Air Force raises amount, expands field, for reenlistment bonuses

This fall the U.S. Air Force is raising the maximum payout available for airmen in certain fields. This past week the service announced it was increasing the amount of money service members in certain specialized careers can get in reenlistment bonuses, up to $180,000 from a previous high of $100,000. 

The new bonuses, which go into effect on Oct. 1, are meant to help the Air Force keep “critical career fields” staffed, with the focus being on areas with low retention rates, the service said.  The new rules set a higher career cap for bonuses at $360,000.

Along with the higher bonus cap, the Air Force is also expanding eligibility for the bonuses. Currently airmen in only 51 career fields qualified for the Selective Retention Bonus. The updated Selective Retention Bonus plan increases that to 73; the current 51 fields remain eligible, none were dropped. The Air Force did not share a full list, but one posted to social media and confirmed by Air & Space Forces Magazine notes that the newly eligible 22 career fields include electronic non-communications analyst, manpower management and air traffic control, among others. 

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As part of the changed selective retention bonus plan, the Air Force has expanded its obligated service cap from six years to eight years, or 96 months. Airmen can reenlist — and therefore get the reenlistment bonus if they are in the eligible field — up to 12 months before their service ends. The idea, the Air Force said, is to provide greater flexibility for currently serving airmen to decide if they want to stay in the service. 

Over the last several years the military has rolled out or bumped up various bonuses as a way to both entice new recruits and keep current troops in the ranks. Money is a strong incentive in the military’s eyes. Last year the Air Force missed its recruiting goal for the first time since 1999. As a result, it and other military branches struggling with bringing in new troops are working to retain people already serving. Within the Air Force some of the largest bonuses for this current fiscal year were aimed toward keeping currently serving pilots in the armed forces. Other branches have offered large sums for those in specialized fields, such as cyber warfare and nuclear technicians. 

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