The Reserve Officers' Training Corps (ROTC) had its beginning with the Morrill Act of 1862, which provided for military instruction in land grant colleges. In 1866, a Congressional act gave the President the authority to detail as many as twenty officers to teach Military Science in schools of higher learning. By 1893, the number of instructors had increased to a hundred and they were called Professors of Military Science. By the turn of the century, more than 100 colleges and universities offered instruction in Military Science. The National Defense Act of 1916 provided for additional officers to be trained in colleges and universities under the now formalized ROTC program. This act, along with the Defense Act of 1920, more closely tied the training of officers with the actual needs of the Army. By 1928, the ROTC program had enlarged to include units in 325 schools, enrolling 85,000 students, and commissioning 6,000 men per year. This relatively inexpensive program paid rich dividends when the nation prepared for war in 1940-41.
At the outbreak of WW II, more than 56,000 ROTC officers were called to duty. By the end of the war, 100,000 plus had served. By 1950, 219,000 students were enrolled in ROTC. In 1964, the ROTC program was revised to improve the flow of qualified Reserve officers into the Active Army, as well as the reserve components. The four-year senior program was strengthened with the addition of scholarship provisions. A two-year program was also added. Congress additionally authorized the establishment of Junior ROTC programs at qualified public and private secondary schools in 1966. Between 1965 and 1970, ROTC provided the primary source of new officers for the Regular Army and the Reserves, with the National Guard relying on state-run officer Candidate Schools (OCS) for its officers. In 1971 with the winding down of the Vietnam War, a growing number of ROTC graduates were released into the Reserves or National Guard due to cutbacks in active Army officer requirements. On 2 May 1986, the US Army ROTC Cadet Command was established as a major subordinate command under Training and Doctrine Command (TRADOC). Along with activation came a redesigned patch bearing the motto "Leadership Excellence".
Currently, the program is offered at more than 250 host institutions and extension centers. Additionally, more than 1,000 other schools offer the program through cross enrollment agreements. ROTC commissions over 3,800 cadets as second lieutenants per year, providing the US Army with over 70 percent of its new officers.