NMU’s ROTC program has proved worth over years

After 44 years at Northern Michigan University, the familiar sight of U.S. Army cadets in the Reserve Officer Training Corps program clad in Army fatigues on campus may soon be a thing of the past.

That’s because the Army earlier this month sent a notice to NMU -and 12 other universities across the country – that its ROTC program was slated for closure in May 2015.

The response from Northern and federal lawmakers was swift: Why these specific programs out of the 273 that exist nationwide?

That’s a question we think the Army should answer.

The two main reasons for the proposed closure outlined in the formal notice the Army sent to Northern’s administration were that the program was not meeting the standard of commissioning 15 officers per year and that it would help the Army save on costs.

It’s true the program does not typically commission 15 officers in one year.

However, numbers have been going up, with 13 officers commissioned in 2012, 10 more expected to commission this year, and another 14 next year.

And according to NMU Communications Director Cindy Paavola, this standard has never been an issue before.

The estimated cost savings of closing Northern’s programs are also unknown, at least to the public.

Northern officials are saying many people chose to directly enter the armed forces following the devastating attacks on 9/11, rather than wait to finish their college degrees, which is why the ROTC program saw a dip in numbers in recent years.

That is the same argument being made by U.S. Rep. Dan Benishek, R-Crystal Falls, in a letter penned to Secretary of the U.S. Army John McHugh.

Benishek and the 12 other politicians who represent areas where an ROTC program is slated for closure ask several questions of McHugh, all in an effort to ascertain why those 13 programs were chosen.

This argument seems logical to us. What doesn’t seem logical is proposing to close a program that consistently produces cadets who rank among the best in the nation at U.S. Army ROTC leadership and training camps, according to NMU officials.

Northern has a long tradition of welcoming veterans back into the community with open arms.

We think one of its other traditions – that of producing fine officers – should be allowed to continue.