In addition to the active component, the Army Reserve and National Guard will have to add 4,000 and 8,000 soldiers, bringing their total numbers to 199,000 and 343,000, respectively.
As of Nov. 30, the active Army's end strength was 470,000. The Army Guard was at 341,000, while the Army Reserve had about 197,000 soldiers in its ranks, according to data from the Army.
Under the 2017 NDAA, the targets are 476,000 for the Army, 343,000 for the Guard, and 199,000 for the Reserve.
Say you're due to ETS any time between now and October. Unless you're absolutely dead-set on getting out, Dailey's first bit of advice is to talk to your career counselor.
While any soldier at the end of their contract can extend for $10,000, there's even more incentive for those in critical MOSs to reenlist.
"An 11B specialist that reenlists for three years will get a $2,500 bonus," Thompson said, per the latest selective retention bonus numbers. "The kicker makes that a $15,500 bonus."
According to the new SRB charts, which took effect on Jan. 20, the Army is giving big bonuses in a range of MOSs, from intelligence and special forces down to air defense artillery and aviation.
For example, a private first class unmanned aircraft systems repairer could make $11,300 for a 23-month reenlistment -- or $34,200 for five more years -- and a patriot fire control enhanced maintainer at the same pay grade is up for $6,000 with a 23-month reenlistment.
All of that is before the $13,000 kicker the Army is adding on just for reenlisting this year.
It's a lot of money to hand out, Dailey said, but it's cheaper than bringing in and training 9,000 recruits.
"It costs me $70,000 just to recruit and train one," he said.
As the Army tries to grow by 28,000 soldiers, it is offering cash bonuses as well as, when possible, a choice of duty station or school to soldiers who are willing to extend their time in uniform. Here, a soldier with the 69th Air Defense Artillery Brigade signals another soldier when to stop rotating the MIM-104 Patriot launching station.
Photo Credit: Sgt. Brandon Banzhaf/Army
And to sweeten the deal, counselors are authorized to look for coveted assignments or training opportunities.
A soldier who wants to leave Fort Hood, Texas, and is willing to reenlist for the chance to move to Fort Bragg, North Carolina, could get that opportunity.
"Sometimes soldiers will say, ‘If you send me to airborne school, I’ll reenlist,'" Dailey said.
That's also a possibility, Thompson said, but career counselors will be able to make offers on a case-by-case basis.
While the reenlistment program has been hammered out, the Army isn't quite sure where they're going to put all of these new and additional soldiers. Nor are they sure how letting reenlisting soldiers pick their next orders will affect force structure.
"We’ll assume some risk in overpopulation in some places where soldiers want to go," Dailey said. "We’ve said, 'okay, let’s not wait on that.'"
The next step is to come up with a recruiting push that doesn't include lowering standards.
"When we grew the Army during the big war years, we did drop standards," Dailey said, but that's not the plan this time.
The Army is looking at more local recruiting and, potentially, some new marketing strategies, he added.
Unfortunately, all of this is going to cost a lot of money, and the Army doesn't have a new 2017 budget to match the NDAA.
"Now, we went from a downsizing Army to an end strength increase, but our funds are not unlimited," Thompson said. "We may have to shut off this money again."
Though there's a scramble to get the numbers up to par for this year, Dailey said the bonuses and any recruiting incentives aren't meant to be a quick fix.
In the short term, $10,000 or $13,000 might keep a soldier in for an extra year, or encourage them to reenlist for several years, Dailey said, but the hope is that the investment will keep good soldiers in even longer.
"We’re going to maintain quality, we’re going to be focused on readiness – because this is not a numbers game for us," he said.
Meghann Myers is the Pentagon bureau chief at Military Times. She covers operations, policy, personnel, leadership and other issues affecting service members.