Army pauses retention cash bonuses amid sky-high re-up rate

After meeting its retention goals early, the Army paused its reenlistment bonus program Tuesday as the fiscal year comes to a close, according to an internal announcement.

The Army’s annual Selective Retention Bonus program provides cash to some reenlisting soldiers based on the force’s needs, which vary between career fields, ranks and skills, or assignment to certain units.

Some combinations aren’t eligible for bonuses. For example, a CBRN specialist staff sergeant in a conventional airborne role wasn’t eligible for a bonus earlier this year, but one assigned to the 75th Ranger Regiment could receive $90,000 in return for a six-year reenlistment.

But the fiscal 2023 program was shut down at 3:11 p.m. Thursday, according to the internal message. Soldiers who reenlisted before then will receive their bonuses.

Although the bonuses are currently suspended, the Army’s other reenlistment incentives remain in play for those who aren’t eligible or who plan to re-up in the next few weeks. Based on what’s available, soldiers who reenlist without a bonus have “options” that could include special schools, such as Ranger School; retraining into a new career field; stabilization at their current duty station; or a duty station of choice, including overseas assignments.

The bonus pause comes after the Army reached its retention goal for the fifth year in a row, the service’s former top NCO said in June. The strong retention rates have helped the service reduce the sting of an ongoing recruiting crisis, but it is still losing more troops than it is gaining.

The Army is likely to announce its fiscal 2024 bonus program in the weeks ahead, so troops who want to reenlist for a bonus may want to wait. Those who were bonus-eligible and are scheduled to leave the Army between Tuesday and Sept. 30 can extend their contracts by as little as three months, according to service regulations, in order to have their full range of options restored soon.