There will be fewer Marines in uniform by year’s end under the current budget proposal, but they’ll get paid more.
Corps end strength reduction continues at an annual pace as the service shrinks its personnel footprint to both pay for new war-fighting technology and grow a more seasoned, experienced force.
“The reduction of active Marine Corps end strength is part of larger reform initiatives aimed at internally generating resources through divestitures, policy reforms, and business process improvements to reinvest in modernization and increase lethality,” according to budget documents.
More detailed documents recently posted online following March’s initial presidential budget proposal to Congress show details by rank and pay for how the Corps ultimately may get to its active duty end strength of 172,000 Marines. That figure comes from Commandant Gen. David Berger’s Force Design 2030 document and puts the Corps back at pre-9/11 personnel levels.
First, the big numbers.
The fiscal year 2022 enacted budget, or what made it through Congress, held the Corps at about 178,500 active duty Marines, both enlisted and officer. The 2023 proposed budget trims that figure down to 177,000 active duty Marines, if approved.
The Corps expects to shed a lot of weight in the middle ranks, as per its estimates of the net number of Marines, by pay grade, it will gain or lose by the end of the coming fiscal year.
While there’s a lot of churn through the ranks for those who end service before reaching retirement and those who are promoted, the net losses in close grades such as lieutenant and captain combined with the corporal to staff sergeant reductions are where the Corps typically sheds preretirement personnel.
There will be 123 fewer captains but 289 more first lieutenants in the officer ranks by the end of 2023. The enlisted side will see 780 fewer corporals, 1,422 fewer sergeants, 283 less staff sergeants and five less gunnery sergeants.
A factor of that is the traditional funneling effect as the Corps tends to be more bottom-heavy than the other services. But some of that tightening is reducing the number of spots for second-term enlistment ranks. Among all the services, the Corps historically has had the lowest retention rates, on average keeping only one out of every four Marines past the first enlistment or term of service, Marine Corps Times previously reported.
But to keep the engine humming, the Corps must continue recruiting, because it still needs new leathernecks who’ll compete for the mid- to top-level leadership spots.
Recruiting goals actually increased, despite the end strength reductions. The Corps recruited 30,617 new Marines into its ranks in fiscal 2021, ten more than its goal. The service expects to hit 30,100 by the end of this fiscal year in October. But for fiscal 2023 they want 31,555 new Devil Dogs passing over those yellow footprints.
And the goal is to hit 95% of the new recruits with a high school diploma. In fiscal 2021, 99.5% of new recruits were in that category.
At the same time, all of the services are getting a substantial raise, the highest of the past three years, according to budget documents.
The proposed pay raise for all troops, regardless of service, is 4.6%.
That’s a good bit more than the previous 2.7% pay raise for 2022 and the 3% raise that troops received in fiscal 2021.
Here’s a sample of how that translates to a few ranks.
• A second lieutenant who was paid $43,261 in fiscal 2022 now will receive $45,219 in fiscal 2023.
• A captain who was paid $79,022 in fiscal 2022 now will now receive $82,348 in fiscal 2023.
• A colonel was pulling in $150,743 and will now pocket $156,967 in fiscal 2023.
• A four-star general, of which there are only three in the Marine Corps, was paid $202,600 in 2022. In fiscal 2023 that same general will receive $207,925.
• A private first class got $24,494 in fiscal 2022 and will see a slight bump, taking in $25,507 in fiscal 2023.
• Corporals will be able to afford a little more when their paycheck goes from $31,356 to $32,647 in fiscal 2023.
• Sergeants see a bump from $37,980 to $39,500.
• Staff sergeants will watch their wallets grow from $47,689 to $49,724.
• The Sergeant Major of the Marine Corps tops out with $116,138, up from his $111,527 paycheck in 2022.
Most of all the cool-guy incentive pay that comes with certain skills, such as parachute duty, demolition duty and flight deck duty remain the same.
Todd South has written about crime, courts, government and the military for multiple publications since 2004 and was named a 2014 Pulitzer finalist for a co-written project on witness intimidation. Todd is a Marine veteran of the Iraq War.