Southern Miss ROTC program spared for at least two years, Army says

University of Southern Mississippi President Rodney Bennett (AP Photo/Rogelio V. Solis)
University of Southern Mississippi President Rodney Bennett (AP Photo/Rogelio V. Solis)

HATTIESBURG, Mississippi (AP) — The ROTC program at the University of Southern Mississippi will survive at least another two years.

The Army told Mississippi elected officials on Wednesday that it’s delaying a decision about whether to close the program on the Hattiesburg campus. The program will be put on probationary status during that time.

The Army had announced in October that it intended to close 13 of the 273 ROTC programs nationwide.

USM President Rodney Bennett was joined by Gov. Phil Bryant, U.S. Sens. Thad Cochran and Roger Wicker, U.S. Rep. Steven Palazzo and Maj. Gen. Augustus L. Collins, the adjutant general of Mississippi, in asking the Army to reconsider.

“An examination of the Army’s rationale for closing the Southern Miss ROTC program made it clear that more analysis is needed,” Cochran, who is vice chairman of the Senate Defense Appropriations Committee, said in a news release Wednesday. “Two years will give the Army plenty of time to more carefully consider the successful history of the Southern Miss program.”

Bryant, Wicker and Palazzo also are praising the Army’s decision to keep the program open for now. Officials said the ROTC program at USM has produced more than 1,500 Army officers.

“It is unfortunate that we even need to discuss this issue given USM’s long-standing importance to our nation’s fighting forces,” said Wicker, a senior member of the Senate Armed Services Committee. “This delay represents just the first step in our fight to protect USM’s proud ROTC tradition.”

Palazzo said Wednesday: “The initial decision to close these ROTC programs was ill conceived and was not backed up by adequate data. I am confident the USM program will continue to produce high quality officers for our military for many years to come.”