Congressional Delegation, A-State Officials Urge Review, Reversal of R.O.T.C. Plan
WASHINGTON, D.C. — Members of Arkansas's congressional delegation and Arkansas State University representatives conducted a conference call Wednesday with the U.S. Department of the Army in efforts to seek a reversal of the decision to close the university's 77-year-old Army Reserve Officers’ Training Corps (ROTC) program.
U.S. Sen. Mark Pryor, U.S. Sen. John Boozman, and First District Congressman Rick Crawford participated in the hour-long discussion with Brig. Gen. Maria Gervais, a principal leader at the U.S. Army Cadet Command, and Samuel Retherford, deputy assistant secretary of the Army for military personnel.
"The delegation raised important, critical questions about the process and methodology used in the decision," said Shawnie Carrier, chief of staff to A-State Chancellor Dr. Tim Hudson. "We are very grateful for their time and commitment to helping us sort through this surprising development and to saving our ROTC program."
The Army notified Arkansas State on Oct. 2 that it would close 13 of 273 ROTC programs nationwide in 2015. Thomas R. Lamont, assistant secretary of the Army for manpower and reserve affairs, said the action was not a reflection of either the quality of the program or the outstanding Cadets produced.
"The ROTC program at Arkansas State has been consistently rated among the highest in the U.S. Army Cadet Command, and because of that it is perplexing to me why they would want to close the 77-year-old program,” Crawford said. “The methodology that was presented as to why the program is being closed raises multiple questions that I intend to get answered. I will do all I can with other members of the Arkansas delegation and Arkansas State officials to preserve the A-State ROTC program."
During the conference call, the delegation asked for documentation regarding the analysis that was used in the decision-making process, said Jeff Hankins, vice president for strategic communications and economic development for the ASU System.
"We feel strongly that the quota methodology which was implemented is flawed," Hankins said. "Arkansas State received no consideration for its investments in the ROTC program, its national recognition as a top military friendly school, or its critical role in serving the Delta region."
The congressional delegation was also critical of the Army's failure to give Arkansas State any notice about the possibility of a closure or to outline deficiencies in the program that could be addressed, Hankins said. An evaluation of the program by the Army in 2010 — which is the last one that was conducted — gave A-State "commendable" or "satisfactory" remarks in every area, he added.
"The men and women in the ROTC at Arkansas State are some of our state's best and brightest," Pryor said. "I look forward to working with the delegation to make the case for why we must protect this vital program."
The congressional delegation asked to receive detailed information from the Army within a week, Carrier said. A-State officials will continue to work with the delegation and the Army to save the program.
“Arkansas State is committed to our military and veterans,” Boozman said. “We have a lot of questions that need to be answered as to how this decision was made, and we will be working together to highlight the importance of A-State’s ROTC program to the school, the community and the military.”
Hudson said he is “very concerned for our ROTC students and understand they need answers as soon as possible to be able to make decisions about their future. Our intention is to make sure they are able to complete their education at Arkansas State, earn a military commission, and serve our country honorably just as more than 1,600 of our alumni have in the past."
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Note: A previous news release said 2,500 ROTC officers from A-State had been commissioned since 1936, and this was based on information provided by the program. Further review by ROTC indicates at least 1,633 officers commissioned, though the number is likely greater because of record discrepancies during World War II.
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