The Marine Corps' top enlisted Marine is anticipating more money for facilities ahead of the rollout of the service's budget next week.
Sergeant Major of the Marine Corps Troy Black told a group of reporters Thursday that "we received more funding this year for facilities -- that's a fact." The facilities budget is broad, but Black was specifically referring to additional money the service will request to improve the barracks that house many Marines.
Black was answering a question about changes planned for Marines by service leaders as part of the branch's human resources push dubbed "Talent Management 2030."
An update to that plan, released Monday, said that the Corps "must renew our focus on meeting Marines' needs like: high-quality barracks, family housing, and chow halls."
Black said that "those aren't hollow promises" and that "maintenance priority has to happen," but he did caution that the situation is complicated and won't be solved in a single year.
"Does that funding meet the total requirement?" Black asked rhetorically. "Different discussion."
The service's budget request is due to be released Monday, although it will have to be reviewed and approved by a Congress that is already bracing for a fight over defense funding.
The Marine Corps, like all the other branches, has struggled with reports from junior enlisted members that describe rundown and sometimes moldy or dirty living conditions in the housing they are assigned on base.
For example, a person familiar with conditions in the barracks at Camp Lejeune, North Carolina, wrote Military.com in September 2020 saying junior Marines were living in older facilities contaminated with mold.
More details about how much more money the Marines anticipate getting to improve living conditions will come in the following weeks, Black explained, noting that Lt. Gen. Edward Banta, the head of infrastructure, "is going to testify here next week or two and he will provide refined numbers."
The most senior enlisted Marine also explained that, while the Corps recognizes a need to improve quality of life for its Marines, including barracks, a combination of an emphasis on readiness during the height of the War on Terror as well as shrinking and inconsistent budgets has made the task challenging.
As a result, the older buildings on Marine bases "have not been invested in enough over time for many, many reasons," Black explained. "The priorities compete in a fixed budget."
Black, along with the top enlisted leaders from all the military services, argued for more quality-of-life improvements like better pay, medical care and housing before several congressional committees this week.
However, while the injection of new funding would help close the gap, Black said that some buildings have been neglected for years and need serious work and major funding.
He mentioned that he recently toured a barracks building at Camp Pendleton, California, one that he was responsible for as a company gunnery sergeant in 2004, and encountered the same issues he was familiar with 18 years ago.
"Twelve years in a row, the maintenance on that building has been deferred," Black said.
Aside from more funding, Black also noted that the Marine Corps "constructed a good number of new barracks ... in early 2000s," adding that those buildings, built on 25-year contracts, are coming up on being refreshed.
-- Konstantin Toropin can be reached at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter @ktoropin.