Task Force: Ms. Sarah E. Gallop; Professor Stephen C. Graves, Task Force Chair; Professor Kenneth R. Manning; Mr. Alan E. Pierson; Professor Lisa A. Steiner; Mr. Frank P. Tipton; Professor J. Kim Vandiver; Professor William B. Watson
The Importance of ROTC at MIT
The "citizen soldier" principle asserts that a democratic nation is safer if its military officers are selected from a broad range of citizens, rather than from a professional elite trained only at military academies. ROTC is a mechanism for bringing such a diverse group of citizens into the military. ROTC provides an educational experience that is significantly different from that of the military academies. The contact with civilian faculty and classmates, the style and diversity of the education, and the combination of the military discipline of ROTC and the intellectual freedom of the university result in significant differences in the training and education of ROTC officers. ROTC students carry this diverse university experience into the military and, as a result, they serve as a safeguard against isolation of the military from the rest of society.
As a result of the Vietnam War many private universities in the nation left the ROTC system in the 1970s. The end of conscription in 1973 and the recent downsizing of the military have resulted in the military becoming increasingly conservative and isolated from the civilian population. It is through ROTC programs that civilian universities are most directly able to influence the culture and values of the military. The three ROTC units at MIT, along with more than 500 other university ROTC units across the country, produce 60% of the nation's military officer corps and 40% of the military's four-star generals. The MIT ROTC units also allow Harvard, Tufts, and Wellesley students to serve the country as military officers.
ROTC programs provide students with significant opportunities and benefits. Participants in ROTC receive valuable training as well as financial support for their education. They are supported in the development of strong personal traits such as self-discipline, confidence, and leadership. The program provides the students with the opportunity to become career officers, or to return to civilian pursuits after acquiring useful skills and knowledge from active-duty experience. This experience also makes them more informed citizens, with intimate knowledge of the inner workings of the military.
MIT has a long tradition of contributing to the nation's military. As a land grant institution, MIT was required by the 1862 Morrill Act to provide instruction in "military tactics" to its students beginning in 1865. This provision in the "Land Grant Act" was motivated by the concept of the "citizen soldier". MIT established the first ROTC unit in the United States in 1917. Among living alumni, many have made the military their career, rising to senior officer rank, including a number of admirals and generals.
MIT's ROTC graduates are highly qualified in scientific and technical fields. Such knowledge and skills are becoming increasingly important in a military which depends more each year on advanced technologies. MIT graduates are well prepared to deal with sophisticated systems and to understand the accompanying technical challenges.
In summary, ROTC programs are a primary means to implement the "citizen soldier" model and provide officers who have been trained at a wide variety of civilian institutions. ROTC prevents the military officer corps from becoming isolated from the mainstream of American life. The MIT ROTC program provides MIT students with a valuable educational experience and the opportunity to serve the nation through military service. And it is in our nation's interest to have MIT graduates serving in a military that is increasingly dependent on technology.
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