Leadership: March 6, 2005


Last year, the U.S. Navy tried an experiment to get sailors to volunteer for unpopular assignments. They did this with an eBay approach, where sailors bid on how much extra monthly pay they would accept to take unpopular assignments (initially those in Naples and Sigonella in Italy, and Misawa, in Japan). The sailors with the lowest bids, got the jobs, and the bonuses (which can be as high as $450, or a 15-20 percent temporary raise for most sailors involved). The navy now has more money for the Assignment Incentive Pay (AIP) program, and is expanding it to include unpopular assignments in Spain, Guam, Britain, Okinawa and a few sea-going ones as well. The unpopular assignments often led to sailors to not re-enlist, in addition to poor morale for those who went. AIP has changed all that, and is cheaper than replacing the sailors who quit because of catching these jobs too often. All the services have similar situations, usually involving highly trained personnel in jobs that often require working in unpleasant overseas assignments. The army and the air force are considering trying AIP as well. The concept of Assignment Incentive Pay has been popular in civilian companies, and paying extra for working in unpopular locations has long been used to get the people you need, where you need them, and in a good mood to get the job done well.


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