What is it? National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) 2006 approved changes in maximum enlistment bonus ceilings, modified some existing bonuses, expanded the scope of the student loan repayment program and instituted a Thrift Savings Plan (TSP) pilot test. NDAA 2007 changed the inter-service transfer bonus amount and authorized authority to pay an officer candidate school enlistment bonus.
What has the Army done? On 18 January 2006, the Regular Army implemented the $40K enlistment bonus program. The previous enlistment bonus ceiling for the Regular Army was $20K. On 17 January 2006, the Army Reserve and Army National Guard implemented the $20K non-prior service (NPS) enlistment bonus. The previous NPS maximum for the Reserve Components (RC) was $10K. Statutory authority was also approved for an inter-service transfer bonus of $2.5K. The $2.5K authority was implemented for officer transfers in January 2006. This bonus was raised in the NDAA07 to $10K. Implementation is pending. The statute governing Student Loan Repayments (SLRP) for the Active Army was changed to permit more flexibility in the types of loans that the services were allowed to repay. The expansion permits repayment for education loans from commercial banks or credit unions, pension plans, and State loans in addition to federally recognized student education loans. This expanded authority was implemented on 19 October 2006. Legislation mandated that the Army institute a TSP matching test to gauge feasibility as a recruiting tool. Authority to match dollar for dollar up 3 percent and 50 cents on the dollar up to 5 percent was implemented 1 June 2006 for selected enlistments in critical skills. This pilot test will last through Fiscal Year (FY) 2007.
What continued efforts does the Army have planned for the future? The Army received authority in the NDAA 2007 to implement an OCS enlistment bonus with retroactive provisions to April 2005. The Army officer accessions division has drafted policy to fully implement this authority upon legal review. NDAA 2007 raised the $2.5 inter-service transfer bonus to a new $10K ceiling. This new level has been implemented. The NDAA 2006 approved an expanded Student Loan Repayment Program for the Regular Army (RA) (Section 2171). The authority failed to change the statute governing RC bonuses (Section 16301). The Army has an FY 2008 legislative change pending that requests a change to section16301 to expand RC Student loans to the same loan repayment authority as exists in the RA statute. The success of current pending Army pilot projects (Recruiter Incentive Pay and others) will further determine future needs.
Why is this important to the Army? Incentives provide the Army with the tools needed to effectively recruit and sustain the force. It is essential that the Army remains competitive with the other services and with other civilian alternatives. A strong incentives package supports the Army’s ability to attract the best talent available.