Marine Corps looks to machine learning for personnel retention

U.S. Marine Corps Pfc. Aaron J. Seeley, a native of Corner, Alabama, graduates Marine Corps recruit training as the honor graduate for Platoon 2082, Fox Company, 2nd Recruit Training Battalion, at Marine Corps Recruit Depot Parris Island, South Carolina, Oct. 15, 2021. (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Kevin Lopez Herrera)

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To better retain talent in its ranks, the Marine Corps is turning to machine learning and artificial intelligence to examine recruiting data and identify key attributes of Marines who will likely stay in uniform.

The military writ large has struggled to retain specialized skills, especially tech talent, so the Marine Corps has turned to tech to identify key traits in recruits to inform management choices around retention. The new tech is aimed at enabling a broader transition in Marine Corps to better focus on retention — rather than just recruitment — and use analytics to inform decisions aroun Marines upon their entry into service.

“The intended outcome is to decrease [Marine Corps Recruit Depot] attrition and increase the success of applicants through at least their first term of enlistment,” Maj. Jordan Cochran, a spokesman for the corps’ Manpower and Reserve Affairs Department, said in an email.

The tech itself is being developed with John Hopkins University’s Applied Physics Lab and includes several algorithms that will work with data from the Marine Corps Recruiting Command, Cochran said.

The tools were recently discussed during a congressional hearing on talent management across the services. Lt. Gen. David Ottignon, the deputy commandant for manpower and reserve affairs, told lawmakers this month that the tools are in development and are part of a broader push for deeper data-based analytics.

“We … want to be able to round out our analytical systems,” Ottignon told lawmakers.

The tools are being developed with funding from the Department of Defense, Cochran said. Beyond just retention, the Marine Corps hopes machine learning can one day serve as a valuable tool to then go on to manage talent it does retain. But for now, the proof of concept remains in the “initial stages” of testing.

“Future uses are to expand the predictive capabilities to predict success through various milestones in a Marine’s career such as completing Military Occupational Specialty School, completing their first term of enlistment, reenlisting, promotion, and key billets,” Cochran said.

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artificial intelligence (AI), Department of Defense (DOD), machine learning, Marine Corps, recruiting, workforce
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