Although the Army last year postponed the elimination of ROTC programs at Georgia Regents University and 12 other colleges, Augusta’s congressman is working to make sure the programs are given a fair shot before being reconsidered for closure under a new evaluation system introduced this year.
Rep. John Barrow, D-Ga., will offer an amendment to the Department of Defense Appropriations Bill this month, which would require the Army give units identified as underperforming five years, rather than one year, to improve, according to Barrow spokesman Richard Carbo.
“One year to get it right, we don’t think is nearly enough time,” Carbo said. “It’s only fair to give them enough time instead of telling them there’s one year to make improvements.”
The Army first announced in October it would close GRU and 12 other units graduating 15 or fewer cadets per year to realign those resources to larger growth markets.
After public outcry from communities and politicians representing the affected districts, the Army agreed to postpone the closures and place the units on two-year probationary status to be re-evaluated in 2015.
On Wednesday, Army Cadet Command spokesman Mike Johnson said the Army implemented a new evaluation system this year and probationary statuses no longer apply to any unit.
Johnson said all 273 ROTC programs nationwide will undergo an annual evaluation every spring to determine “how they are doing against the published Department of Defense viability standards and the mission that the Army ROTC gives them as far as commissioning.”
Every June, beginning this month, the schools will be sent a letter from the secretary of the Army stating how the program did against the standards.
Johnson said the secretary has not yet decided how to handle units who do not meet standards, but Carbo said Barrow’s amendment wants to give units more time to improve.
“That gives them a year to recruit and four to complete the program to see if they can increase the recruitment and graduation rates,” Carbo said.
Carbo said Barrow and Rep. Dan Benishek, R-Mich., whose district was also affected by the initial closures, attempted to include this amendment in the National Defense Authorization Act on May 19, but the House Committee on Rules did not allow it to be presented for a vote. The Defense Appropriation Bill is expected to have an open amendment process, which allows any amendments offered to be considered for a vote.
Capt. Mike Mixon, GRU ROTC’s executive officer, said after being identified as underperforming last year, the Army instructed GRU to commission 11 cadets into the military this spring, which has been accomplished, and 18 cadets in 2015.
“When given a mission, GRU ROTC has met it,” Mixon said.
Mixon said it was shocking when GRU’s program was targeted for closure last year for low recruitment because the unit had followed goals outlined by the Army.
He said the Army directed GRU to commission 11 cadets in 2012 and 2013, and those goals were met.
The threat was also startling given that GRU has consistently been one of the best-performing units in the country and in 2013 was named Battalion of the Year by the U.S. Army Cadet Command 6th Brigade Headquarters among 270 other universities.
Mixon said over the past three years, GRU has produced graduates ranking in the top six of all cadets nationwide.
“Even though they only produce a small amount of cadets, the caliber of cadets they’re producing is some of the best in the nation,” he said.
Going forward, Mixon said the unit is focused on continuing to recruit and train quality cadets and to follow guidelines provided by the Army. The program has more than doubled the number of students who will attend cadet training at Fort Knox this summer, and Mixon said the future is encouraging.
“We’re confident in what we can do,” he said.