In a speech last fall at Duke University in Durham, N.C., Secretary of Defense Robert Gates noted, "There is a risk over time of developing a cadre of military leaders that politically, culturally, and geographically have less and less in common with the people they have sworn to defend."
He pointed to the concentration of ROTC programs in rural areas and regions where historically there's a greater propensity to join the military. Alabama has 10 ROTC programs, for example, while Los Angeles, with a population more than twice that of Alabama's, has just four.
Now may be a difficult moment for the military to branch out at universities, however.
Army ROTC programs are on track to meet a goal of producing 5,350 second lieutenants for this fiscal year, which accounts for 60 percent of the Army's new officers at that rank. Given that, and an environment of fiscal constraint, the Army "is not necessarily looking to expand [ROTC]," says Lt. Col. Matt Hackathorn, a public affairs officer for the Army's Cadet Command. But the Army likes to keep lines of communication open with universities interested in hosting a program, he adds.
With ballpark ROTC start-up costs estimated at $1.6 million, "we've got to see whether the juice is worth the squeeze," Hackathorn says. The Army generally considers student interest, whether the campus will recognize ROTC instructors as professors and give credit for courses, and whether a prospective program could produce at least a dozen graduates each year.