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UPDATE: Bryant vows 'not to yield' to Army's plan to close USM's ROTC program

Mississippi Gov. Phil Bryant has vowed to fight Obamacare to the bending end. Now he’s got a new federal opponent – the U.S. Army.

The Army’s recommendation to close the Reserve Officers’ Training Corps (ROTC) program at the University of Southern Mississippi as part of a consolidation strategy led Bryant to visit the campus Friday to declare: “We will not yield and we will not go quietly into the night.”

The Republican governor is no fan of federal spending and denounces it at at every opportunity. But he insists the ROTC training center is money well spent and pledged to lead the fight against the closure.

“We won’t accept this,” said Bryant, who has called on the state’s congressional delegation and others in the military community to help maintain the program. “We’ll continue to work through this at every opportunity.”

The Southern Miss ROTC program is one of 13 at universities across the country that the Army has targeted for closure as part of a restructuring that would move funding to programs at other schools.

Bryant made the remarks Friday at a news conference outside of Southern Hall, where the university’s Army ROTC headquarters are located. He was joined by Southern Miss President Rodney Bennett and retired Army Maj. Gen. Buford Blount, a graduate of the program who led the 3rd Infantry Division into Baghdad during the Iraq War.

Southern Miss this school term has 87 cadets participating in the ROTC program which dates back to 1950. Of that total, five are scheduled to be commissioned as lieutenants in December with another 12 projected for commission next May.

Those totals are short of Army standards for commissioning officers. Army officials pegged Southern Miss’ program for closure earlier this month based on a failure to commission 15 officers annually, a policy outlined by the Department of Defense, the Hattiesburg American reported.

President Obama will decide whether to accept the Army recommendations for the ROTC shutdowns.

The Army will close the programs by the 2014-2015 academic year, the service announced Oct. 2.

“These closures are necessary changes that allow for more efficient use of available resources within the command, while maintaining a presence in all 50 states,” Karl F. Schneider, acting assistant secretary of the Army for Manpower and Reserve Affairs, said in a news release.

The number of cadets enrolled and the number of lieutenants commissioned yearly were some of the factors looked at when the Army reviewed ROTC programs across the country, officials told the Army Times.

Other institutions whose Army ROTC programs are designated for closing are:

■ University of South Dakota

■ Northern Michigan University

■ North Dakota State University

■ University of Wisconsin—La Crosse

■ Arkansas State University

■ University of Tennessee at Martin

■ University of North Alabama

■ Georgia Regents (Augusta State) University

■ East Tennessee State University

■ Morehead State University

■ Tennessee Technological University

■ University of California—Santa Barbara




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