John Lehman and Richard H. Kohn: Don't Expand ROTC -- Replace It

Roundup: Historians' Take

[John Lehman, a former secretary of the Navy, is an investment banker in New York and an overseer of the University of Pennsylvania School of Engineering. Richard H. Kohn is a professor of military history at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and a former chief of Air Force history. Both served on the Independent Review Panel for the 2010 Quadrennial Defense Review.]

President Obama on Tuesday called for all college campuses "to open their doors to our military recruiters and the ROTC," saying that it is "time to move forward as one nation." Similar calls have been issued since the repeal of "don't ask, don't tell," as many urge ROTC to return to the Ivy League and other leading universities to reconnect the armed forces with the upper tier of American society. But expanding ROTC into these institutions is the wrong approach....

And while some college leaders may want ROTC back, faculties are likely to be unenthusiastic. Given that the nation is fighting two unpopular wars, with the possibility of more in the future, the military will always be an outside, uncomfortable and largely isolated presence on college campuses. Nor will the Pentagon be eager to send uniformed personnel - who are in short supply - to costly locations where they will recruit and train what is likely to be a small yield of new officers.

Rather than expanding ROTC into elite institutions, it would be better to replace ROTC over time with a more efficient, more effective and less costly program to attract the best of America's youth to the services and perhaps to military careers....

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