Early Commissioning Program (ECP) is a U.S. Army ROTC program that allows graduates of one of the nation's four Military Junior Colleges (MJC) to become commissioned officers in the reserve components (National Guard or Reserve) in two years, instead of the usual four. Upon completion at MJCs, ECP LTs must go on to finish a bachelor's degree before possibly serving as active duty officers or continuing a career in the reserve components. They must graduate within the next 24 months (waiver for one additional year may be granted by Cadet Command) after receiving early commission. While attending their 4-year university, ECP LTs will be serving in a non-deployable status.
Before 1966, a prospective officer in the United States Army could only gain an ROTC commission after being awarded a baccalaureate degree. However, to meet the manpower requirements of the Vietnam War, Congress approved a measure that allowed cadets at Military Junior Colleges who had completed all requirements of the ROTC Advanced Course to be commissioned as second lieutenants and called to active duty at the conclusion of their sophomore year.
In the mid-1970s, the elimination of the draft and the anti-military backlash caused by Vietnam led to officer recruiting problems, especially in the reserves. To address these concerns, the ECP was revised in 1978. Cadets from four-year schools who had successfully completed Advanced Camp and Military Science IV, but who had not yet earned their four-year degree could also be commissioned, provided they were slotted against a valid lieutenant vacancy.
Throughout the 1980s, the Early Commissioning Program played a major role in officer production. In some years, ECP officers constituted over 60% of all ROTC second lieutenants. The program is a major financial incentive for students who could receive their commissions early and serve as officers while still attending college. In 1984, the California Guard received 95% (74 out of 78) of its ROTC lieutenants from the ECP program. The Army Reserve had a similar experience.
In 1991, the downsizing of the Army reduced officer production requirements, leading to the reduction of the Early Commission Program to only the Military Junior Colleges. These schools are Georgia Military College, Marion Military Institute, New Mexico Military Institute, and Valley Forge Military Academy and College.