A U.S. Army decision to delay the termination of the U.S. Army ROTC program at the University of Southern Mississippi (USM) was met with praise today by U.S. Senators Thad Cochran (R-Miss.) and Roger Wicker (R-Miss.), who this week sent correspondence to the Army regarding ongoing concerns with the closure plan.
The Office of the Secretary of the Army on Wednesday notified Cochran and Wicker of the decision to delay for at least 24 months any action to close the Army ROTC program at USM. All programs targeted by the Army will be put on probationary status during the delay.
"An examination of the Army's rationale for closing the Southern Miss ROTC program made it clear that more analysis is needed. Two years will give the Army plenty of time to more carefully consider the successful history of the Southern Miss program," Cochran said. "I am grateful to Secretary McHugh for this decision, and salute Dr. Bennett and Governor Bryant for their work to preserve this ROTC program."
"I am pleased with the Army's decision to delay the closing of the ROTC program at USM," Wicker said. "It is unfortunate that we even need to discuss this issue given USM's long-standing importance to our nation's fighting forces. This delay represents just the first step in our fight to protect USM's proud ROTC tradition. I join Senator Cochran in congratulating Gov. Bryant, Dr. Bennett, and LTC Worley on their efforts to help save the program."
The Mississippi Senators, along with Representative Steven Palazzo (R-Miss.), this week wrote John M. McHugh, Secretary of the Army, to request that top Pentagon officials meet with USM President Dr. Rodney Bennett to discuss the methodology used to determine which ROTC units would be closed. The lawmakers also asked that the Army provide them with responses to Bennett's questions. The correspondence was the latest action taken by the lawmakers to have the Army justify targeting its ROTC program at USM.
"Since 1951, USM has produced more than 1,500 diverse and superbly-qualified Army officers for service to our nation, sixteen of whom have achieved flag rank," the lawmakers wrote McHugh. "Given the significant contributions the graduates of this program have made to the Army, we are convinced that terminating USM's Army ROTC program would be a disservice to the state of Mississippi and our nation."
Cochran is vice chairman of the Senate Defense Appropriations Committee. Wicker is a senior member of the Senate Armed Services Committee.
In early October, the Army announced that 13 of 273 Reserve Officer Training Corps programs would be closed by the end of the 2014-15 academic year.