Attrition: Old Soldiers Paid to Stick Around

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February8, 2007: The U.S. Congress has approved a Department of Defense proposal to increase the pay of troops who stay in the military for up to 40 years. Currently, time-in-service pay raises stop at 36 years of service, and the pension benefits max out at 30 years of service. In other words, there were no financial incentives to stay in uniform longer than 30 years. That's changed, with the maximum retirement pay now increasing to 40 years (at which point you retire with 100 percent of your current pay.) Retirement pay caps for generals and admirals have also been lifted. Giving really talented officers an incentive to stay in and become flag (general or admiral) rank officers. The changes also benefit reservists.

What the military has noted is that people are staying fit and healthy as they get older. It's no longer unusual to see sixty year old senior (E-9) NCOs who can still do more push-ups than most twenty year olds. While officers tend to be forced out if they don't get promoted regularly, some specialists (especially in medicine) are encouraged to stay in as long as they are physically able. But there are other technical specialties, where officers predominate, and "up or out" rules are waived to allow valuable experts to stay in uniform. Otherwise, they tend to retire, then get hired as civilians to do the same work, for more money. But for many senior officers and NCOs, doing the job in uniform is important. It's pride in the service and patriotism, and it matters. But so does the money.

These new policies won't keep a lot of people in uniform, perhaps only a few thousand over the next few years. But those who are willing, and physically able, to stay, are among the most skilled, experienced and talented people in uniform. This small group makes a big difference.

 


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