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Reduction By the Numbers: “A smaller, but still lethal force”

By 2017, the Marine Corps plans to reduce its numbers to reflect budget cuts and the drawdown of forces in Afghanistan. The plan is to decrease numbers from 202,000 to 182,100 through natural attrition, incentives and early retirement options. (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Michael Petersheim)

Prior to Department of Defense budget cut talks, the Marine Corps planned to reduce troops from 202,000 to 186,800 to accommodate a post-war Marine Corps. Due to budget changes and the planned withdrawal from Afghanistan, however, that number has been cut to 182,100 Marines, reducingthe ranks by 19,900 men and women.

The force reduction will take place over the next four years. The Marine Corps will reduce its active-duty strength by about 5,000 Marines per year from across the Marine Air-Ground Task Force.

Commandant of the Marine Corps Gen. James F. Amos has stressed that the resulting force of 182,100 Marines will retain the capacity and capability to support current and possible crisis response operations through rotational deployments.

“We will maintain readiness, and will not have a hollow force, like following Vietnam,” said Lt. Gen. Richard P. Mills, deputy commandant for Combat Development and Integration. “It will be a smaller, but still lethal force.”

Marines from 4th Tank Battalion, Twentynine Palms, Calif., roll down a dirt road on their M1A1 Abrams Main Battle Tank during a day of training at Exercise Africa Lion 2012 in Morocco, April 13. AL-12 is a U.S. African Command-sponsored, Marine Forces Africa-led exercise involving various types of training. (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Tyler Main)

The Marine Corps has been through similar reductions in the past.

A quick look in American history shows when a major military conflict occurs a boost in troops is necessary. Similarly, a reduction is necessary after the conflict. After World War II, Marine personnel were reduced from 475,000 to just 75,000 by the end of 1950.

Likewise, after Desert Storm in 1991, troop numbers dropped 23,000 to 174,000 by the end of 1994.

Currently, about 70 percent of Marines are serving in their first enlistment and about 75 percent of all Marines do not re-enlist for a second term of service. The fact that the Marine Corps cycles about 35 thousand Marines a year helps ensure no one is forced out.

Marines leaving the Corps will still receive adequate time and assistance for transition. They will be set up for success to provide the nation with veteran Marines who are fine, productive and loyal citizens.

“The commandant has put a tremendous amount of effort into the transition program,” Mills said. “This move will make their life much easier as they go out the door and will ensure they get the skills and networking they need to get out.”

For Marines looking to make a career in the Corps, this means tougher competition for promotion and retention, but Marines will be allowed to complete their current contracts. Those who desire to stay in the Corps will need to bring their “A Game” every day, Mills said.

The current policy allowing staff sergeants and above as well as majors and above to make it to retirement will stay the same.

The Corps is offering temporary early retirement to Marines with 15-20 years of service in certain specialties and grades. Those who get an early out this way will receive a pension of 32.5 – 43 percent of their base pay.

A few of the tools the Corps will use to help shape the force are:

  •  Early Discharge Authority – Enlisted Marines may be discharged within one year before the expiration of their enlistment.  Officers with less than six years of active commissioned service may receive a 180-day early discharge.
  • Voluntary Separation Pay – Certain Marines with more than six years active duty may receive payment upon separation.
  • Temporary Early Retirement – Provides authority to voluntarily retire Marines with 15 to 20 years of service.

The involuntary force reduction tools such as enlisted retention boards and lower promotion opportunities are only required if voluntary losses are not sufficient.

What Marines need to do to help their cause:

-       Be proactive in addressing their future

-       Go to Transition Assistance Management Program whether planning to get out or not

-       Ensure records are accurate

-       Ensure training, Professional Military Education and other standards are met

-       Prepare for boards (promotion, career design, etc.)

-       Apply for re-enlistment at first opportunity

-       Improve PFT and CFT scores

-       Stay motivated

For more information about the reduction in force click here.

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3 Responses

  1. Matthew Lamont Hurley says:

    I don’t think Marines want to be Smellier.

  2. Jeremiah Bauer says:

    How much harder will it be to make it into the Marines now that they are doing this?

  3. Jeremiah Bauer says:

    what will change on getting into the Marines and how can you join of they are making the Marines smellier?