The Marine Corps is making it easier for first lieutenants to snag a promotion to captain, as part of the service’s efforts to keep Marines from leaving.

Since 2016, first lieutenants have made the jump to captain only after selection boards review their files and select them for the promotion, Capt. Sarah Eason, a Marine Corps manpower spokesperson, said in an email to Marine Corps Times.

But in the coming year, the process is going to get simpler and easier, with all “fully qualified” first lieutenants securing the promotion, according to Eason.

The change, which comes as the Marine Corps is trying to boost retention, is also in part an attempt to trim the administrative and financial costs associated with convening the in-person promotion boards, according to Eason.

“This change will be assessed and refined to ensure it is the best promotion process for Marines and aligns with the needs of the Marine Corps,” Eason said.

Marines who have been first lieutenants for at least two years, and aren’t pending separation within 90 days of the panel making decisions about the list of promotions, are considered fully qualified. Officers can be determined to be not fully qualified if they have “documented adverse material or substandard performance,” Eason said.

The Marine Corps needs more captains than it can get through the promotion selection boards process, Eason said.

By law, the military can’t promote more than 95% of eligible active duty officers if it’s using the board process. But under the all fully qualified officer list method, the Marine Corps could select up to 100% of eligible first lieutenants for promotion to captain, Eason said.

That could be good news for first lieutenants who will be eligible for a promotion in the coming years. A promotion to captain comes with a pay increase: Captains with four years’ service currently make $6,469.80 a month, to first lieutenants’ $5,682.60.

And then there’s the added prestige and responsibility that comes with pinning on the captains’ bars.

The Marine Corps unveiled the policy change in Marine administrative messages about the fiscal years 2025 and 2026 promotion processes.

First lieutenants who aren’t on the fully qualified list will receive a “failure of selection,” according to the messages. Across the military, lower-ranking officers who get two failures of selection must leave service.

The captain selection process for fiscal year 2025 begins Feb. 6, according to one of the messages.

Before fiscal year 2016, the Corps used the all fully qualified officer list method for captain promotions, according to Eason.

The Marine Corps’ retention efforts, part of the Talent Management 2030 plan, have included offering bonuses to Marines with tough jobs or in-demand skills, letting enlisted Marines stay in the service despite twice getting passed over for promotion, and giving Marines more money or earlier promotions if they reenlist.

Marine leaders have said they want a more “mature,” though not necessarily older, force of service members who can take on the complex style of combat for which the Corps is preparing.

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.

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