By Rye Barcott, Michael Dubrule, Rep. Mike Gallagher, and Rep. Mikie Sherrill
We are four veterans—one Navy helicopter pilot who flew missions throughout Europe and the Middle East, and three Marines who served in the same unit during the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. This Veterans Day, after another bitter election, we need to focus on uniting our country and re-instilling a sense of duty that transcends petty partisanship. That is why we are now working together to improve and expand opportunities for more Americans to serve their country—in or out of uniform.
One of the most promising service programs for young Americans is the U.S. Armed Services Junior Reserve Officers’ Training Corps, or JROTC. We are working on a plan before Congress today that would double the size of the program nationwide and equip the next generation to lead through civic duty.
Transformative stories occur every year across the country in JROTC units. According to the Rand Corporation, students who participate in JROTC see “improved academic and behavioral outcomes.” These results include higher grade-point averages, higher graduation rates, higher college acceptance rates, higher standardized test scores, and increased community service participation. The inherent cost to each school is relatively small, as the respective military service subsidizes most costs like textbooks, uniforms, and equipment among other material, but there is a waitlist of hundreds of high schools requesting a JROTC unit.
Congress could act now to bring JROTC to thousands of additional students around the country. Funding for JROTC programs is approved every year in the National Defense Authorization Act. Two of us, Rep. Mike Gallagher and Rep. Mikie Sherrill, are members of the congressional bipartisan For Country Caucus. They’re working with their military veteran colleagues and Rye Barcott’s With Honor Action, a nonprofit policy organization, to build consensus around two new provisions in the defense bill that would strengthen and expand the JROTC program across the nation. One provision will expand JROTC and implement a plan to establish at least 6,000 units, doubling the current corps, by 2031, while the other provision will integrate more STEM education to make the curriculum applicable and competitive.