WASHINGTON -- Enlisted Soldiers who have completed 20 or more years of service but face a pending administrative separation for misconduct can now receive a reduction in rank before retirement, according to a new policy released Thursday.

Army Directive 2021-29 updates the service's enlisted separation policy and provides leaders more flexibility when administering actions that impact a Soldier as they move beyond their career, said Gerald Conway, Army G-1 human resources personnel policy integrator.

Before the updated directive, the Army generally had three options when making a final determination on administrative separations for misconduct for enlisted Soldiers with 20 or more years of active federal service who were serving on active duty. Individuals could either be separated with or without suspension of the separation for up to 12 months, or retained and granted retirement at their current grade, Conway explained.

The Army secretary or approved designee may determine that after careful consideration of all matters, retirement at a lesser grade is appropriate in certain cases. The new directive provides more options and removes the “all or nothing” determination, he added. A grade-reduced retirement, rather than an administrative discharge for misconduct, may be appropriate considering the nature of the misconduct versus the totality of a Soldier’s service and may also improve their post-military employment opportunities.

The reduction may be either voluntary or involuntary and to any grade equal to or higher than that which the Soldier served satisfactorily, Conway added. Any reduction is final and may not be appealed.

The Army may grant a voluntary request to Regular Army, U.S. Army Reserve (USAR), and U.S. Army National Guard (ARNG)/Army National Guard of the United States (ARNGUS) Soldiers who have completed 20 or more years of active federal service creditable toward retirement while facing an administrative separation for misconduct, he said. A retirement at a reduced rank, rather than an administrative discharge for misconduct, would allow for the preservation of a 20-year active federal service retirement.

Alternatively, the involuntary reduction process applies to the total force who are retirement eligible but have not asked to retire at a lower rank or had their voluntary reduction request disapproved. The policy change also applies to USAR and ARNG/ARNGUS Soldiers with 20 or more years of qualified service creditable toward a non-regular retirement and are pending separation for misconduct where the separation authority recommends a reduction in rank.

Before any involuntary reduction, a Soldier will be given written notice, afforded the right to consult with counsel, and the right to submit matters on their behalf, Conway said. Soldiers serving on active duty will have no fewer than 10 duty days to respond to the notice. All other Soldiers will be given no fewer than 30 calendar days to respond.

"The new directive gives Soldiers more options," Conway said, adding that the policy provides the Army more flexibility when addressing misconduct of retirement eligible enlisted Soldiers.