Marines shifting away from 'replaceable force,' general says

The Marine Corps on Wednesday released a new plan detailing significant changes to recruitment and retention, targeting individual talents rather than massing in high volumes of personnel. 

“The most important element of this report is the individual Marine,” General David H. Berger, commandant of the Marine Corps, said in a press release. “Transitioning to a talent management system will enable us to better harness and develop the unique skills and strengths of our Marines, improve the performance of our units in competition and combat, and ensure that we remain ‘most ready when the Nation is least ready,’ today and into the future.”

The plan, called "Talent Management 2030," redesigns fundamental aspects of the Marine personnel system. Key elements include retooling how individuals with special skills can join the service without starting in lower ranks, incorporating a talent marketplace to give Marines a say in the trajectory of their careers and adopting tools to improve the efficiency of the talent management system.

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For the past 35 years, the Marine Corps discharged approximately 75 percent of first-term Marines every year and recruited an equal number of replacements, according to the plan.

Berger said the service essentially adopted a “recruit and replace” personnel model rather than an “invest and retain” one after decades of working in a system that has prioritized massing a “young, physically tough, replaceable force” that was “not all that highly skilled,” The Washington Post reported.

He also said that the Marine Corps will have to “treat people like human beings instead of inventory.”

While it is unclear whether the Marines will shrink to accommodate the more focused recruitment plan, Berger said that they are "in the market" for talent and are working to retain personnel, such as increasing the duration of parental leave.

“So the Marine that we trained for four or 10 years, we need to work hard to keep," he said, according to the Post. "And if the reason that they’re leaving is they can’t see past either, ‘I can have a military career, or I can have a family,’ we have to pull out the stops to try to find ways where we can keep them.”

Berger previously signaled changes last year in his contemporary plan Force Design 2030, which sought to cut the service to 174,000 Marines by 2030. It is unclear how much the new plan will cost.