The top Marine is on the hunt to keep and retain the best talent the Corps has, and is considering a slew of changes from a new maternity leave policy to changing how Marines are evaluated and promoted.

Commandant Gen. David Berger laid out guidance for reshaping the Marine Corps in a planning document posted late Tuesday evening.

Among consideration is a new policy that would afford moms up to a year leave of absence to stay with their kids before they return back to duty and complete their service obligation.

Berger described the current parental and maternal leave policy as “inadequate” and noted that the policy has “failed to keep pace with societal norms."

“We should never ask our Marines to choose between being the best parent possible and the best Marine possible,” Berger wrote in his guidance message. “These outcomes should never be in competition to the extent that success with one will come at the expense of the other.”

The Corps recently updated its parental and maternal leave policy in 2018. Currently moms can take primary caregiver leave in conjunction with maternity convalescent leave for a total of 12 weeks — which matches the current Defense Department policy.

However, the Corps does afford some flexibility that allows mothers to take the first six weeks of maternity convalescent leave and delay the rest for up to a year or transfer the other six weeks to a spouse if they are a dual military household.

The DoD previously had an 18-week parental leave policy.

The top Marine is also interested in overhauling the work evaluation process known as the fitness report, which looks at the performance of sergeants through the officer ranks.

Berger said in his guidance that “there is a growing lack of faith within our ranks in the system’s ability to accurately identify their skills, performance, and future potential.”

Here how Berger wants to re-evaluate the fitness report:

  • Give Marines an opportunity to assess themselves.
  • Allow for supervisors writing the report to identify future areas of potential.
  • Weight reports based on time, command or noncommand reports, and combat or non-combat reports.
  • Academic fitness reports should no longer be unobserved.
  • Weight academic reports that reward Marines for resident professional military education.
  • Look at the performance of supervisors who are evaluating and writing reports on Marines to ensure they are not hurting the careers of other talented Marines.

“Upward growth and mobility must favor the most talented within our ranks while facilitating the identification of those with a special aptitude as instructors, educators, commanders, staff officers, mentors, or with special technical skills,” Berger’s guidance reads.

These issues among a host of others are under consideration by the new top Marine as he seeks to build and retain a more talented and skilled Marine Corps that can compete in an age returned to a great power competition.

Berger called out current Marine manpower tools and models as being antiquated and “based primarily on time and experience, not talent or performance or potential future performance,”

That’s a common complaint echoed by Marines for generations that too many senior officials across the military are promoted and retained based on time and rank alone.

It’s a model many Marines have argued favors and retains bad leaders.

“As the complexity of the world has increased, the spread between physical jobs and thinking jobs has increased dramatically,” Berger wrote.

“The only way to attract and retain Marines capable of winning on the new battlefield is to compete with the tools and incentives available to them in the marketplace,” Berger said in his guidance message.

Shawn Snow is the senior reporter for Marine Corps Times and a Marine Corps veteran.

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