The All Mercenary Army - Unintended Consequences
of Enlistment Bonuses

May 24, 2000

Comment: #358

Discussion Thread: #s 324, 323, 321, 320 -- Earlier discussions of the retention and morale problems, with particular emphasis on dissatisfaction with the quality of leadership: 115, 126, 127, 129, 134, 136, 149, 152, 155, 160, 161, 195, 206, 233, 238, 240, 242, 245, 249, 283, 303

References [1] OFFICE OF THE ASSISTANT SECRETARY OF DEFENSE (PUBLIC AFFAIRS), "AIR FORCE OFFERS $5,000 ENLISTMENT BONUS," News Release No. 209-00, April 26, 2000. Attached.

The blind lust to solve recruiting and retention problems by throwing money at them may be setting the stage for larger problems that will continue to undermine morale and cohesion.

A typical example of monetary expediency occurred on April 26, when the Pentagon announced that the Air Force added an extra temporary $5,000 enlistment bonus on top of the pre-existing enlistment bonus simply to encourage individuals who had already signed up to join the AF later in the year to report earlier in the year, in this case by May 31. The bonus on top of a bonus was offered to applicants entering about 100 career fields. It was needed to accelerate the inflow of people, because the AF had fallen 17% short of its recruiting goal of 16,805 recruits for the first six months of Fiscal Year 2000 (which began Oct 1, 1999). Reference 1 below is the official Defense Department announcement of the deal ['bribe' might be a better word].

This kind a piecemeal solution is typical of the desperate short-sighted thinking that now passes for policy in Versailles on the Potomac. The objective is to get the problem off the evening news.

Set aside the obvious concern about attracting the wrong people by magnifying incentives that place mercenary values above patriotic values and simply consider the fact that this solution gives one part of a cohort a better deal than another part of the cohort for reasons of expediency. A narrowly focused policy aimed at solving one problem may create other problems, in this case, a benefit to part of a group may create cynicism and resentment in the excluded group.

Today, I received an email from a Sergeant in the Army who suggested that the unintended consequences of enlistment bonuses may be having precisely this kind of perverse effect on the NCO corps.

~~~~~~~~[Email from SSG XXX]~~~~~~~~~


Just thought you might like to know that the first recipients of the big enlistment bonuses are beginning to arrive. We have a couple of young ladies who, in return for a 4 year enlistment, have received a $12,000 bonus. The way this works is they will receive 50% of their bonus (less taxes) when they graduate AIT [Advanced Individual Training]. The balance will be paid on each anniversary of there enlistment for the next 3 years.

One of these soldiers also has guaranteed station of choice. Hawaii. So she will be about 20 years old, with about $4200 in her pocket, and living in Hawaii for 3 years, with room, board and medical bennies.

I am a SSG with 15 years in the Army. My reenlistment window opens in September. My commander might give me a 4 day pass. This will be my last reenlistment because of the new indefinite status. They army can keep me as long as they need me, or get rid of me at their convenience.

Watch the morale of the NCO Corps plummet. I would like someone to try and explain why this is fair.


~~~~~~~[End email]~~~~~~~

Chuck Spinney

[Disclaimer: In accordance with 17 U.S.C. 107, this material is distributed without profit or payment to those who have expressed a prior interest in receiving this information for non-profit research and educational purposes only.]





No. 209-00 (703)695-0192(media) IMMEDIATE RELEASE April 26, 2000 (703)697-5737(public/industry) AIR FORCE OFFERS $5,000 ENLISTMENT BONUS

The Air Force is offering an additional $5,000 initial enlistment bonus to people entering certain career fields or aptitude areas in an attempt to bolster the number of recruits entering active duty now through May 2000. This temporary $5,000 bonus amount is in addition to pre-existing enlistment bonuses.

The additional bonus applies to eligible individuals falling into one of three categories:

Recruits who have shipped or are currently scheduled to ship to basic military training between April 17 and May 31.

New applicants, who as of April 17, did not hold a reservation to enter the Air Force and will enter active duty now through May 31.

Individuals who have a reservation to enter the Air Force on or after June 1, but agree to move up their date and enter active duty before May 31.

"The bonus applies only to individuals entering one of more than 100 selected career fields or aptitude areas," said Chief Master Sgt. Nathan Kostos, superintendent of operations, Air Force Recruiting Service.

"Applicants need to treat their enlistment contract as if it were an actual check signed by the U.S. Air Force. In fact, it is," Kostos said. "Payment of the bonus will take place only after recruits complete all required technical training for their bonus AFSC (Air Force Specialty Code) and no sooner than 30 days after arriving at their first permanent duty station."

He said recruiters will review their bank of recruits scheduled to enter active duty after May 31 and contact those eligible to encourage them to move their enlistment date up and receive the bonus.

"The Air Force is providing an excellent incentive and we are running a full-court press to take advantage of this golden opportunity," Kostos said.

For more information, contact the nearest Air Force recruiting office, at 1-(800)-423-USAF or visit