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ROTC program feels no effects of government budget cuts

The effects of new budget cuts made to the armed forces have yet to be seen on the Reserved Officers’ Training Course Program at the University of South Dakota.

Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel announced Feb. 24 sweeping budget cuts to the United States armed forces. The proposed cuts were passed by Congress and approved by President Obama. The cuts call for a $75 billion decrease on defense spending over the next two years and shrinking the military to it’s smallest size since before World War II.

As part of the troop drawdown, the active duty military will be decreased from 570,000 to 420,000 soldiers. The National Guard and Army Reserve will also be decreased from 354,000 to 315,000 and 205,000 to 185,000 troops respectively.

The impact of the new budget and troop drawback has yet to effect the USD ROTC .

Lieutenant Colonel Ross Nelson, professor of Military Science at the university and the head of the ROTC chapter of USD, said for the time being, recruitment numbers for the ROTC program will stay the same.

Cadet Command, which oversees all 275 ROTC programs across the country, had a goal to commission  5,350 new second lieutenants and will actually commission 5,500 for 2014. Nelson said in 2015 the commissions for Cadet Command will stay the same but, it is uncertain what the commissions will look like for fiscal year 2016 and beyond.

“We haven’t seen what the mission for the out years for 2016, 2017 and beyond will be for Cadet Command,”  Nelson said.

At USD, the ROTC chapter is currently missioned at commissioning  10 second lieutenants per year.

Last year the USD ROTC program was slated for closure along with 12 other university ROTC programs after the United States Army claimed the chapter was not viable to maintain due to the low number of second lieutenants they were commissioning. After political pressure from state representatives the military decided not to close the 13 ROTC programs and instead put them on a two year probationary period.

Since the beginning of the year the programs have been taken off of that probationary status and the military is instead reviewing all 275 programs.

Nelson said instead of cutting down on the number of recruits the program takes on he wants to increase commisioning from 10 second lieutentants per year to 15 a year.

“I would like to see our numbers get that far…just to help sustain the program and make it a viable program in Cadet Command’s eyes,” he said.

Senior Michael Owens, a cadet in the USD ROTC, will graduate as a second lieutenant into the active duty Army this May after his graduation from college. Owens said he is not concerned about his future with the army in regards to job security.

“As long as I do my job correctly and uphold the standard I’m supposed to be at, I’ll be just fine,” Owens said.

According to a November 2013 report issued by the United States Accountability Office to congressional committees entitled “Actions Needed to Improve Evaluation and Oversight of Reserve Officers’ Training Corps Programs,”  the cost of ROTC programs varies on the amount of  second lietenants commissioned every year.

“Excluding tuition costs, the average cost per officer produced across all units was about $68,000 compared to an average cost of about $95,000 per officer for units that produced fewer than 15 officers on average annually from fiscal years 2008 through 2012,” the report said.

Captain David Larson, an assistant professor of Military Science at USD and the recruiting officer for the USD ROTC program said he wants to grow the program as much as he can, and recruiting, for the time being, will stay the same.

“Nationally, after any major conflict there is going to be downsizing,” Larson said. “Do I think that it will affect us here a lot? No, not a ton.”

Aside from recruiting, the budget cuts may affect the training the Army conducts. Nelson said while budget cuts are not likely to affect ROTC cadets now, they might affect new cadets once they are commissioned into the active duty Army or the National Guard.

Money for training of units might be cut and units may see less training cycles per year, Nelson said.

“I think the new liutenants will see the budget cuts the worse in their training budgets when they get to their units,” he said.

Nelson also said it is unclear whether or not the cuts may affect promotions, benefits or pay for soldiers in the armed forces.