In an effort to increase its ranks and convince reluctant soldiers to re-enlist, the Army will triple the amount of bonuses it's paying this year to more than $380 million, according to the Associated Press. Some soldiers could get as much as $90,000 up front by committing to another four or more years.
The incentive comes as the Army hopes to reverse a downsizing trend that was seen under the Obama administration after years of growth brought upon by the wars in the Middle East.
The enlistment campaign was driven by Congress' decision late last year to expand the size of the Army--a frequently touted tenet of President Trump's military strategy.
Last fall, Trump revealed a plan that would enlarge the Army to 540,000 soldiers. The plan is mostly well-received by Army officials, but they added that more men and women must be accompanied by funding for equipment and training to adequately support them.
Under the current plan, the Army will grow by 16,000 soldiers, amounting to about 476,000 in October. But, to meet the mandate, the Army must recruit 6,000 new soldiers, convince 9,000 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.”
To put the Army's efforts in context, it already paid out more than $26 million in bonuses in just the last two weeks.
The biggest hurdle facing officials from reaching their enlistment goal is convincing thousands of enlistees who are months away from leaving the service to commit to more years. Many have already planned their exits and turned down incentives to stay.
“The top line message is that the Army is hiring,” said Maj. Gen. Jason Evans, who recently became the service’s head of Human Resources Command.
Though the Army is expanding, Evans vowed to adhere to the branch's strict standards in efforts to sustain the quality of the ranks.
The Army says it reached about 75 percent of its goal. The last 25 percent will be challenging, according to Mst. Sgt. Mark Thompson, who noted that the remaining pool of soldiers is comprised of people who "have said no for a long time."