March 1, 2007  

Spending greenbacks to entice Leathernecks

The Marine Corps admits it’s going to take more than a poster campaign to meet its goal of growing its end strength from just under 180,000 leathernecks to 202,000 over the next five years.

The Corps is adding 600 recruiters by the end of the year to help meet the expansion goal. But the recruiting mission places Marine Corps Recruiting Command “in uncharted territory,” a Marine official said during a February Pentagon briefing.

Officials want to add 5,000 Marines to the force each year until the end-strength goal is met: a plan that would have 184,000 Marines by the end of this fiscal year, 189,000 Marines by fiscal 2008, 194,000 Marines by fiscal 2009, 199,000 Marines by fiscal 2010 and 202,000 Marines by fiscal 2011.

But how much it will cost is not yet known, officials said. In addition to funding extra recruiters and recruiting tools, there will be the expansion of the recruiting bonus program, although the bonus numbers themselves will not change. “We’ve still got to work out the total numbers,” officials said. Recruiting Command’s budget has increased from a total of $176 million in fiscal 2006 to $228 million in fiscal 2007, one official said.

The Corps will look within and outside its existing structure, potentially making up some of the numbers from leathernecks who may be eligible to extend their service and from those who recently left. Asked if some former Marines may be getting a knock at the door, one official replied, “A letter in the mail, yes.”

What’s more clear at this stage is how the Corps plans to use its new strength. Officials listed their priority as alleviating strain on the individual and on units. Plans therefore focus on assigning additional Marines to priority units such as infantry, military police, aviation, logistics and intelligence. New units in these fields will be added, but it is not yet known how many. And the Marine deploy-dwell ratio, currently hovering at around 1:1, would be reduced to 1:2 — meaning that a Marine would get 14 months at home base for each seven months deployed.

The Corps also has no plans right now to retain more Marines by using the stop-loss program, which allows each branch of the service to involuntarily keep service members on active duty, officials said. An official stressed, however, there were no stop-loss plans today.