Modular concept of Columbia ROTC+
The agreement signed by Columbia President Lee Bollinger and Navy Secretary Ray Mabus has not been released to the public. All our information about the form of the new Columbia NROTC program is from official accounts of the 26MAY11 signing ceremony:
Under the agreement, first announced on April 21, the NROTC program will have an office on Columbia’s campus and active duty Navy and Marine Corps officers will meet with Columbia NROTC midshipmen during routinely scheduled office hours. Navy and Marine Corps-option midshipmen will participate in NROTC through a unit hosted at SUNY Maritime College in Throgs Neck, NY.Here are transcripts of President Bollinger's speech and Secretary Mabus's speech from the signing ceremony.
The basic premise of the modular concept is that delegating the required NROTC training to SUNY Maritime allows the ROTC components on the Columbia campus to be customized to Columbia ROTC+. The modular concept builds on my suggestions for Columbia ROTC designers and builders. Also see Blueprint for Columbia ROTC.
The long-term goal is ROTC programs fully manifested on the Columbia campus. Establishing a complete ROTC program on campus is the practical way for the program to develop a Columbia identity, interact with the University community, and most importantly, build up Columbia ROTC student numbers. I had hoped the provisional Columbia NROTC program would use an extension model (training on campus - headquarters at SUNY Maritime) to maximize presence on campus and access for students. However, indications are pointing to a less visible, less accessible commuter model (office on campus - training at SUNY Maritime). My modular formulation of Columbia ROTC is based on the principle of making lemonade from lemons or, in this case, making the most out of a crosstown commuter arrangement with SUNY Maritime NROTC with an NROTC-staffed office on the Columbia campus. Under the circumstances, a unified hybrid Columbia ROTC+ program entirely located on the Columbia campus may not be realistic at start-up, whereas a loosely interlocking modular approach can reasonably be achieved with a crosstown commuter arrangement at start-up.
In the short term, the modular concept is actually helped by a physical separation between the Columbia campus and the NROTC foster-parent unit at SUNY Maritime. What's needed is just enough formal ROTC presence on campus to provide focus and direction, and stake out the ROTC space on campus, without defining or filling the ROTC space. We also need the NROTC officers at Columbia to be entrepeneurs willing to facilitate filling the ROTC space on campus with Columbia-defined programming or, at least, Columbia-modified NROTC programming.
The modular concept of Columbia ROTC+ has 3 parts:
Part 1 (off campus). Mandatory NROTC training. Ease the cross-campus demands on students for training at SUNY Maritime as much as possible; the more NROTC requirements students can fulfill at Columbia the better. The bulk of non-adjustable NROTC training will likely remain at SUNY Maritime. I suspect there isn't much tolerance for local experimentation in the mandated NROTC components because Columbia Naval and Marines officers must graduate with the same basic training as all Naval and Marines officers. In order to lessen the cross-campus burden on students, heighten ROTC presence on the Columbia campus, and persistently expose students to ROTC, I recommend replacing the non-mandatory NROTC programming at SUNY Maritime with ROTC+ programming on Columbia's campus.
Part 2 (on campus). Alexander Hamilton's Hearts of Oak. On my suggestions page, I suggest a user-driven creative laboratory space for Columbia ROTC students within the available space allowed by formal ROTC and school commitments. For science fiction fans, I analogized this lab space to Ender Wiggins's launchie practices in Battle School (see Orson Scott Card's Ender's Game). More aptly, the tradition I want to revive with CU ROTC+ is that of Alexander Hamilton and his King's College classmates taking ownership of their military development with Hearts of Oak, innovating their own approach to soldiering, and looking ahead by adopting the most sophisticated and strategic weapon of their day - the king of battle, artillery. While I trust French and Indian War veterans, such as George Washington, and European veterans polished his conventional soldiering skills once he joined the regular army (analogous to the required training at SUNY Maritime), Alexander Hamilton the Army officer was first formed as a self-actualizing Hearts of Oak man.
If we truly believe Columbia ROTC students have unparalleled potential and exceptional collective intelligence, then let's give them the lab space to create, experiment, and look ahead, by their own faculties. I want Columbia ROTC graduates to stand out as leaders who have taken ownership of their profession and rebel thinkers who have been innovating as Alexander Hamilton's intellectual heirs since they were students. When future geopolitical challenges catch other military leaders by surprise, Columbia ROTC graduates should be ready to give new answers for new questions.
Part 3 (on campus). ROTC+. We have barely explored the potential of mobilizing the 21st century Ivy League university to prepare officers for an era in which an agile versatile military is as important as a disciplined technically proficient military. Columbia also provides an ideal setting for students to explore the ethos of American military leadership. With the NROTC foster-parent unit headquartered on a remote campus, what innovative ROTC+ programming can Columbia professors develop for ROTC students under their own domain? Freed of the mandated ROTC curriculum, what ROTC+ programming can campus NROTC officers create collaboratively with Columbia professors? Academic course credit can be used as an objective standard for campus ROTC+ programming.
In the modular concept, campus NROTC officers provide just enough focus and direction to stake out ROTC space on campus, then facilitate Part 2 (Hearts of Oak) and Part 3 (ROTC+) filling and defining the ROTC space. A benefit of separating the NROTC foster-parent unit from the campus is that Columbia Army and Air Force cadets could then join with Columbia Navy midshipmen on campus in Columbia-defined Part 2 and Part 3, which the cadets could be dissuaded from doing if all ROTC activity on campus was contained within a formal NROTC program.
4. Educating the campus. Columbia ROTC advocates have stressed the engagement and educational roles of ROTC. However, while conventional ROTC (as opposed to theoretical ROTC+) indeed has campus engagement and educational features, its primary mission is training, not reaching out to the campus community. I believe the combination of a structurally sufficient yet not overbearing formal ROTC presence on campus, Columbia ROTC student-driven experimentation, and professor-driven innovation can produce uniquely customized engagement and educational opportunities for the University community that are characterized by Columbia entities rather than the military.
5. Pipeline. The future of war and peace and global leadership for America is highly uncertain right now. We know, however, that the Columbia graduates serving in the Navy and Marines will be tasked to manage whatever geopolitical crises arise. Columbia's Army and Air Force officers will be on call, too. We should aim to produce the best mentally prepared officers, but even that may not be enough to manage unanticipated complex situations. If Part 2 and Part 3 become robust on campus, Columbia officers on the ground who are stumped and need solutions quickly will then have the option of reaching back to Columbia with real-world based "scenarios", either whole or in part depending on security need. Columbia ROTC students could then pool their intellects and team with interested professors, graduate-student officers, milvets, and even alumni to rapidly work on the scenarios and upload solutions to the Columbia officers anxiously waiting on the ground. Such a pipeline would boost the professional development of Columbia ROTC students, add value to ROTC+, strengthen the bonds of the Columbia military community, and assist Columbia officers in their real-world work.
As the Provost's NROTC advisory committee fleshes out the new program, it matters for Columbia ROTC advocates to have already envisioned what the Columbia NROTC program should look like. Once we have that picture in mind, we'll know how to advise the formation process. The proper direction is a steady increase of ROTC presence on campus with eventually full ROTC programs at Columbia. A full ROTC program on campus is preferable to an extension ROTC program on campus, and an extension ROTC program on campus is preferable to a crosstown commuter arrangement. Until Columbia acquires ROTC programs fully manifested on campus, I believe the modular concept of Columbia ROTC+ can work with a crosstown commuter arrangement.