended to the NDCC schools and, as a result, the NDCC lost what appeal it still possessed. By 1973, only 17 NDCC units remained in operation.

     President Kennedy directed Secretary McNamara to conduct a thorough study of the ROTC program for viability and cost-effectiveness before implementing the ROTC Vitalization Act. The recommendations of the Department of Defense study group charged with this task were codified in a Defense Department directive on ROTC published in 1965. The directive contained a number of provisions designed to make the program more popular among high school students and of greater value to the Army. First, it authorized advanced placement for junior cadets entering the senior ROTC program or enlisting in the armed forces. Second, it established a two-track academic curriculum with a college preparatory academic track and a technical track, which combined military with vocational instruction. Third, the directive specified that, with the exception of military high schools, the JROTC was to be completely staffed with retired military personnel. Finally, the Army was authorized a maximum of 650 units, twice as many as the other services. This gave the Army the capacity to accept both NDCC schools wishing to convert to JROTC and schools on the JROTC waiting list (some of which had been on the list since the 1930s). The Vitalization Act delivered the intended boost to JROTC. Between school year 1963-1964 and school year 1973-1974, the program grew from 294 to 646 units. Student enrollment increased from 74,421 to 110,839.