Attrition: Paying The Going Rate


February 13, 2010:  The U.S. Army is offering reenlistment bonuses of up to $150,000 for Special Forces veterans who agree to stay. Other soldiers eligible for bonuses of $100,000 or more include those who can crack codes in Arabic or Iranian (Farsi), manage large power plants (the army needs a lot more juice these days), operate and maintain satellite communications, carry out psychological operatives, supervise civil affairs programs and take care of EOD (Explosives Ordnance Disposal). The big bucks go to senior NCOs who can not only do the work, but train and supervise others to do their technical jobs. A lot more troops used to get reenlistment bonuses, but things have changed.

Last year, the U.S. Army, overwhelmed with new recruits, and existing troops wanting to stay in, eliminated nearly all re-enlistment bonuses. About a year ago, the army sharply cut back on its enlistment, and re-enlistment bonus program, mainly because the economic recession reduced the competition recruiters get from civilian employers. In general, the bonuses are quickly sliding back to their pre-Iraq levels ($300 million a year), versus the billion plus dollars spent in 2008.

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.

It would 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.

The bonus 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.


Article Archive

Attrition: Current 2022 2021 2020 2019 2018 2017 2016 2015 2014 2013 2012 2011 2010 2009 2008 2007 2006 2005 2004 2003 2002 2001 2000 1999 



Help Keep Us Soaring

We need your help! Our subscription base has slowly been dwindling. We need your help in reversing that trend. We would like to add 20 new subscribers this month.

Each month we count on your subscriptions or contributions. You can support us in the following ways:

  1. Make sure you spread the word about us. Two ways to do that are to like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.
  2. Subscribe to our daily newsletter. We’ll send the news to your email box, and you don’t have to come to the site unless you want to read columns or see photos.
  3. You can contribute to the health of StrategyPage. A contribution is not a donation that you can deduct at tax time, but a form of crowdfunding. We store none of your information when you contribute..
Subscribe   Contribute   Close