The Army Reserve Officers' Training Corps (ROTC), as it exists today, began with President Wilson signing the National Defense Act of 1916. Although military training had been taking place in civilian colleges and universities as early as 1819, the signing of the National Defense Act brought this training under a single, federally-controlled entity: The Reserve Officers' Training Corps.
Army ROTC is the largest officer-producing organization with the American military, having commissioned more than half a million second lieutenants since its inception.
Women have been an integral part of the Army ROTC since 1972. The first group of females from ROTC were commissioned in 1975. Today, women constitute 20 percent of the Corps of Cadets and more that 15 percent of each commissioning cohort.
In April 1986, the U.S. Army Cadet Command was formed. With its headquarters in Fort Monroe, Virginia, Cadet Command assumed responsibility for more than 400 senior ROTC units, four regional headquarters and the Junior ROTC with programs in more than 800 high schools. Cadet Command transformed the ROTC from a decentralized organization turning out a heterogeneous group of junior officers into a centralized command producing lieutenants of high and uniform quality. An improved command and control apparatus, an intensification and standardization of training and improvements in leadership assessment and development helped produce this transformation of pre-commissioning preparation.
Today, Army ROTC has a total of 272 programs located at colleges and universities throughout the 50 states, the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico with an enrollment of more than 20,000. It produces approximately 60 percent of the second lieutenants who join the active Army, the Army National Guard and the U.S. Army Reserve. More than 40 percent of current active duty Army General Officers were commissioned through the ROTC. Of even greater importance is that ROTC trained and educated officers bring a hybrid vigor to our officer corps by drawing on the strength and variety of our social fabric. This reduces the natural tendency of armies to drift into inbred professional separatism. Cadet Command accomplishes this by combining the character building aspects of a diverse, self-disciplined civilian education with tough, centralized leader development training. This process forges a broad-gauged officer who manifests the strength and diversity of the society from which he or she is drawn as well as the quality of strong officer leadership.