In an effort to fulfill his push to expand the U.S. military, President Trump is proposing that the Army offer up to $90,000 in bonus for some soldiers who commit to additional years of service.
Trump’s latest budget proposal for fiscal year 2018 Opens a New Window will make this task easier to accomplish, as it includes an increase to $639 billion for the Department of Defense, up $52 billion from the 2017 annualized continuing resolution level, Fox News reports.
Additionally, in late January, the president signed an executive order to begin a “great rebuilding” of the U.S. military, which tasked Defense Secretary James Mattis to review and recommend ways to strengthen America’s armed forces.
“I’m signing an executive action to begin a great rebuilding of the armed services of the United States, developing a plan for new planes, new ships new resources, and new tools for our men and women in uniform, and I’m very proud to be doing that,” the president said.
During the campaign, then-Republican presidential nominee Trump vowed to boost the number of army soldiers to 540,000, saying the number of troops was at the smallest level since 1940 Opens a New Window.
Struggling to expand its ranks, the Army will triple the amount of bonuses it’s paying this year to more than $380 million, including new incentives to woo reluctant soldiers to re-enlist, officials told The Associated Press.
Some soldiers could get $90,000 up front by committing to another four or more years, as the Army seeks to reverse some of the downsizing that occurred under the Obama administration after years of growth spurred by the Iraq and Afghanistan wars.
The enlistment campaign was driven by Congress’ decision late last year to beef up the size of the Army, echoing the spirit if not quite the extent of President Donald Trump’s campaign promises to significantly increase military staffing and firepower.
Under the current plan, the active duty Army will grow by 16,000 soldiers, taking it to 476,000 in total by October. The National Guard and the Army Reserve will see a smaller expansion.
To meet the mandate, the Army must find 6,000 new soldiers, convince 9,000 current soldiers to stay on and add 1,000 officers.
“We’ve got a ways to go,” Gen. Robert Abrams, head of U.S. Army Forces Command, said in an interview at his office in Fort Bragg, N.C. “I’m not going to kid you. It’s been difficult because a lot of these kids had plans and their families had plans.”
In just the last two weeks, the Army has paid out more than $26 million in bonuses.
The biggest hurdle, according to senior Army leaders, is convincing thousands of enlistees who are only months away from leaving the service to sign up for several more years. Many have been planning their exits and have turned down multiple entreaties to stay.
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