A Perspective from the Professor of Military Science

LTC Brian L. Baker, 30 November 2004


Fellow Advocates, our Chairman, David Clayman, asked if I would give you my perspective on our journey these past five years as I near retirement. You know it’s time to move on when your successor has been nominated, vetted, and confirmed by the MIT Faculty ROTC Oversight Committee. I am please to announce that Lieutenant Colonel Leo McGonagle, a fellow Sapper (engineer officer) will assume Professor of Military Science duties here at MIT and Harvard this coming summer. He is qualified, well suited, and up for the “PMS” challenge. Treat him with the same professionalism and candor as you afforded me and we’ll be in good shape.

A saber belonging to Captain Constant Cordier, the first Harvard Professor of Military Science hangs in my office at MIT. Many of you know that Harvard was home to the first ROTC unit in the country, long since disbanded. Captain Cordier’s saber reminds me of the prominence Harvard once held with respect to training our nation’s officer corps. I’ve met with President Larry Summers half a dozen times and Neil Rudenstine before him. Were you aware that President Rudenstine commissioned through ROTC and served to the rank of Captain about the same time that President Paul Gray of MIT did? He too commissioned through ROTC and served to the rank of Captain. Imagine that, the top two academic leaders in the world, some say, the presidents of Harvard and MIT got their initial leader development from the Army ROTC. I’m proud to serve the Army and our nation as your Professor of Military Science; my tenure these past five years has been challenging, rewarding, and yes frustrating.

Although we’ve grown “The Advocates” tenfold and raised sufficient monies to support cadets and midshipmen through the “Fund” and the “Trust”, we remain a complicated constituent group to be sure. The `93 FAS vote excluded ROTC as a recognized student activity cutting-off unrestricted funds to reimburse the associated overhead expenses at MIT. Each year the fate of the Harvard student participation in ROTC relies on private funding from three alumni. This unorthodox, work-around funding mechanism is no way to do business. Our law school allows military recruiter access for the JAG Corps but complains about it and still holds the military with disdain. We’ve been witness to protests about “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” as well as the new Solomon Amendment revisions coined “the Harvard Act”.

Harvard University continues to support ROTC and although we’ve made great strides these past five years, Harvard still holds ROTC at an arms length. One might say Harvard’s had it both ways. I personally supported this bifurcated effort; ever-so-careful to work towards accomplishing our Department of Defense mission and appeasing Harvard, all the while strengthening our program, growing our presence, gaining access on campus and winning support from faculty and administrators.

The Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, as well as many prominent national-level civilian and military leaders involved in national defense have visited the Yard during my tenure. They’re always greeted with open arms and remain a staple for the IOP, Government, and National Security Programs. We’ve heard from the Office of the Secretary of Defense on a number of occasions; in fact, one of the Deputy Under Secretaries was dispatched from Washington to come talk with us this summer about ROTC at Harvard. The Defense Business Board has been advising our SECDEF for a year to reinstate ROTC at the Ivies.

The services are steadfast and unanimous in our efforts to fend-off any directed ROTC expansion efforts; we-all practice economies of force/scale measures and choose to group several schools together with one “Host” institution. In our case, MIT is the Host for Harvard, Wellesley, and Tufts Universities. This “clustering/partnering” methodology has made good sense and worked for us in the past. The challenge is that the Army values the caliber of Scholar-Athlete-Leaders we produce as junior officers for the force and has raised our mission. We’ll be required to commission more officers from MIT and Harvard in future years. For this reason we three service programs have agreed to strive to grow the number of cadets and midshipmen in our collective units from 50 to 100 in the coming years – double the number of Harvard students enrolled in ROTC today.

I believe strongly that our nation needs a cross section of America represented in its officer corps – including MIT and Harvard graduates. I also feel strongly that senior leaders in our country need requisite military experience if they are to make the decisions when and where to deploy military force in future years. We-all appreciate that Harvard graduates are destined to become leaders in business, academia, government, and industry. Our graduates become presidents, governors, senators, CEOs, policy makers, advisors, and so on. They too need perspective because they will be the ones who’ll make the decisions on National Defense in the decades to come.

We’re moving ever so closer to the day when we’ll need to post a Captain and a Sergeant on campus, in the Yard, with access, and University support. I will meet with President Summers this spring to discuss this very issue and intend to request he allow/enable us to take this next step necessary to double our enrollment by 2008. Captain Constant Cordier would be proud of our expansion goals at Harvard even though MIT will still be our Host, rest assured.

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