The Marine Corps hopes to spend more in fiscal year 2024 on retaining and training its Marines, while pressing ahead with efforts to modernize the force.
Funding for the Marine Corps would increase to $53.2 billion in fiscal year 2024 from $51.9 billion the previous year, or a 2.6% increase, according to the budget request released Monday.
The Marine Corps seeks $343 million for “talent management” reform, up from $193 million in 2023.
The Marine Corps, which historically has retained only about a quarter of its first-term troops, has for years been trying to boost its retention in an effort to mature the force. It has tried to make reenlistments easier, quicker and more appealing.
And, Marine officials say, those efforts are paying off: First-term reenlistments of top-performing Marines is up 72%, the Corps announced earlier in March.
The proposed budget for fiscal year 2024 allocates $77 million for reenlistment bonuses, $14 million for enlistment bonuses and $59 million for manpower operations systems.
There’s also a proposed 5.2% pay raise for uniformed and civilian employees across the federal government, amid high inflation in the past year.
The Department of the Navy budget also calls for $140 million for sexual assault prevention in the Marine Corps, up from $94 million, as well as $102 million for mental health programs and suicide prevention across the Navy and Marine Corps, up from $74 in fiscal year 2023. The top enlisted Marine, Sergeant Major of the Marine Corps Troy Black, has identified these two areas as some of his priorities as an advocate for enlisted Marines.
Training and education would get a big boost under the proposed budget, up to $581 million from $531 million.
The proposal designates $146 million for simulators for training Marines, up from $137 million in fiscal year 2023 and $95 in fiscal year 2022. The Corps has said it wants more simulated training so troops can practice operations against a sophisticated (simulated) enemy, without having to worry about physical safety or the bounds of training ranges.
Even after Gen. David Berger’s term as commandant concludes this summer, the proposed budget indicates, money will continue to flow to the force overhaul he has championed throughout his time as the top Marine.
The service has asked for $16.9 billion for equipment modernization, including $6.6 billion for logistics and $5.6 billion for sensor platforms, both manned and unmanned. That request comes as the Corps is working to prepare its logistics systems for a more distributed, complex potential conflict and get better at reconnaissance and counter-reconnaissance.
Marine Corps research and development would get an 8.8% increase in funding, to $3.6 billion in fiscal year 2024.
Not included in the proposed Department of the Navy budget? Money for amphibious ships, which Marine officials have insisted the service needs to be ready to respond quickly across the globe.
While the Navy was not expected to buy any amphibious ships in fiscal year 2024, the proposal also lacks funding to start buying materials for future ships.
Construction on Marine Corps facilities would be down to $1.3 billion in fiscal year 2024, from $1.9 billion in fiscal year 2023.
“This is an artifact of how generous Congress was” in the 2023 National Defense Authorization Act, Rear Adm. John Gumbleton said at a press conference Monday.
Much of that funding would go toward construction on Camp Blaz, the newly reactivated Marine base on Guam.
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.