A Retreat From Big Cities Hurts ROTC Recruiting: Though Army Seeks More Ethnic Officers, It Shuns Northeast
A recent Wall Street Journal article by Greg Jaffe titled "A Retreat From Big Cities Hurts ROTC Recruiting: Though Army Seeks More Ethnic Officers, It Shuns Northeast" highlights a serious problem of inequity in military service. In essence, despite having a population comparable to that of entire states, New York City and its citizens are not granted the same opportunities for service as military officers as many other regions of the United States.
With over 8 million residents, New York City has a greater population than either the state of Virginia or North Carolina. 594,000 students attend universities in New York City, the greatest number of students in any city in the United States. However, while both Virginia and North Carolina maintain twelve Army ROTC programs each, New York City hosts only two. Student access to ROTC is severely limited as well, as all of the programs in New York City are located either in the Bronx or Queens, a significant distance from the areas of the city with the highest concentrations of colleges and universities.
The shortage of ROTC in New York City is particularly poignant given that the Department of Defense is consistently faced with a lack of diversity in the military's Officer Corps. Former Secretary of State and General Colin Powell is a CCNY ROTC graduate, and The City University of New York system boasts more than 450,000 students and confers nearly 3 percent of all bachelor's degrees awarded to African-Americans in the United States. Yet today, there is no ROTC presence to be found anywhere in the CUNY system.
Neither is there an ROTC presence in Brooklyn, home to a diverse population about the size of Mississippi, which has five Army ROTC units despite a much lower per capita college attendance. In 2005, two of the top five ZIP codes for Army enlistments were in Brooklyn, yet there are no commissioning opportunities in the borough. Could one imagine no ROTC programs for the population of Mississippi?
New York City is also home to an array of private universities, including the exceedingly well endowed Columbia University and New York University, the largest private, non-profit university in the United States. Both universities are highly regarded as doorways to privilege, yet they fail to graduate more than a handful of military officers per year. The absence of military options at these institutions is an obvious example of upper-class elites being systematically discouraged from sharing the civic burden of military service.
The scarcity of commissioning opportunities in New York City hurts our community and the military. Moreover, in light of September 11th, we have a distinctly personal stake in the Global War on Terror. New Yorkers should be afforded every opportunity to serve as military leaders, and to be granted the responsibility for defending our city and our nation. For this to happen, access to ROTC and commissioning sources in New York City must improve, and the resources allotted to programs in the city must increase to match the population they serve.