When Maj. Gen. Jefforey Smith observed ROTC training after taking over the U.S Army Cadet Command in April 2012, he was surprised it had changed little in 30 years.
"The program that we have in place today is exactly the same program that I went through between 1980 and 1983 at Ohio State University," Smith said, explaining that the core of the curriculum is unchanged.
"Now when you look at the environment we live and work in today, technology has changed leaps and bounds in the last fifteen years, let alone thirty years," he said.
So Smith decided the curriculum must evolve to meet the needs of the lieutenants in Afghanistan whom he said are often forced to make decisions comparable to what colonels dealt with 30 years ago.
Smith and Cadet Command are making changes that they have dubbed "Bold Transformation."
The ROTC curriculum is increasing from 240 hours to 312 hours, with more focus on adult education that involves student interaction.
Smith said he wants to teach cadets "how to think," not just "what to think."
Increasing the "rigor" of the curriculum also means more training in the summers between school years, Smith said, not just five weeks prior to becoming a college senior.
Cadet Initial Entry Training, or CIET, will take place between every cadet’s freshman and sophomore year. A pilot program for this summer training will be tested next summer at Fort Knox, Ky., Smith said, adding the aim is to make CIET mandatory for all cadets beginning in 2016.
Only prior-service soldiers who have already gone through basic combat training will be exempt from CIET.
Right now, a four-week summer camp at Fort Knox is only required for cadets who are coming into the program as juniors, in order to make up for missing the first two years of military science.
Lateral entry will still be possible, Smith said, but cadets will be required to make up the curriculum along with attending CIET.
Then, for cadets entering their junior year, a Cadet Leader Course is being developed. The CLC will be tested in 2015 and be available to all cadets in 2017, Smith said.
The seven weeks during summer will consist of four weeks of tactical training for all cadets.
Then some will branch off for three weeks of special training, such as Cultural Understanding and Language Proficiency. The CULP program has already been taking place each summer for hundreds of selected cadets whom he said travel to one of 40 countries for three weeks of immersion into the culture.
Cultural awareness is more important than ever for young officers, Smith said, and he intends to sustain more CULP training.
Between their junior and senior year, cadets will still attend the Leader Development and Assessment Course. Once called "advance camp" by cadets, LDAC has been conducted for many years at Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Wash. It will now take place at Fort Knox, the new headquarters of U.S. Army Cadet Command.
His command moved to Fort Knox about three years ago under the Base Realignment and Closure Act, but Smith said that’s not the only reason for moving the ROTC training.
Now that the Armor School has moved from Fort Knox, Smith said facilities are available there – modern facilities, unlike the World War II barracks cadets have been staying in during the summers at Joint Base Lewis-McChord.
Many other training programs compete for resources at Lewis, he said, but cadets will be the focus at Knox.
The Cadet Command is also planning a "re-greening" of ROTC cadre and instructors. Smith plans to eventually eliminate the 800 contractors from the Reserve Officer Training Program.
About 140 of those contractors are instructors, and he would like to fill those positions with combat-seasoned officers now that fewer are deployed in Afghanistan.
He plans for centralized boards to select the best qualified officers to serve as professors of military science.
There will also be order of merit changes for cadets when they fill out their "dream sheets" indicating what branch they want to serve in.
Emphasis will be placed on leadership, Smith said, not just a cadet’s grade point average. And, more weight will be given to cadets who choose difficult academic majors.
"We need to increase our STEM degree graduates," Smith said, explaining that today’s Army needs more officers versed in science, technology, engineering and mathematics.
Smith sums up the ROTC transformation with four bullets:
Transforming cadet leader development
Developing a world-class cadre
Improving cadet recruiting, selection and branching
Adjusting the ROTC footprint
The ROTC footprint now includes 1,300 colleges and universities, with 275 hosting full programs. The other 1,066 are affiliated partners that either send their cadets to host schools for training or maintain small manned cadre programs.
Adjusting the footprint means closing ROTC programs at 13 schools over the next two years, Smith said, and eventually moving the cadre to colleges in areas that have more need.
Eventually, Smith would like to open new ROTC programs in demographic regions that are under-represented now and have a need for more officer training.
Those areas include Florida, Los Angeles, New Mexico, Chicago and New York.
Already, the command has opened ROTC pilot programs at City College and York College, both in New York City. An additional ROTC program has been stood up at Loyola University in Chicago.
New ROTC programs will be evaluated a year before a permanent investment is made, but the aim is to establish programs that endure for decades and provide capable, adaptive leaders, Smith said.
"The expectation of young leaders today is phenomenal," Smith said, and he wants to improve the ROTC program to have it meet those high expectations.