Marine Corps says it’s willing to go to negotiating table to keep talented service members

The Marine Corps' second in command says assignments, bonuses and other benefits are all on the table.

It’s no secret that the military is in the midst of a recruiting and retention issue. All of the military services have told the public that they are hurting on the recruiting and retention front and say that end strength goals may need to be readjusted because of the lack of interest in serving.

To that end, the Marine Corps says it is making talent management one of its top priorities going forward.

“What we have to do now is focus on the people and the process for how we keep those people,” said Gen. Eric Smith, Marine Corps assistant commandant, during a speech at the Defense News Conference on Thursday. “We need to continue to move as fast as we can to make sure we have the right people in the right place in the right rank with the right skills, cyber skills, communication skills, aviators, make sure that we have that.”

Even though the Marine Corps hit its retention targets this year, it’s only the first time in a decade it’s done so.

Smith said Marine Corps leadership is looking for the best way to meet the needs of the service members it wants to keep in the service. That means making the Marine Corps more flexible on salaries, bonuses, assignments and other benefits.

Smith likened it to a negotiation process. Often times someone will say they aren’t interested in selling something, but if the right price comes along then they can be persuaded.

“The question is, what’s the I don’t want to sell it price?” Smith said. “I’m not saying I’m going pay it. But I’m going to ask, you know how much you want for your house. $2 million? I’m walking away. But if you say $100,000 and I say $700,000. OK, now we can work. What’s it going to take to keep you for another four years? I want to go to Camp Pendleton. I want to move into another career path.”

Smith said areas that were once hard line issues are now talent management negotiating chips.

Another area Smith pointed out is dual military families. He said the Marine Corps needs to be more cognizant of separating families or keeping them separated.

While the Marine Corps is focusing on recruitment and retention, it’s also trying to bring in a broader set of skills.

“We’re really not changing the type of Marine, we are changing the skills,” Smith said. “We do need more cyber Marines, because it is getting to be a very tech savvy battlefield.”

The service itself is undergoing a change to be more agile and focus more on creating quality Marines. The change comes from Commandant Gen. David Berger’s planning guidance from 2019, which focuses on overhauling the force.

“We are entering a period of force transformation,” Berger said in the guidance. “While this transformation will require more than simply the next four years, as maneuverists we are prepared to make bold decisions more rapidly than others to effect those outcomes, to generate tempo, and create friction within the decision cycles of our competitors and adversaries … As we implement the guidance in this document, we must divest of the past to modernize for the future.”


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