The Marine Corps is working on a pilot lateral entry program that will let people with in-demand skills enter or reenter the Marine Corps at a higher rank than they otherwise would — perhaps as soon as a few months from now.
“There’s a situation where you go out [after active-duty service], you get extensive 5G experience, which simply doesn’t exist within the military at that threshold, and now you’re like, ‘You know what? I really miss it. I want to come back,’” Lt. Gen. James Glynn, deputy commandant for Manpower and Reserve Affairs, said at a roundtable with reporters at the Pentagon on Friday. “That would be a lateral entry scenario we could envision.”
The Corps in 2021 announced in its Talent Management 2030 strategy document, which lays out changes to personnel policy, that it intended to offer lateral entry for “exceptionally talented Americans.”
An update to Talent Management 2030, released Monday, makes clear that the pilot program for lateral entry will target prior-service Marines and Marine reservists.
“Once underway, we may expand the program to veterans of other services or to civilians with highly specialized credentials that meet our warfighting requirements,” the report states.
Marine officials underscored Friday that lateral entry will not be a way for people to bypass Officer Candidates School or boot camp and that it will be available only to a select few with extremely in-demand skills (especially cyber).
“This is not the norm,” said Gen. Eric Smith, the assistant commandant. “It’s not something that we’re looking to do at scale.”
“This, I think, is an emotional issue for some, that somehow somebody’s going to sneak their way into the Marine Corps — and that is false,” Smith added. “You’re going to earn the Eagle, Globe and Anchor.”
The talent management update released Monday calls for the Marine Corps to “begin executing a lateral entry pilot program” no later than the 2023′s second quarter, which goes from the start of April through the end of June.
Marine spokesman Maj. Joshua Larson told Marine Corps Times that the Corps is already identifying individual candidates for lateral entry.
“Once the program is approved — Q2 CY23 is the plan — then we will launch the program,” he wrote via email to Marine Corps Times. “We will see actual lateral entries as soon as possible, but not necessarily Q2 CY23.”
Lateral entrants’ ranks will be determined on a case-by-case basis, according to Larson. Some Marine veterans may enter at the rank they would likely have attained had they stayed in the Corps.
The Corps is also trying to get technical talent into the active force through other methods.
One way is to make it easier to move in between the active and reserve components, according to the talent management update. Another is to get Marines in training-intensive jobs to sign longer contracts.
And in recent years, the Pentagon has spent approximately $160 million a year in bonuses to keep cyber experts in military jobs amid lucrative alternatives in the private sector.
Irene Loewenson is a staff reporter for Marine Corps Times. She joined Military Times as an editorial fellow in August 2022. She is a graduate of Williams College, where she was the editor-in-chief of the student newspaper.