Tech’s Army ROTC program is one of 13 across the nation and three in Tennessee identified by the U.S. Department of Defense for closure.
Tech received notification this week of the Army’s intentions. The move to close programs appears to be linked to budget decisions and the Army’s desire to have more diverse ROTC participants.
President Phil Oldham and many concerned university supporters say it is a bewildering decision they will fight to reverse.
“We don’t understand why the Army would try to balance the budget on the backs of TTU students,” Oldham stated.
“And we have to question why a disproportionate number of programs in Tennessee are being targeted,” Oldham emphasized. “If there is a concern about establishing diversity, I assert that our first-generation college students from rural areas who participate in our state’s ROTC programs represent a special population.
“ROTC programs are lifelines to American kids from rural areas who are making extraordinary efforts to serve their country and earn an education,” Oldham added.
East Tennessee State University and the University of Tennessee Martin also received notification. The closure list is not linked to the current federal government shutdown, but has its roots in decisions related to the federal budget reductions known as “sequestration” and military personnel reduction.
Leaders and supporters of all three Tennessee universities question the method and metrics used to choose programs for closure. Programs have been aware of a goal of 15 commissions a year, but no notice was given that failure to meet this mark would result in such dire consequences. Oldham points out there was no notification from the Army about TTU’s status and no description of a process to respond and report improvement.
“We find fault with the analysis because during the last year we commissioned 16 officers, which may not have been taken into account by the Army. In our case, we believe this program is capable of meeting ROTC program requirements and are troubled by the lack of due process in the Army’s decision,” said Oldham.
“We have a rich history of service and of providing exemplary officers, and we plan to explore every opportunity to continue to operate our battalion.”
Tech plans to enlist support from Congressional leaders, alumni and others to work toward a reversal of the decision.
If the closures occur, a two-year phase out would allow seniors and juniors to complete their degrees and receive commissions. Current freshmen and sophomores would be allowed to transfer to other programs. Partnering with a host institution that offers ROTC also is another option for universities on the list.
Currently 69 cadets are enrolled through the ROTC program. In the past 5 years, Tech has commissioned 55 officers, according to Lt. Col. Dominic Ciaramitaro, Tech U.S. Army Cadet Command and professor of military science. Last year, a 10-year high of 16 officers were commissioned.
Since the unit’s inception in 1950, it has commissioned 1,662 officers, seven of whom achieved the rank of flag officer. The ROTC program also is an integral part of the campus community, supporting JROTC programs at six area high schools.
Some of the program’s most notable graduates include Gen. Carl W. Stiner, Lt. Gen. Don Rodgers, Lt. Gen. Bruce R. Harris, Maj. Gen. Richard Davis, Maj. Gen. Bob L. Robinson, Rear Adm. Vinson E. Smith, Brig. Gen. Edward F. Dorman III, and Maj. Gen. Robert A. Harris.
Tech was named a military friendly university by G.I. Jobs magazine in its 2012 Guide to Military Friendly Institutions. Only 20 percent of more than 8,000 colleges and universities surveyed were included in the publication. The university was also named among the top military friendly universities by Military Advanced Education in its 2013 Guide to Top Military-Friendly Colleges & Universities.
The university has been committed to the military since Tech’s founding in 1915. The commitment remains strong with scholarships, tuition discounts, and counseling and career advice designed for active military and veterans and family members.
“The quality and legacy of our program demands that we work to preserve it,” Oldham said.