The Marines are cutting the time jarheads can spend in a crucial military-to-civilian career transition program by as much as half the time the program previously allowed.

In an administrative message posted Monday, Manpower and Reserve Affairs is limiting the time Marines can spend in the SkillBridge program to three to four months. Previously, Marines were allowed to spend up to six months in the program prior to ending their contract.

Officials have cited a hefty loss of manpower in recent years.

Between fiscal year 2021 and 2024, the “service conservatively estimates more than 3,400 years of manpower” were used in the program.

“The update balances transition support and force readiness,” according to the message. “SkillBridge authorization is at the commander’s discretion; it is not a service members’ entitlement.”

The Department of Defense-wide program allows active-duty personnel from all four branches to spend the last 180 days of their military service interning at a civilian job with one of more than 500 industry partners. reported on the administrative message release Tuesday.

“The impact on the command and needs of the service must be considered and prioritized, and readiness to the force remains paramount,” according to the message.

Under the new guidance, the amount of time that a Marine, if approved by their command, can spend in the program depends on their rank.

Marines up to the rank of sergeant can use up to 120 days. Marines from the rank of staff sergeant and above, to include warrant officers and commissioned officers, may spend up to 90 days in the program.

As the service focuses on readiness, recruiting and retention alongside its expeditionary demands, it also announced in mid-April that it would require Marines to notify the service if they intend to retire six months prior to their retirement date. The previous requirement was four months, Marine Corps Times previously reported.

In October 2023, the Marines released a document citing similar cuts to SkillBridge but later pulled the “premature” document from its website, Marine Corps Times previously reported. Those changes did not go into effect, but officials acknowledged that the Corps was evaluating its SkillBridge policy, to “balance the needs of the individual Marine” with Congressional intent and “a mission-capable Marine Corps.”

Reactions at the time on the popular Reddit USMC thread ranged from shortening the time would affect whether Marines could get jobs post-service, to others noting that the program was always discretionary, and some individuals misused the program.

“You signed the contract to serve a certain amount of time to do a job the Marine Corps trained you to do, and taxpayers are paying you to do,” one user posted. “Show me in your contract where you are entitled to Skillbridge at all.”

“The ‘you’re not owed anything’ or ‘squeeze the last out of you’ mentality is what is driving people to the door. You are not only reinforcing that persons decision to get out but you are setting the example to everyone still considering reenlistment,” posted another user.

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.

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