YOKOTA AIR BASE, Japan — The Marine Corps plans to trim its ranks by 20,000 over five years, but no Marines will be forced out of the service early, according to the Marine Corps’ deputy commandant for combat development and integration.
“Marines who raised their hands in a time of war can serve out their commitment,” Marine Lt. Gen. Richard Mills told reporters during a Thursday morning teleconference to discuss plans to shrink the Corps.
The force reductions are part of the Pentagon’s overall plan to trim more than 100,000 ground troops in the face of pending budget cuts. Earlier this year, Defense Secretary Leon Panetta told Congress the Army end strength would “gradually” fall from roughly 570,000 to 490,000 soldiers while the Marine Corps would shrink from just more than 202,000 to 182,000 troops.
As part of that plan, the Corps will cut infantry and artillery battalions, tank companies, aircraft squadrons, headquarters elements, explosive ordnance disposal and support units, but it will add more than 1,000 personnel to cyber warfare and special operations units, officials said.
“We looked at lessons learned in the past 10 years,” Mills said of the plans to reshape the Corps. “It is not going to be your father’s Marine Corps.”
Mills, who also heads the Marine Corps Combat Development Command in Quantico, Va., said Marines serving with units that are inactivated under the cuts but who have yet to reach the end of their service contracts will be transferred to active units.
“The ones who leave will leave on their own terms and when they expect to leave,” he said.
The Marines’ approach to downsizing is in stark contrast to the Army and Navy, which are trimming thousands from the rolls through involuntary separation processes.
Still, it will be harder to stay in the Corps, if that’s the path a Marine chooses. Every Marine will be offered a chance to compete for re-enlistment, Mills said, but he added that bonuses will likely be cut and re-enlistment options will be tougher.
“Marines will need to bring their A game every day,” he said. “Marines will need to be top performers to find a slot in the career force. There are some Marines serving very well now and doing the best they can who won’t stay in.”
Measures such as offering retirement to some Marines or buying out their contracts to meet force-reduction goals are not anticipated, Mills said.
Transition assistance programs will offer Marines help writing resumes, entering apprenticeship programs, job networking, getting an education or looking for public sector jobs such as police work, he said.
“It is a focus on the individual Marine to ensure he understands how he goes about selling his skills on the civilian market so they receive all the help they possibly can to set themselves up for success,” he said.
The cuts will not impact the jobs of civilians supporting the Marine Corps, Mills said.
About 10 percent of 21,000 Marine civilian positions are unfilled. Some will be cut, but the civilian reductions will be achieved by not filling vacant jobs or replacing civilians who retire, he said.
“There is no civilian who needs to be worried about losing his job,” he said.