When a contractor builds a structure and flaws are exposed in its foundation, it is time to become concerned about the integrity of the rest of what that contractor built. Such is the case with Talent Management 2030, a document that charts a new course for the Marine Corps’ personnel system.

Pages 1–3 are the introduction to this document — its foundation — and they are replete with flaws.

I have looked closely at the introduction to Talent Management 2030, and here is my analysis, an analysis that necessarily reflects on the document’s authors.

Those who created Talent Management 2030 were not strong students of history, lacking an understanding of what transpired in the Marine Corps and the nation during the 20th century. They focused on a future path for the Marine Corps with little knowledge about the path it has traveled since World War I.

The authors assert that the Marine Corps’ current manpower management system was designed in the industrial era. This assertion appears under the title “Yesterday’s Industrial Age Model.” The industrial age in the United States began in the 1830s and lasted into the 1860s, when a Second Industrial Revolution began, lasting until 1914.

To accept what the authors of Talent Management 2030 claim as true would mean the Marine Corps’ manpower system was designed over 108 years ago. It would have been at a time when the end strength of the Corps was just 5% of what it is today.

Moreover, the authors assert, the manpower system has not been significantly revised to meet changing conditions during those years.

Can the authors establish that there were no significant revisions to the Marine Corps manpower system during World Wars I and II, the Korean and Vietnam Wars, and during the past 45 years? They cannot, for what they write is demonstrably not true.

During the 1970s, for example, the manpower system was converted from a paper-based system of records to one that was digitally based. Also, after his appointment as commandant in 1975, Gen. Louis Wilson made major changes to the Corps’ recruiting system, which resulted in recruits of higher intelligence and fitness. Gen. Robert H. Barrow expanded on Wilson’s successes during his time as commandant.

After misrepresenting Marine Corps history, the authors of Talent Management 2030 continue with this claim, “College, and even high school education, was for the privileged: In 1950, just 34% of Americans graduated high school, while 6% completed college, compared with approximately 90% and 33% respectively, today.”

I graduated from high school in the 1950s and knew instantly that this was a misleading claim.

This claim appears to be based on a graph on pages 7 and 8 in a U.S. Department of Education document or similar resource. This chart actually represents the percentage of all Americans over 25 years of age who had completed high school in 1950, not the graduation rate that year.

The actual U.S. high school graduation rate in 1950 was 59%, not 34%. The college graduation rate in 1950 was approximately 18%, not 6%.

Were the authors of Talent Management 2030 mathematically challenged or just plain careless in reading a simple graph?

Talent Management 2030 follows with, “Our manpower model thus aimed to create and maintain an enlisted force predominantly composed of young troops...prepared for the physical rigors of combat, but otherwise requiring little education or training. There were exceptions, of course, as all services prioritized technical skills among some specialties, but the overriding paradigm reflected our combat experience in World War II, which prioritized youth, physical fitness, and discipline over education, training, and technical skills.”

The contention that the Marines serving after World War II “required little education or training” is absurd and ignores the dramatic expansion of Marine Corps training and education since 1945.

Further, this statement implies that the Marine Corps should change its priorities and that education, training and technical skills should surpass other priorities. This is a fallacy; the Marine Corps consistently has incorporated all of these factors into developing its forces.

Even if these factors were to be prioritized, does the nation want a Marine Corps that prioritizes education over discipline?

Of all that is written in Talent Management 2030, the most insulting and fraudulent is this claim: “While today’s manpower system would be remarkably familiar to a Marine from the 1950s, they would be amazed by the social, economic, financial, cultural, and technological changes that have transformed our country and the world. And while that Marine would recognize today’s global context of strategic competition, they would be surprised by its complexity and scope, as well as the Marine Corps’ role in new domains of competition and warfighting, such as space and cyber.”

These words imply that Marines — such as me — who served in the 1950s and lived into the 21st century would have been in a stupor through most of those years, mentally absorbing little that was transpiring around them. This is outlandish, for it is these very Marines and their contemporaries who brought forth the social, economic, financial, cultural and technological changes that have transformed our nation and our Corps.

Without them the Corps existing today would be nearly identical to the Corps of 1950.

How did such a document resting on a foundation that crumbles with close inspection make it into print? Reportedly, it was written behind closed doors by a small team, a team composed of a few individuals assigned to the Headquarters Marine Corps, Manpower and Reserve Affairs Department. This team evidently was assisted by a group of retired colonels, apparently the same colonels who helped develop Force Design 2030.

I have no doubts that Talent Management 2030 was not properly staffed after it was written, as it was undertaken within a completely closed process. Otherwise, these ill-informed authors would have been held accountable by the professional staff at Headquarters Marine Corps for a work that is corrupted by historical inaccuracies and sloppy research.

Talent Management 2030 continues beyond its introduction with proposals that will destroy the very ethos of the Marine Corps.

These proposals are as riddled with flaws as those found in the introduction to this document, its foundation.

These “bullet ridden” proposals have been exposed in several published articles and are expertly documented by Lt. Gen. Gregory Newbold (retired) in his article “The Marine Corps’ New Talent Management Plan Forgets What Makes the Service Unique.” Col. Warren Parker (retired) exposes a particular flaw in Talent Management 2030 in his article “The unintended consequences of aging the Marine Corps.”

These articles are a must read for those who served in the Corps and those who value the eternal spirit that identifies what it means to be a United States Marine.

Col. James K. Van Riper (retired) underwent recruit training at Parris Island, South Carolina, in 1956 and served in the Marine Corps until 1994. He commanded the Recruit Training Regiment at Parris Island from 1984–1986 and was the director of the First Marine Corps District from 1987–1989.

He was awarded a Silver Star Medal and two Bronze Star Medals with combat “V” during two tours in Vietnam where he served as a company commander and as an infantry battalion adviser with the Vietnamese Marine Corps. He was the chief of staff of the 2nd Marine Division during Operation Desert Storm.

Van Riper is a graduate of the Marine Corps Command and Staff College and the Naval War College and holds a MA in History from East Carolina University. From 1998 until 2011 he taught Command and Staff College courses through the Marine Corps College of Distance Education and Training.

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This article is an op-ed and, as such, the opinions expressed are those of the author. If you would like to respond or have an editorial of your own you would like to submit, please email Marine Corps Times Editor Andrea Scott.

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