The Marine Corps will need nearly $5 billion throughout the next 30 years to upgrade buildings at both Marine Corps recruit depots in the wake of increased gender integration and climate change, according to documents the Marine Corps shared with Congress.
The Corps estimates that it will need $198 million over the next five years for immediate upgrades to make possible boot camp gender integration at both San Diego and Parris Island, South Carolina, according to the documents.
Beyond gender integration, the Marine Corps said it needs more long-term money, “to address resiliency concerns, modernization of facilities, and sustainment of overall recruit training.”
Between five and 30 years from now the Corps believes those costs with come out to about $4.72 billion.
With the passing of the of the 2020 National Defense Authorization Act, gender segregated training at Marine Corps boot camp was banned.
Marine Corps Recruit Depot Parris Island, South Carolina, had five years to comply with the law while Marine Corps Recruit Depot San Diego had eight years.
Initially members of Congress believed the law would require boot camp to be integrated at the platoon level, where most of boot camp training takes place.
But the Marine Corps seems to be on the path of arguing that the law only requires it to gender integrate companies.
Either form of gender integration would require large overhauls to the barracks at both Marine Corps recruit depots, the document said.
The Corps has trained at least 19 coed companies at Parris Island, South Carolina, and one coed company at San Diego, despite neither location having barracks capable of handling a coed living situation.
“The Marine Corps was able to temporarily overcome this shortfall by using unoccupied aging barracks to expand capacity,” a document shared with members of Congress said. “Long term support is still needed for a permanent solution.”
With a rising sea level and the precarious position of Parris Island, South Carolina, in the middle of swamp on the edge of the Atlanta Ocean, the very existence of the Corps’ historic boot camp site may be at stake.
By 2050, parts of the base would be underwater nearly a third of the year, a study by the Union of Concerned Scientists predicted.
The costs of keeping the two recruit depots safe from a changing climate and upgrading facilities to allow gender integration caused Marine Corps Commandant Gen. David Berger to consider closing the two bases and consolidating Marine Corps boot camp at a third location.
“We have to get to a place where on both coasts or at a third location, or whatever we end up with that every recruit male, female, there’s all there’s male and female around,” Berger said at Defense One’s 2020 state of the Marine Corps event.
But that idea found little support on Capitol Hill.
“It ain’t gonna happen!” Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-South Carolina, tweeted out in response to the idea of moving the base.
“Anyone in the Navy or Marine Corps thinking about closing Parris Island has limited growth potential,” he wrote.