Army eyes shorter contracts, bonuses in an effort to ease sequester squeeze

82nd Airborne Division Soldiers conduct an airborne operation at Fort Bragg, N.C., Jan. 30, 2017. "Soldiers must be resourced and trained to execute their missions and remain globally responsive." Image credit: U.S. Army/Facebook

The Army is gearing up to increase its strength by adding 6,ooo soldiers than it originally forecasted before Sept. 30.

To reach its 16,000 goal, the service will be offering bonus money and shorter, two-year enlistment contracts. The recruiting goal and the Army’s plan to retain more than 9,000 more soldiers are both outlined in the 2017 National Defense Authorization Bill.

The Army Times reports two-year enlistments are on the table for almost 100 military occupational specialties, and U.S. Army Recruiting Command is prepared to funnel $300 million into enlistment bonuses, recruiter incentives and marketing, according to its deputy commander.

To reach its lofty goals, the Army is going to increase its number of recruiters and also increase their pay. Subsequently, the Army is going to offer up to $10,000 for a yearlong extension along with other bonus incentives. By the end of September, the Army is hoping to reach an active manning level of 476,000 soldiers.

In all, the Army needs to grow by 28,000 soldiers in the active Army, Army National Guard and Army Reserve by Sept. 30.

Not only does the Army need to get fresh blood into the ranks, it needs to best determine where to allocate the new recruits, the re-enlistees and the more than 1,000 officers it plans to retain during this effort.

The finalized end-state strength plan to include the National Guard and Army Reserve, is due later in February, Lt. Col. Randy Taylor, an Army spokesman said in the Army Times story.

There’s no denying the new administration’s plan is to increase Department of Defense spending, but what remains is budget uncertainty and whether or not Congress is completely onboard. To reach these goals, Congress will have to pass an appropriations bill and a budget that allows Army leaders to achieve the end-state goal.

As of Feb. 14, the Army has enlisted 20,600 recruits this fiscal year, according to USAREC. In total, the service is at about 53 percent of its total plus-up goal for the year, Sergeant Major of the Army Dan Dailey said.

Dailey also said he is confident the Army would get enough money in this year’s budget to properly train and equip the influx of new soldiers and at the same time pay for the bonuses the Army is promising to soldiers old and new.

The idea that the Army needs to increase its strength is nothing new. Daily says leaders have been sounding the alarm for a long time that sequester has placed the Army at risk.

“For the last several years, we’ve been talking about the risk with the size of our force,” Dailey said. “[Army Chief of Staff Gen. Mark Milley] has made it very clear that he’s uncomfortable with our risk. We’ve been communicating with Congress that we need to increase end strength.”


Officials noted that two-year enlistments have been offered in the past and for the most part the shorter contracts have been offered to very specific military occupational specialties.

But this year, 94 of the Army’s enlisted MOSs are eligible for a two-year contract, to give people who are reluctant to sign away four or six years the chance to get their feet wet, Brig. Gen. Donna Martin, deputy commanding general of USAREC, told Army Times.

“And while they’re in for those two years, they earn benefits for education,” she said.

That means the GI Bill will cover 80 percent of that soldier’s college degree.

The Army’s most senior enlisted soldier loves the idea of a two-year contract … in fact; he entered the Army under the same terms.

He told Army Times he enlisted to be an aviator, but his hearing disqualified him from aviation service.

“Not until after those two years did I realize, this is my calling,” he said. “Had I not been afforded that opportunity, maybe to somebody’s benefit now, I might not have been the sergeant major of the Army.”


For those who are willing to sign away more than two years, there are bonuses ranging anywhere from $1,000 to $40,000.

Soldiers who enlist for six years to be a cardiovascular specialist, satellite communications maintainer-operator or patriot fire control enhanced operator maintainer can net $40,000 for enlisting, according to this year’s bonus program scheme.

There are also bonuses as low as $1,000 for a three-year contract as a cannon crewmember, cavalry scout or combat medical specialist, among others.

And for those looking at a job that doesn’t offer an enlistment bonus, there are “quick ship” bonuses for most recruits willing to head to basic training within in a month or two of signing up. Those are worth between $5,000 and $20,000.

If you’re eligible for both an enlistment bonus and a quick-ship bonus, your payout is capped at $40,000.

There’s also something in it for those already on active duty. The Army is trying to add 600 recruiters to bring in these 6,000 new soldiers, and recruiting detail could net you an extra $500 a month for up to a one-year commitment.

The Army Times story points out the Army is placing its hopes on bonuses and shorter enlistment options drawing in enough people to reach this year’s quotas and retain a handful of quality soldiers for the long-term.

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  • Jim Verchio is a staff writer for Popular Military. As a retired Air Force Public Affairs craftsman, Jim has served at all levels. From staff writer to Editor-In-Chief, he has more than 30 years experience covering military topics in print and broadcast from the CONUS to Afghanistan. He is also a two time recipient of the DoD’s prestigious Thomas Jefferson Award for journalism excellence.

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