Statement by the President Upon Approving the Reserve Officers' Training Corps Vitalization Act.
I HAVE approved H.R. 9124, the "Reserve Officers' Training Corps Vitalization Act of 1964."
The roots of the ROTC program reach back more than a century to 1862 when the Morrill Act required the land grant colleges to offer courses in military training. The program as we know it today is founded on the National Defense Act of 1916.
Under the authority so wisely provided, the ROTC has become familiar to all and has trained many, many thousands of our young men in the leadership so necessary in the three major conflicts in which we have been engaged during this century. Today, this vital program constitutes the largest single source of trained officers not just for the Reserves, but for the Regular forces as well.
I am convinced that the bill I have approved today will bring about a marked improvement in the ROTC programs being conducted in our colleges and universities, and I congratulate the Congress for the changes it has made to this end.
The bill permits the establishment of new 2-year ROTC programs, in addition to continuing the traditional 4-year programs authorized by previous legislation. This will open the ROTC to many young men who have been unable to qualify before, either because they were transferees from a junior college or because the heavy academic load of freshman and sophomore years has prevented them from participating.
The bill also permits the Army and the Air Force to award scholarships comparable to those which have been authorized for the Navy since 1947 under the so-called Holloway plan. While these scholarships should help to strengthen the 4-year ROTC programs for which they have been provided, I earnestly hope that the Congress will later see fit to make them available to participants in the new 2-year program as well.
The bill, however, contains one feature which concerns me. This involves provisions which specify that junior ROTC units in secondary institutions must be established within prescribed numerical limits if the institutions meet certain standards and criteria. The bill further provides that the President shall promulgate, by January 1, 1966, the regulations prescribing such standards and criteria.
I am aware of the fact that the junior ROTC program has been the subject of some controversy over the years. Even though the program fulfills no direct military requirement, it continues to occupy the full time of several hundred members of our active military personnel. Before I promulgate any regulations relating to the expansion of the program, I have asked the Secretary of Defense to conduct a thorough study of it and to ascertain whether it can be made responsive to the needs of our national defense and yet be conducted at the lowest possible cost.
Note: As enacted, H.R. 9124, approved October 13, is Public Law 88-647 (78 Stat. 1063).
Lyndon B. Johnson, Statement by the President Upon Approving the Reserve Officers' Training Corps Vitalization Act. Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project https://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/node/242286