While the U.S. Army is sharply cutting back on its enlistment, and
re-enlistment bonus program, mainly because the economic recession reduces the
competition recruiters get from civilian employers, the army still pays well
for those with rare skills. In general, the bonuses are quickly sliding back to
their pre-Iraq levels ($300 million a year), versus the billion plus dollars
spent last year.
But in one
area, there will be no cuts. In the last few years, the U.S. Department of
Defense has paid over $100 million in retention bonuses to nearly 2,000
experienced Special Operations operators. Most of those getting the bonuses
were Special Forces and SEAL personnel who were eligible for retirement, and
being offered high paying civilian security jobs, or simply the prospect of
relaxing. Appeals to patriotism, and bonuses of up to $150,000, persuaded most
of those operators to stay in uniform.
This was a bargain for the government, as well as for troops in question.
cost millions of dollars, and nearly a decade of effort, to replace each of
those twenty year vets. Bonuses of under $100,000 worked for troops not yet
eligible for the half-pay pension. Most of the billions in bonus money goes to
a small number of specialists, like Special Forces, SEALs, explosives disposal
(they deal with roadside bombs), intelligence and electronics specialists.
program has been around for decades, but as been used more aggressively in the
last decade, as the civilian economy boomed, and increasingly saw highly
skilled military personnel as potential hires. Recruiters, while not admitting
it, look forward to an occasional recession, to take the heat off.