June 28, 2006

Another Victory For NJROTC

Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton emerged victorious recently when her strategic maneuver of joining forces with Congressman Tim Bishop to protect the endangered Mattituck Naval Junior Reserve Officers Training Corps program paid off for the home team.

Last week, Clinton announced that the Senate approved a Fiscal Year 2007 Department of Defense Authorization Bill.

The bill contained an amendment that requires the Department of Defense to review a decision that would mean the elimination of Mattituck's satellite program.

Clinton's victory came close on the heels of a similar score by Bishop, who was successful in inserting similar language in the House Department of Defense Authorization Bill.

Bishop's move spelled safety for the program for at least another year.

For over 30 years, Southold schools have operated a NJROTC program with a satellite program in Mattituck and Greenport. In 2001, the Navy General Counsel's office issued a ruling that withdrew support for the operation of NJROTC satellite programs throughout the country.

Once word of the possible closure was announced, the community cried out in protest. Students with full schedules, they said, might not be able to travel by bus to the host NJROTC program in Southold, forcing them to drop out. Others questioned the cost of busing.

At a town hall meeting earlier this year in Mattituck, North Fork residents submitted a petition with approximately 1000 signatures requesting the congressman's support. Less than a month later, Bishop arranged a meeting at the Pentagon at which he hand-delivered the petition to a senior official. Despite those efforts, the Department of Navy turned down a request for a waiver.

According to Bishop, following a review, the Secretary will submit a report to the House and Senate no later than 180 days after the Defense bill is enacted. In addition, the Mattituck/Southold arrangement is granted conditional authority to operate until 180 days past the issuance of the defense department report, granting the Mattituck NJROTC the ability to continue current operations for a year following adoption of the bill.

Clinton was thrilled with her most recent victory: "This is for the young men and women of Greenport and Mattituck who simply want to give something back to their community. The Navy's decision to eliminate the local JROTC programs doesn't make sense."

Next, the Department of Defense Authorization Bill will head to a House-Senate conference.

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