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Columbia Spectator Staff

The military memorials on campus attest to the generations of Columbians who rose to the needs of our nation. Today, America needs the Reserve Officers' Training Corps at Columbia again. The 2010 Quadrennial Defense Review is the Secretary of Defense's "capstone institutional document" that lays the "policy and programmatic foundation that will enable the next generation to protect the American people and advance their interests." QDR is clear—the "complex and uncertain security landscape in which the pace of change continues to accelerate" demands military leaders who can "rapidly innovate and adapt." Fielding the military America needs will require "innovative programs to attract qualified young men and women into the Armed Forces" and a reform of the development of military leaders. Transforming ROTC with the diverse capabilities identified by QDR necessitates the best possible, intellectual foundation. Therefore, America has a compelling interest in producing officers who are creative critical thinkers, with a strong academic grounding in the formative pre-accession (cadet) stage of their development. Columbia University, with its gifted students and urban resources, is the ideal partner for ROTC to "recruit personnel with specialized skills" and "ensure . . . [that] officers are prepared for the full range of complex missions." Where QDR asserts that "educational institutions have the right resources and faculty that can help prepare the next generation of military leaders," Columbia University provides a world-class research and learning environment that trains students in many scholarly and professional fields. QDR describes a heightened need for engineering, medical, computer, foreign language, regional, cultural, and other skills—Columbia has excellent programs in all those areas. Beyond the University's abundant academic resources for ROTC cadets, Columbia is intrinsically linked to all that New York City has to offer. In return, ROTC graduates fulfill the University's expectation, as stated in its mission, that alumni "convey the products of its efforts to the world." Much of the weight of future missions will be borne by young officers. They must be able to lead their soldiers in any combination of homeland defense, disaster relief, crisis stabilization, ministerial training, conflict prevention, security and stability, counterinsurgency, counterterrorism, essential government services, emergency infrastructure, and humanitarian aid. Lieutenants and captains prepared by Columbia ROTC will be better equipped to innovate and adapt to unpredictable challenges. Over the long term, a strong academic foundation will help Columbia officers to master their duties with a commensurately greater acquisition of capabilities. QDR's forecast of politically sensitive efforts using smaller numbers of forces further emphasizes the need for exceptional officers. To support cadets, Columbia boasts a large population of student veterans, and the alumni group Columbia Alliance for ROTC has the express purpose of promoting ROTC at Columbia. Calls to restore ROTC on campus come from students, professors, alumni, campus organizations and publications, and University leaders. The standard bearer for Columbia officers is founding father Alexander Hamilton, with his lifetime of visionary leadership in and out of uniform. The Hamilton Society, the campus group for cadets and officer candidates, invokes his heritage. An ROTC program at Columbia would solve the military's absence of ROTC within Manhattan—which has poor access to ROTC despite having the highest concentration of college students in the country—and affirm to Columbia students their nation-building responsibilities in both military and civilian life. As QDR affirms, the "challenges facing the United States are immense, but so are the opportunities." Columbia already hosts several ambitious cross-cutting programs that rely upon the special reach and multi-dimensional resources of a flagship university in a world city. Restoring ROTC to Columbia is our opportunity, as it was for past Columbia generations, to rise to the needs of our nation with an innovative officer program that draws upon everything Columbia University has to offer. The author is a student in the School of General Studies majoring in political science. He is a director of the Columbia Alliance for ROTC.

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