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JROTC History (unofficial)

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ATTEMPTS AT REFORM, 1985-1986

     The rapid expansion of JROTC between 1980 and 1985 overwhelmed the management capabilities of the regions. In the First Region, for example, the number of units increased by 33 percent (225 to 298) between 1983 and 1985. In his 1984 annual assessment, Brig. Gen. Curtis F. Hoglan, First Region commander, candidly spelled out what this dramatic growth meant for the junior program in his area by stating, "A year ago, I cautioned that we were close to the straw breaking the camel’s back. We are there now in First Region. While much lip service has been given to the JROTC program and new emphasis placed on high school recruiting, I am forced to treat this area with benign neglect because the priority of our effort is to the college program directly."

     The passage of the Balanced Budget and Emergency Deficit Control Act of 1985 (the Gramm-Rudman-Hollings Act), which mandated a federal program of stringent financial austerity, complicated the task of JROTC management still further. Funds for supplies, equipment and travel were slashed. As a result, inspections of existing JROTC units and the establishment of new ones had to be postponed. Senior units were asked to take up the slack and give more support to junior units. Unfortunately, the increased demands were not matched by any increases in administrative personnel or other support.

     As a result of the difficulties encountered in the administration of JROTC, the Army Chief of Staff, Gen. John A. Wickham, tasked Gen. Richardson in November 1985 to conduct a detailed review of JROTC operation and to formulate a plan which would streamline program management and improve instruction. The resultant plan, the JROTC Improvement Plan (JRIP), outlined a three-year program to achieve these ends.

     In addition to the curriculum changes discussed earlier, the JRIP, in its original form, involved a substantial revision of the regulations and laws governing JROTC and addressed a number of exigencies. The new plan called for, among other things, higher staffing levels, the funding of summer camps, an automated statistical analysis system and the acquisition of texts and other instructional materials. An especially pressing need addressed in the JRIP was the development of a formal and coordinated JROTC growth policy since, heretofore, programs had been established with no thought given to the overall distribution of JROTC units. The lack of such a policy helped explain why there was no junior division representation in a number of states. The JRIP also gave TRADOC greater control over the selection of cadre and provided for improved cadre training through the establishment of regional instructor orientation/refresher courses.

     While TRADOC conducted its internal review of JROTC operations, Gen. Wickham directed the Army DCSPER, Lt. Gen. Elton, to undertake an independent evaluation of the entire ROTC program and determine what steps were required to develop a more robust pre-commissioning military education system. This study included an assessment of the junior program. After a year of investigation, the Chief of Staff’s ROTC study group, the body charged with making this evaluation, found that the full potential of the JROTC was not being exploited. Indeed, the study group viewed the past performance of the JROTC as a failure. The program had not yielded many candidates for enlistment, for the senior ROTC program, or for the service academies. To improve the program’s productivity, the study group gave three recommendations.

     The first recommendation was that TRADOC clearly delineate the goals of the JROTC. The junior program had functioned since 1916 without a mission statement. The study group saw this as a fundamental weakness which caused confusion over the true purpose of JROTC and led to a tradition of neglect. In January 1985, TRADOC proposed a mission statement which highlighted the citizen-leadership aspect of the junior program.

To develop informed and responsible citizens and to provide an understanding of the U.S. Army in support of national objectives.

     It was rejected by the study group because it did not address all the Defense Department’s objectives for the program’s need for academic credibility. Gen. Wickham then recommended a more detailed and ambitious mission statement.

To help develop informed and responsible citizens, aid the growth of their leadership potential, strengthen their character through teaching of the values associated with service life, acquaint them with the technology inherent to a modern Armed Force, and promote an understanding of the historical role of citizen-soldiers and their service and sacrifice to the nation, thereby creating an interest in military service as a career.

     Another recommendation of the study group centered on making JROTC a more prolific source of recruits for the Army. It believed that a more thorough exploitation of the sponsorship program, which matched JROTC units with local Army organizations, was one way to promote this end. TRADOC was urged to develop a plan to define and institutionalize JROTC-Army relationships across the nation. The plan, the study group felt, should include provisions for the Army to provide training support and equipment loans to and conduct displays and demonstrations for JROTC.

     A third recommendation was for TRADOC to create a centralized management system for JROTC. Such a system could enforce JROTC regulations, set standards and policy, accomplish inter-service coordination, act as liaison with educational institutions, and monitor the accrediting process for establishing or disestablishing units – all tasks that were not being handled effectively within the existing system. The study group called for the creation of a separate directorate within the Office of the DCSROTC charged with the responsibility of managing all aspects of JROTC.

     The DCSROTC, Maj. Gen. Prillaman, took exception to many of the report’s findings, especially those that recommended a closer and more visible JROTC-Army relationship. He did not want JROTC to be perceived primarily as a recruiting device for the regular Army, a perception that inevitably would have developed if the study group's agenda had been adopted. Thus, when the JRIP was submitted to Gen. Richardson on Feb. 27, it included few of the study group’s recommendations.

     Gen. Wickham approved the JRIP on Apr. 30, 1986. He told the TRADOC Commander to proceed as far as he could with available resources and directed his DCSPER to assist with those parts of the plan that were beyond TRADOC’s capacity. The final version of the JRIP was designed to improve JROTC in three ways – to enhance the program’s image by upgrading cadet appearance and discipline and conducting summer camps, to raise cadre quality and performance by clarifying and stiffening selection and retention criteria, and to improve JROTC management by establishing an evaluation plan and developing a computerized information system. The JRIP initiatives scheduled for implementation in 1987 included a contract for training materials, regulations detailing cadre and cadet appearance standards, and cadre performance appraisals and certification procedures. Gen. Wickham’s mission statement was adopted but never really used.

     When considered in its totality, the JRIP, as designed and implemented by the DCSROTC, represented incremental not revolutionary change. The program of instruction was revised to make JROTC more relevant to the needs of the Army and national defense establishment in the 1980s and program administration was streamlined to promote greater efficiency, but the JROTC’s bottom line remained the same. The program continued to be viewed as it had been traditionally – as a source of enlisted recruits, as a way to create sympathy for and an appreciation of the military in the society at large, and as a means by which adolescents could be indoctrinated with the ideals and values of American nativist culture.


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