Gary Ghirardi / NNOMY - A not surprising but concerning feature of the 2021 National Defense Authorization Act is the doubling of the Junior Reserve Officers Training Corps in our public schools and the expansion of DoD STEM and of the STARBASE Program into territories that the United States of America controls in the Pacific.
In the case of the JROTC the following is stated in the NDAA Report for 2021:
Expansion of Junior Reserve Officers’ Training Corps program (sec. 547) The committee recommends a provision that would amend section 2031(a)(2) of title 10, United States Code, to insert language expanding the purpose of the Junior Reserve Officers’ Training Corps (JROTC) to include an introduction to service opportunities in military, national, and public service. The provision would also require the Secretary of Defense to develop and implement a plan to establish and support not fewer than 6,000 JROTC units by September 30, 2031.1
As of 2019, the U.S. Department of Defense cites that JROTC programs associated to the Army, Navy, Air Force and Marine Corps, are taught as elective courses at more than 3,000 high schools nationwide.2 How those expanded programs might be purposed is not totally defined other than a recommendation that there be added a focus within JROTC on cyber security education in schools.
A doubling of these programs in addition to continually expanding military budgets, respective of which political party's administrations is in power, foretells of intentions to only increase the amount of military expansion for the U.S. in the years ahead.
In the case of the STARBASE program, the NDAA Report states the following:
Starbase ...The committee notes that the Science and Technology Academies Reinforcing Basic Aviation and Space Exploration (STARBASE) program is an effective program that improves the knowledge and skills of students in kindergarten through 12th grade in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics. Therefore, the committee recommends an increase of $15.0 million for SAG 4GT3 Civil Military Programs for the STARBASE program.
Another feature of this expansion is the utilization of Science, Technology, Science, and Math, (DoD STEM) as the vehicle for the planned training that is being budgeted. The emergence of the new Space Force is clearly a feature of this next iteration of DoD STEM. The attractiveness of space exploration will certainly play a role in the Pentagon's promotion of career opportunities for youth that they will solicit in their recruitment efforts, both in the school environment and outside in an expanding presence of military recruiting in the “youth active” video gaming culture that multiple branches of the military have made inroads into.
The NDAA report states:
Department of Defense STARBASE program (sec. 548) The committee recommends a provision that would amend section 2193b(h) of title 10, United States Code, to include the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands and American Samoa in the Department of Defense STARBASE program.
Additionally, there is the expansion of the STARBASE program into territories in the Pacific that the U.S. controls. This is consistent with the dominant role that the U.S. military plays in the lives and economies of these mostly outlying island communities. The lack of opportunities for Pacific Islander youth emerging into adulthood almost guarantees that these youth would be targeted for training and recruitment. Guam, as an example, has the highest rate of military enlistment of US. States and Territories based on their population density relative to the amount of recruits that the military achieves.3
For those activists and groups involved with Truth in Recruitment and Counter-recruitment activism, all these funding trends should signal that the work to inform youth in our public schools about alternatives to military enlistment and the need to offer a counter-narrative to that of the Pentagon's recruitment efforts inside our public schools and in our communities needs to expand, and in a time when those groups that have historically engaged in pushing back against the militarization of our schools and communities have been decreasing.
The opportunities to engage the emerging Generation Z and looking forward to the next generation called Alpha,4 or those born between 2011 and 2025, will decide the future of efforts to counter our cultural militarization. The movements we are currently experiencing in the pandemic time of 2019 and beyond that have challenged police militarization including the Black Lives Matter movement, have not, in large, connected the dots to the influence of the Pentagon in both the militarization of our police departments nationally and in the prevalence of all-things-military in our popular culture.
That connection between the Military Complex and the domestic culture needs to happen in order to make the next generations mobilize against a military take-over of their public schools, in elementary, middle, high school, and college levels. Whether that possibility is in the making is not clear at this moment with so many distractions in our lives between a post-pandemic economy, political upheavals in our traditional political parties, and an emerging new arms race with China and Russia in the making.
In addition to advocating for our historical activist groups doing counter-recruitment activism nationally, for the National Network Opposing the Militarization of Youth the challenge will be to find new allies that will connect those dots identifying the cultural risks ahead for the United States, its youth, and to pay attention to developing trends for activism that challenge the militarization of our communities and our lives in common and especially where those trends impact our public schools..