Interim Report of the ROTC Task Force: Section 4

February 1, 1996

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 Wiooiam B. Watson



For almost 80 years, the United States government has maintained a military presence on the campus of MIT under the aegis of the Reserve Officers' Training Corps (ROTC) in order to recruit and prepare MIT students for service in the various branches of the armed forces. The first unit of the ROTC, an Army unit, was established by the War Department, on application by MIT, on December 10, 1917 in the midst of the First World War. This is believed to be the first such ROTC unit established in the United States. The War Department's conditions for establishing the MIT unit were explicit: MIT had to "maintain a two year's compulsory course of military training as a minimum," and this course would be made "a prerequisite for graduation." [16]

For the next 40 years, until the fall of 1958 when the course was made voluntary, all physically fit male students at MIT were required during their freshman and sophomore years to participate in what came to be called the Basic ROTC course. This course consisted of 2 hours of classroom instruction and 1 hour of drill per week.

Compulsory military instruction, including drill, was nothing new to MIT students, who from the first day of classes in 1865 had been required, under the terms of the Morrill Land Grant Act of 1862, to receive instruction in "military tactics." The objective of the Morrill Act, passed in the midst of the Civil War, was to provide a "means by which a democratic people could gain a competent officer corps for a military reserve without endangering basic liberties." Since it was feared that the war might establish a large, centrally-controlled standing army, responsibility for creating such an officer corps would be assigned, not to a military agency of the federal government, but rather to at least one college in each state and under the jurisdiction of that state. MIT was designated a Land Grant College and so established a Department of Military Science and Tactics at its inception, as specified in its state charter.

How effective this department was in fulfilling the expectations of the Morrill Act may be questioned. In 1893, the new head of the department, Lt. H. L. Hawthorne, complained that "all there was placed in [his] hands [the year before] was a poorly drilled battalion of Freshmen, with worn out, disgraceful equipments, no organization except for drill purposes and no system of administration whatsoever." According to Hawthorne's history, the heads of the Military Department were in continuous warfare with a faculty unwilling to grant it more hours per week for drilling and instruction and so uncomfortable with its too prominent appearance that it forced the cadets to remove the brass buttons from their uniforms and to substitute for them "gutta-percha buttons," that is, dull rubber-like buttons. By the 1870s, Lt. Hawthorne wrote, "the faculty showed its true feelings towards the Military Department. They did not desire its growth or success.

They regarded it as an excrescent and superfluous innovation only tolerated because of the bounty [$3,000 annually] held out by the government." [17] Despite the hostility of much of the faculty compulsory drill was maintained for all freshmen and a small number of hours of theoretical and practical instruction was given to the sophomores up through the beginning of the First World War.

The institution of ROTC at MIT during the First World War was therefore quite a different matter from the ineffective programs carried out under the terms of the Land Grant Act. ROTC was to be run, first of all, by the military itself and not by the Land Grant Colleges. Its curriculum, moreover, was determined primarily by the military, and the program was presumably more rigorous and disciplined than the programs offered by MIT's Military Department, especially since it was now a prerequisite for graduation.

The Army's first ROTC unit was intended to prepare MIT students for service in the Coast Artillery and the Signal Corps; two years later, in 1919, Engineering and Ordnance units were added. In 1920, an Air Service Unit was established within the Army ROTC, but it was phased out in 1935 for budgetary and other reasons. Following World War II, the Army Air Force revived the ROTC unit in 1946, and three years later it became an Air Force ROTC unit upon the creation of the Air Force as a separate branch of the military. The Navy's ROTC program at MIT did not begin until 1958, when a special curriculum was designed in consultation with the MIT faculty that would prepare students to serve as Engineering Duty officers in the restricted line of the Navy.

In the fifties and again in the late sixties and early seventies, substantial changes were made in the ROTC programs at MIT, some at the initiative of the MIT faculty and administration and others at the initiative of the military services. In 1958, the Basic ROTC course was made voluntary by a vote of the MIT faculty, and in the following year, the Air Force adopted a curriculum similar to the recently introduced Navy curriculum in which, for the first time, certain ROTC requirements could be fulfilled by taking regular MIT subjects or by taking subjects designed jointly by MIT faculty and ROTC personnel. This began a trend toward increasing reliance on regular MIT subjects to fulfill ROTC requirements in all three programs, a trend that culminated in a 1970 vote by the MIT faculty to restrict the granting of credit toward an MIT degree to those subjects in the ROTC curricula that were offered as regular subjects by the various academic departments. This same faculty vote recommended the appointment of a Faculty-Administration Committee "to monitor the policy and operation of the Office of ROTC Programs" and also recommended that the commanding officers of each ROTC unit be appointed to the rank of Visiting Professor and be appointed to aforementioned Faculty-Administration Committee.

These 1970 recommendations of the faculty -- made, it should be recalled, at the height of the anti-war sentiment surrounding the war in Vietnam -- have continued to serve as the basic guidelines under which the three ROTC programs at MIT function. It was also at this time that the ROTC programs on many university campuses were either suspended or severely restricted in their operations, including the programs at Harvard and Tufts Universities. Partially as a result of these developments, students from Harvard and Tufts were gradually admitted into the ROTC programs maintained at MIT, as had been Wellesley students before them as part of the cross-registration arrangements between Wellesley and MIT. Consortium arrangements with neighboring universities, which MIT pioneered two decades ago, has become a characteristic of ROTC programs throughout the country, just as the curricular innovations adopted in the late fifties and sixties have won widespread acceptance in ROTC programs elsewhere.

Current Status

The three ROTC programs maintained by the Army, the Navy, and the Air Force at MIT are viable, stable programs that are highly valued by the military services and by the cadets who participate in them. After a decline in ROTC enrollments between 1985 and 1992 of about 50% (from 502 to 244), enrollments in the last four years seem to have stabilized at around 225 cadets. [18] The enrollment figures for the last four academic years (see Table 1) reveal rather consistent patterns across all three ROTC programs and among the four participating consortium schools. The Navy consistently operates the largest program, accounting for between 40 and 50% of the total, with the Army and the Air Force roughly dividing the remaining 50 to 60%. MIT students consistently make up more than half of the total ROTC enrollment, followed by approximately 30% from Harvard, 12-15% from Tufts, and 2% from Wellesley.

Table 1. ROTC Enrollments, 1994-1995

		MIT	Harvard	Tufts	Wellesley 	Total	% of

Fall Term, 1992-93
Army		 17	19	14	3		 53	22%
Navy		 61	45	21	1		128	52%
Air Force	 52	 9	 1	1		 63	26%
   Total	130	73	36	5		244	
% of Total	53%	30%	15%	2%		
Fall Term, 1993-94
Army	 	26	25	12	4		 67	29%
Navy	 	54	36	13	0		103	44%
Air Force	 45	13	 4	0		 62	26%
   Total	125	74	29	4		232	
& of Total	54%	32%	13%	2%		
Fall Term, 1994-95
Army	 	21	23	12	3		 59	28%
Navy	 	50	28	 9	0		 87	42%
Air Force	 47	10	 3	2		 62	30%
   Total	118	61	24	5		208	
% of Total	57%	29%	12%	2%		
Fall Term, 1995-96
Army		 22	19	16	5	 	62	28%
Navy		 51	29	 9	0	 	89	40%
Air Force	 51	13	 6	0	 	70	32%
   Total	124	61	31	5		221	
% of Total	57%	28%	14%	2%		
One measure of the status of a ROTC program is its ability to retain the students it recruits all the way through the four-year program to commissioning. Typically, ROTC units nationwide will commission approximately 10% of the total enrolled cadets in any one year. Although accurate figures on retention rates for MIT's ROTC programs over the last four years are not available, the figures for the current year suggest that the MIT retention rate is much above the national average. For the class of 1996 the expected commissions will be 21% of total enrollment, or twice the national norm, and the actual retention rates will vary from 34% for the Army to 73% for the Navy.

Another indication of the quality of a ROTC program is the percentage of cadets who hold ROTC scholarships. The figures for the last four years (see Table 2) reveal that a very substantial percentage of students in these programs, especially in the Navy and Air Force programs, have held scholarships, scholarships that were won through nationwide competition. Again, there are no national figures that will allow the MIT programs to be directly compared with ROTC programs at other universities, but the commanders of all three MIT programs have indicated that the percentage of scholarships awarded to students in the MIT programs must be among the highest, if not the highest, in the nation. This would include the Army program, even though its scholarship awards are not as comprehensive as the usual four-year, full-tuition scholarships of the Navy and the Air Force. (For the value of these awards to students enrolled in the MIT programs see the following section of this report.)

Table 2. Scholarship Holders as % of Total Enrollment

		MIT	Harvard	Tufts	Wellesley	Total	Numbers
Fall Term, 1992-93
Army		NA	NA	NA	NA		74%	  39/53
Navy		--	--	--	--		92%	118/128
Air Force	--	--	--	--		92%	  58/63
   Total						88%	215/244
Fall Term, 1993-94
Army		58%	60%	92%	25%		63%	  42/67
Navy		87%	97%	100%	--		92%	 95/103
Air Force	82%	92%	25%	--		81%	  50/62
   Total						81%	187/232
Fall Term, 1994-95
Army		81%	83%	83%	33%		76%	  45/59
Navy		98%	96%	89%	--		97%	  84/87
Air Force	94%	90%	66%	50%		90%	  56/62
   Total						89%	185/208
Fall Term, 1995-96
Army		73%	 84%	31%	20%		61%	  38/62
Navy		98%	100%	78%	--		97%	  86/89
Air Force	96%	100%	66%	--		87%	  61/70
   Total						84%	185/221
The overall status of ROTC programs nationally is reflected in the number of commissioned officers produced by the ROTC programs each year. In fiscal year 1995, the Army commissioned 5,448 officers, 4,210 of which came from its ROTC programs. This compares with 988 officers commissioned from West Point and represents 77% of the Army's total officer corps and 73% of its active duty component. The Navy commissioned 1,178 Navy and Marine Corps officers in FY 1995, of which only 259, or 22%, came from the NROTC programs. The Air Force, in the same year, commissioned 3,496 officers, 1,458 of them (or 42% of the total) coming from the AFROTC programs, compared with 647 officers commissioned from the Air Force Academy.

Given the size of MIT's ROTC programs, their contribution to the number of officers commissioned each year is bound to represent but a small fraction of the total. Yet this is true for most ROTC programs, whose average size, except in the case of the Army, is close to the size of the MIT units. (The average size of the Army's ROTC programs is about twice MIT's.) Moreover, MIT's ROTC is considered by the military to be a "low yield" program in terms of the numbers of career officers it produces, and figures from the Association of Alumni & Alumnae of MIT would seem to bear this assessment out. The number of career officers in any individual MIT class between 1950 and 1995 ranged from a high of 11 to a low of 1, with most classes producing between 4 and 6 officers. Of the total of 191 career officers produced in this period, 80 of them achieved senior officer rank (lt. colonel or colonel in the Army, Air Force or Marines and commander or captain in the Navy) and 4 of them achieved the rank of general or admiral. [19]

These figures may represent a modest contribution to the overall requirements for a competent officer corps drawn primarily from the civilian population of the nation, yet in the view of many the contributions of ROTC programs like MIT's are critical to the creation of a citizen-based military, especially so when the world we live in seems to require the maintenance of a large, and largely permanent, military establishment. Most of the graduates of the MIT ROTC programs will serve for only 4 or 5 years, yet in that span of time they will be the ones who, as junior officers, will carry most of the burden of direct command over enlisted ranks and will be providing, therefore, much of the practical, day-to-day leadership of the military. To conclude, the current status of the ROTC programs at MIT indicates that the graduates of these programs are capable of carrying out the responsibilities expected of them. The programs are stable in their enrollments, maintain high retention rates, and demonstrate in their training proficiency a high degree of competence and commitment. The ROTC Oversight Committee has worked with the unit commanders to ensure as high a level as possible in the military instructor staff and in other ways has sought to assist in maintaining the high standards achieved by these programs over the last two decades or so. That the MIT programs and its students are highly valued by the military is indicated by the high percentage of scholarships awarded to cadets in these programs and by the willingness of the military to adapt its curriculum to the academic standards and conditions that prevail at MIT. Finally, there is abundant testimony from the cadets of all three programs that they value the leadership and teamwork experience provided by the ROTC programs as among the most valuable components of their MIT undergraduate education.

Benefits of ROTC to Students

The Task Force met with a representative group of 13 cadets who participate in the MIT ROTC program. This group was comprised of cadets from MIT, Harvard, Tufts and Wellesley. The following is a summary of the benefits that they identified from their experiences with the MIT ROTC program.

First and foremost, the MIT ROTC program allows students to attend these schools, while simultaneously preparing to serve our country as commissioned officers in the military. Many students desire to serve their country; participation in an ROTC program, such as at MIT, permits these students to combine a quality education with preparation for a military career.

A second benefit is the scholarship support. For the 95-96 academic year, the 102 MIT students in ROTC received $2,173,000 in scholarship aid from DOD. Without this financial support many of these students would not attend MIT. For the group of 13 cadets that met with the Task Force, 8 or 9 of the group indicated that without their ROTC scholarships they would have chosen to attend their state university or a service academy.

Another benefit from ROTC is the academic program, which is viewed as being strong in leadership and management training, analytical skills, and physical preparation. Whereas ROTC classes are open to all students, very few non-ROTC students take advantage of these offerings.

In addition, ROTC cadets attend summer programs that provide additional training and leadership experiences. Upon graduation, they have a guaranteed job in the military, with all of its career opportunities.

Finally, these cadets cited the benefits from the presence of ROTC commanders on campus. The commanders serve as advisors, mentors and role models for all of the ROTC cadets.

Support Costs

The ROTC contracts between DOD and MIT require MIT to provide space for the ROTC units, a minimal level of administrative and secretarial support, and office expenses. DOD pays the salaries for the unit commanders and for other military officers assigned to the unit to serve as instructors for the ROTC academic program.

MIT provides about 15,000 square feet of space to house the Army, Navy and Air Force ROTC units in building 20. MIT also pays for one administrative staff person and three support staff, and provides a budget for operating expenses to cover office costs. The total budget for the current fiscal year, not including the cost for space, is about $310,000 (70% for wages and benefits; 30% for operating expenses).

MIT charges both Harvard and Tufts a per student fee to cover their fair share of MIT's costs to support ROTC. Participation of Wellesley students is part of the MIT-Wellesley exchange program, and as such, there is no explicit charge. The student fee is based on the ROTC budget ($310,000 in FY96), plus a space utilization charge. At about $6 per square foot per year for building 20 space, the total space utilization charge is about $90,000.

Since FY90, roughly 45% of the cadets have been students from Harvard or Tufts. Consequently, for the last six years, MIT has recovered about 45% of its total ROTC expense from Harvard and Tufts.

Estimated Scholarship Replacement Costs

The Task Force met with Stan Hudson, MIT Vice President and Director of Student Financial Aid, to understand the financial aid implications around the status of ROTC.

As of September 1995, 102 MIT students were enrolled in ROTC, including 35 freshmen. These 102 students received $2,173,000 in scholarship aid from DOD for the 95-96 academic year.

Of the 35 freshmen, 16 (46%) would qualify for financial aid from MIT, and would have received an average grant of $6450 for the 95-96 academic year. If the ROTC freshman statistics are representative for the total cohort of 102 students, then we estimate that the total financial aid due to this group of students would be $303,000 [ 46% * 102 * $6450 ]. Thus, if there were no ROTC program and if these 102 students remained at MIT, then we estimate that MIT's annual financial aid costs would increase by $303,000.

However, the financial need for the ROTC students is less than the average need for an MIT undergraduate. For the entire MIT undergraduate population, 60% of the students qualify for financial aid and the average grant is $12,650. Thus, the financial aid for 102 students with average need would amount to $774,000 [ 60% * 102 * $12650 ]. If there were no ROTC program and if the current 102 ROTC students were replaced by 102 students with average need, then we estimate that MIT's annual financial aid costs would increase by $774,000.


16. Letter of Adjutant General W.T. Johnson to Richard C. Maclaurin, President of MIT, 10 December 1917.

17. Lt. H.L. Hawthorne, "Department of Military Science and Tactics, Massachusetts Institute of Technology," typescript, June 1893.

18. MIT Planning Office Reports on the ROTC, 1990 & 1996 for all enrollment and scholarship figures in this report, figures which are derived from the three ROTC units at MIT.

19. Memorandum of Joseph S. Collins, The Association of Alumni and Alumnae of MIT, to Sarah Gallop, 12 January 1996, titled "MIT ROTC Students: Analysis of individuals who chose a career in the military.

Preface | Section 1 | Section 2 | Section 3 | Section 4 | Section 5 | Appendices

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