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    The Junior Reserve Officers’ Training Corps & National Commission on Military, National, and Public Service

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    Mikie Sherrill and Mike Gallagher For Country Caucus members Representatives

    Among its other effects, the coronavirus pandemic has eroded the quality of education across the country, especially in disadvantaged rural and urban communities, where young people long for purpose-driven futures. [The Junior Reserve Officers’ Training Corps] and similar programs like the Young Marines are promising means to empower young Americans with strong civic education and a commitment to serve others, in or out of uniform.

    As leaders on the Senate Armed Services Committee and inspired by the life of the late Senator John McCain, Senator Jack Reed and the late Senator Jim Inhofe worked together to establish the National Commission on Military, National, and Public Service. For three years, members of this congressionally mandated commission met with Americans from across the country to explore both the appetite for and barriers to service among Americans. The commission ultimately made 49 recommendations, and With Honor Action, alongside Members of the For Country Caucus, has since worked to pass a number of these recommendations, including those related to the Junior Reserve Officers’ Training Corps (JROTC).

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    Over half a million high school-aged students participate in the Junior Reserve Officers’ Training Corps across the country. This crucial course in civic education and leadership is also the first step to uniformed service for many of these participants, which is why With Honor Action worked alongside the commission and the leaders of the For Country Caucus to introduce the Inspire to Serve Act. This bill, led by For Country Caucus founding Co-Chairs, Rep. Jimmy Panetta and Rep. Don Bacon, is a comprehensive piece of legislation that would usher in a new era of public service and deliver much-needed modifications and expansions to the JROTC program and other service agencies nationwide.

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    In late 2020, With Honor Action and the bipartisan Members of the For Country Caucus successfully passed an expansion of science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) education in the JROTC program into law. The provision, co-led by For Country Caucus Members Rep. Anthony Brown, Rep. Chrissy Houlahan, and Rep. Mike Waltz, authorized new grant programs to increase the training of JROTC students in STEM fields. Subsequent legislation included $13 million in funding for JROTC programs to carry out the new curriculum.

    In 2022, With Honor Action continued to advocate for the JROTC expansion by working with For Country Caucus founding Co-Chair, Rep. Don Bacon, to pass the Junior Reserve Officers’ Training Corps Expansion Act. This legislation tasked the Department of Defense with developing a plan to expand the JROTC program to ensure greater access in rural, low-income, and historically underserved communities. Additionally, in the Senate, With Honor Action was proud to support a provision led by Senator Roger Wicker in the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) that addressed the instructor shortage by expanding eligibility for military retirees to serve as JROTC instructors while requiring an honorable discharge after at least eight years of service.

    In last year’s NDAA for Fiscal Year 2024, For Country Caucus Member, Rep. Mike Waltz, was able to secure passage of two beneficial provisions. One will allow veterans to utilize the Troops-To-Teachers program to become JROTC instructors and the other aligns retirement pay scales for current JROTC instructors. In the Senate, Senator Roger Wicker led a significant legislative effort to expand the Junior Reserve Officers’ Training Corps from 3,275 existing units up to 4,000.

    With Honor Action is extremely proud of the progress we have made thus far, but our work is not yet complete. This is why With Honor Action is supporting several provisions in this year’s NDAA to continue improving JROTC programs nationwide. In the House version of the NDAA, For Country Caucus Members, Rep. Chrissy Houlahan and Rep. Mike Waltz, are leading a provision to protect JROTC units at smaller schools. In the Senate NDAA, we are supportive of a provision that was included to authorize up to 4,100 JROTC programs, another increase from the previous year.

    Read more about With Honor Action’s work to strengthen and expand the Junior Reserve Officers’ Corps in this Fortune op-ed, featuring For Country Caucus Member Rep. Mike Gallagher and Vice Chair Rep. Mikie Sherrill. You can learn more about the impact of JROTC in this in-depth national study conducted by RAND. 

    Watch JROTC Student Interviews Below

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