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JROTC History (unofficial)



     In the two decades before 1992, the number of high schools participating in the U.S. Army variant of the JROTC program rose only moderately. The last significant spurt of growth occurred from FY 1980-1986 during the tenure of Maj. Gen. Prillaman, TRADOC DCSROTC. In that six-year period. the number of JROTC units rose by 199, or 30 percent. The expansion that began in 1992, however, was to dwarf this previous effort. The JROTC grew by over 60 percent between 1992 and the beginning of 1996.

     JROTC was one of the few ways the U.S. Army served American society in other than a war-fighting capacity. The JROTC mission had taken on a new importance in an era when the traditional assumptions that had guided the employment of American military forces during the Cold War were being replaced by others more relevant to the newly emerging global and domestic order. There was a growing recognition that national power rested not upon military strength alone but upon a host of other political, social and economic forces not the least of which was the quality of education afforded to the nation’s youth.

     The most recent JROTC expansion began on Aug. 24, 1992, when President George Bush announced during a speech at the Lincoln Technical Institute in Union, N.J., "Today I’m doubling the size of our junior ROTC program. We’re going to expand it from 1500 to 2900 schools. JROTC is a great program that boosts high school completion rates, reduces drug use, raises self-esteem, and gets these kids firmly on the right track."

     The 2,900 high schools to which President Bush was referring included those sponsored by the Air Force, Marine Corps, and Navy as well as the Army. Due to subsequently imposed funding constraints however, the services could not quite reach the stated objective.

     The Bush idea reflected an earlier proposal of the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Gen. Colin Powell. In a memorandum to the Secretary of Defense, dated June 8, 1992, Gen. Powell characterized JROTC as the "best opportunity for the Department of Defense to make a positive impact on the nation’s youth." Gen. Powell urged that particular emphasis be placed on establishing JROTC units in the nation’s inner cities – areas where drugs, gangs and juvenile delinquency flourish.

     The Los Angeles riots in April 1992, provided the immediate stimulus for the JROTC initiative. Powell visited the site of the disturbances and was touched by what he saw. The Chairman, it seems, felt that the junior program’s emphasis on responsible citizenship, leadership development and respect for constituted authority would prepossess American youth to eschew such expressions of frustration in the future and encourage them to channel their energies along more productive avenues.

     U.S. Army Cadet Command was assigned the mission of planning and carrying out the expansion. It was a mission that had been anticipated by the commander of Cadet Command. In his command guidance for school year 1990-1991, issued shortly after he assumed command, Maj. Gen. Arnold vowed to "get the JROTC out of the closet" and give it an emphasis equal to that afforded the senior program. He also advocated expansion of the program.

     Arnold said, "JROTC will not be on the back burner during my tenure. I want growth, more summer camps, full implementation of the new POI and better interaction and support from senior ROTC. We have the capacity to do more for high school students."

     Arnold convened a task force and charged it with developing a campaign plan to implement JROTC expansion. The task force met from Sept. 9-13 in 1992. Its leader was Col. Robert B. Sauve, Chief of Staff of Third Region. In addition to individuals from the Cadet Command staff, representatives from each subordinate region and selected JROTC cadre comprised the task force.

     Maj. Gen. Arnold briefed Lt. Gen. Thomas P. Carney, the DCSPER, about the campaign plan on Sept. 15, 1992. On Oct. 1, Congress passed the JROTC expansion project into law. At the same time, it authorized $18.7 million for Army JROTC expansion in FY 1993.

     While awaiting formal guidance from the Office of the Secretary of Defense, Maj. Gen. Arnold issued interim instructions to his region commanders for the expansion. In a memorandum dated Oct. 20, 1992, he told them to contact all high schools in their respective regions that had previously applied for a JROTC unit and offer them one. A similar offer was made to cross-enrolled schools that had not yet submitted an application. Arnold also stressed the importance of providing information and the appropriate application materials to all secondary schools that expressed an interest in the program.

     Cadet Command received the official Defense Department guidance it sought on Oct. 29. In addition to discussing questions of funding and the payment of instructors salaries, the guidance set out the broad parameters under which the expansion was to proceed. It prescribed that schools requesting a JROTC unit specify which service program (e.g., Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines) they desired, and that schools requesting a new unit should list desired service affiliation in order of preference. Resolution of multi-service requests from individual schools would be made at the DOD level through a joint working group under the supervision of the Directorate of Accession Policy.

     The final draft of Cadet Command’s campaign plan was approved for execution on Nov. 13. To help subordinate units implement the plan, elements of Cadet Command headquarters conducted a logistics conference from 15-17 Nov. 1992, to develop "push packages" for the establishment of new JROTC units. These push packages were designed to provide the prospective unit with all the administrative and logistical guidance it would need to complete the application process and to get the new unit off the ground.

     Operation Young American, the Cadet Command code name for the JROTC expansion, was a two-phased enterprise. Phase I, which called for the establishment of 200 new units throughout the nation, was to be completed by October 1993. Slated to run from the beginning of FY 1994 through the end of FY 1997, Phase II projected a regular annual addition to the number of units until the goal of 1,682 was met. Later, however, that goal had to be adjusted downward. Bowing to post-Cold War fiscal realties, the Department of the Army in March 1995, instructed Cadet Command to halt the expansion at its existing level of 1400 schools.

     In the expansion, special provisions were made for the financial support of institutions which, according to Defense Department and Army criteria, qualified as educationally or economically disadvantaged schools. Under these provisions, schools agreeing to host a JROTC unit could receive up to five years of financial assistance (three years at the 100 percent level and two years at the 74 percent level). Many inner-city schools qualified for this assistance. Since the expansion kicked off in 1992, approximately 35 percent of the schools that have joined the program have received this assistance.

     Operation Young American had ambitious distribution objectives. JROTC, it was decided, should have a presence in every state. On the eve of the expansion, the program was geographically unbalanced. The Northeast was greatly underrepresented – there were no units in Vermont, New Hampshire, and Connecticut – while the Southeast was over represented. To correct this geographic imbalance, Cadet Command placed special emphasis on establishing units in New England and the Mid-Atlantic states. Maj. Gen. Arnold personally took a hand in the effort to penetrate this untapped market as did his successor in command, Maj. Gen. Lyle. Lyle himself was a 1958 product of the JROTC program at Rogers High School in Newport, R.I., and had a particular interest in seeing the command represented in this region. When a JROTC unit was established at White Mountains High School in Whitefield, N.H., in September 1995, the command attained its distribution objective of being represented in every state.

     JROTC expansion did run into some problems. Some of these problems were created by members of the military community. Within the Department of Defense, there were, and had been for many years, detractors of the JROTC who resented funds being siphoned off from more traditional military missions to support JROTC units. They considered JROTC to be a non-military endeavor whose management needed to be the responsibility of an agency other than the Defense Department. A 1990 Department of Defense proposal to abolish JROTC reflected, in part, the sentiments of these critics. With Gen. Powell being one of the prime sponsors of the JROTC program, however, these detractors had to be somewhat discreet and indirect in their opposition to the expansion initiative.

     Congress also had JROTC critics. Representative Robert Dornan of California was among the most vocal. He questioned the wisdom of funding JROTC expansion at a time when drastic cuts were being made in Army end strength. Thus far, a sufficient number of his colleagues have recognized the benefits bestowed on the nation by JROTC to keep the program and the expansion on track. The most recent threat to the JROTC program occurred in August 1995 when the Senate Armed Services committee proposed a ten percent cut in JROTC funding for FY 1996. Through the combined efforts of the Joint Chiefs and Staff and Senator Sam Nunn of Ga., who took the lead in defending JROTC in the Senate, the provision was removed from the defense appropriations bill.

     Penetrating the inner city schools of the Northeast has also presented difficulties. Why it has been so difficult is not entirely clear but it appears that tradition and political culture in this region do not foster in the population an affinity for military service. To counteract the pervasive negative market forces at work in the region, Cadet Command developed an awareness campaign designed to explain to targeted school systems the advantages of JROTC. The campaign employed all the standard marketing tools as well as enlisting the personal involvement of successive commanding generals. It has enjoyed some success. The beginning of school year 1995-1996 saw JROTC units at some public high schools in New York City and Buffalo that had been resistant to the program in the past.