More Marines Will Mean Less Stress, Increased Readiness
By Fred W. Baker III
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, Feb. 2, 2007 More Marines in the ranks will mean a less stressed Corps, which translates to a higher state of readiness, officials said today at the Pentagon.
The president’s budget proposal that includes a 27,000-Marine increase is expected to be released Feb. 5. The Corps hopes to add the Marines incrementally beginning this fiscal year and continuing through fiscal 2011.
A Marine official speaking on background was quick to add that the increase is not related to the president’s proposed surge of troops in Iraq. The prolonged war has caused a strain on the Corps’ members and units, the official said. The proposed increase to 202,000 Marines will help alleviate that strain and give Marines and units more time at home and more time to train.
The current level of operations with a Marine Corps of 180,000 strains the individuals and the institution, the official explained. Those strains can be accommodated in the short term, but cannot be effectively sustained in the long term, he said.
To help ease the strain on Marines and units, leaders developed a 1-to-2 deployment-to-dwell ratio goal. Ideally, for every seven months Marines are deployed, they will spend 14 months at their home station.
“Anything less than a 1-to-2 ratio creates a strain on the individual and on their family. It creates a strain on the units, and it also affects our ability to have Marine air-ground task forces that are prepared to support various contingencies around the world,” said Marine Col. Dave Lapan, deputy director of Marine Corps public affairs.
Most of the additional Marines will go toward building operating forces such as such as infantry, military police, combat service support, aviation and intelligence. These Marines deploy most often. Officials did not say where the new forces will be stationed.
Marine recruiting is hoping to enlist an additional 1,200 non-prior-service, active-duty recruits this fiscal year. Last year’s active-duty recruiting requirement was 32,301. This year, the goal is 33,551 Marines added to the active-duty force.
Officials have added 200 recruiters to the field this month and hope to add another 400 by fiscal 2009. The fiscal 2006 budget for recruiting, including congressional supplements, was $176 million. The fiscal 2007 budget, including congressional supplements, is $228 million, the official said.
Officials also said they hope to appeal to prior-service Marines to return to the Corps. About 20,000 Marines annually leave the Corps who would be eligible to return. Officials hope to approach those Marines now, with the additional force structure, and try to win them back.
“There are a number of Marines who leave the Marine Corps every year who would actually probably prefer to stay. But, for a variety of reasons, they aren’t able to,” Lapan said.
“We do believe there’s a population of Marines … who will come back if asked.”
Bonuses and incentives are increasing, the official said. The bonus program was expanded this year for recruiting prior-service Marines. The service will not adjust enlistment standards to meet recruiting goals, the official said, and there are currently no plans for forcing Marines to remain in uniform involuntarily when their terms of service expire, he said.
Still, with an increased recruiting mission and the war continuing in Iraq, officials admit that recruiting additional force structure could be difficult.
However, Lapan said, officials are “confident” they can reach their recruiting and retention goals.
“Our recruiting command believes that they will be able to increase their numbers sufficiently to bring in those additional new recruits,” he said. “At the same time, we have confidence that either prior-service Marines or active-duty Marines will be able to be retained or brought back into service.
“Even with operational tempo -- even with the demands of the long war -- our reenlistment rates are great … while recruiting remains challenging and it’s tough duty, we are making mission,” he continued. “So we find that Marines and prospective Marines want to be a part of this organization and part of the fight.”
Numbers aside, though, Lapan said the number one goal of the Marine Corps is to provide relief for the force.
“It is the priority of the commandant of the Marine Corps that we get to a 1-to-2 deployment-to-dwell ratio,” Lapan said.
The plan is to increase the Corps strength to 184,000 by the end of this fiscal year; to 189,000 in fiscal 2008; 194,000 in fiscal 2009; 199,000 in fiscal 2010 and 202,000 in fiscal 2010. No end-strength changes were announced for the Marine Corps Reserves.