Critics Say It's Time to Overhaul Army's Bonus System - New York Times

An Army recruit in Midland, Tex., signed up for four years in the infantry on April 22, and received a $20,000 bonus. Three weeks later near El Paso, another recruit who chose the same job and length of service received no bonus.

Military officials do not consider such disparities surprising. For decades, the Army has used bonuses selectively, to sign up recruits for immediate needs, to help attract applicants for hard-to-fill specialties, and to win over qualified people who might otherwise be lost to better-paying opportunities. Even with the Army falling short of its recruitment goals for the year, the military says the program works: A doubling of the top bonus to $40,000 is often the first thing that Army officials request when Congress asks what they need to maintain troop strength as the war in Iraq goes on. And the Army officials said there were no plans to change the program or give out significantly more money.

"Not all skills qualify for the maximum bonus," said Lt. Col. Bryan Hilferty, an Army spokesman at the Pentagon. "The Army uses bonuses to attract applicants into skills or specialties where they are most needed."

But outside the Pentagon, a growing number of military experts, retired Army officials, recruiters and applicants have begun to clamor for an overhaul in how the Army doles out its incentives. They say that the Army's use of the top bonus amount can be confusing, and it is indeed handed out very infrequently, leading some to charge that applicants can be misled. The bonus disparities among seemingly equal recruits, they said, can also lead to dissension in the ranks as soldiers compare what they received to enlist.

Most fundamentally, though, critics described the program as an ineffective tool for attracting troops - a holdover from an era when the most significant recruiting challenges came from competition with a robust economy. Now the main hindrance to recruitment is war, many said, and bonuses should be used to boost compensation for anyone willing to volunteer.
Critics Say It's Time to Overhaul Army's Bonus System - New York Times


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