In January, the Army set a goal to grow the force to 1.018 million soldiers by the end of September.
They did it with help from hefty retention and recruitment incentives, and, according to the service’s deputy chief of staff for personnel, the Army is poised to do it all over again in 2018.
The Army is asking Congress for 17,000 more troops as an unfunded requirement, Lt. Gen. Thomas Seamands told Army Times in a Sept. 28 interview.
“Ten thousand in the active, and 4,000 for the Guard and 3,000 for the Reserve,” Seamands said. “Right now, the House is supporting the entire thing we have asked for. The Senate has a number that is less than that.”
This time last year, that Army had been on track to shrink the force down to 460,000 in the active component. The National Defense Authorization Act, signed by Barack Obama right before Christmas, reversed that course, giving the service the go-ahead to the active duty ranks to 476,000.
As of the end of September, Seamands said, the Army had succeeded in meeting its recruiting and retention goals across the active Army and National Guard.
Only the Reserve had fallen short, by 2 percent. Seamands attributed that to the number of Reserve officers and noncommissioned officers who had taken advantage of the opportunity to go active duty this year.
In all, the Army added more than 27,900 soldiers to its ranks — about 16,000 in the active Army, 8,000 in the Army National Guard, and about 3,900 in the Army Reserve.
Big bonuses, more officers
With a mandate to re-enlist 9,000 soldiers in 2017, the Army pulled out all the stops. Selective retention bonuses were increased in normally over-strength military occupational specialties, like infantry, with a $10,000 cherry on top.
Others were given either $10,000, then $5,000, free and clear just to extend their contracts by a year.
Those kinds of deals aren’t coming back this year, Seamands said, but the standard re-enlistment bonuses that were available in the second half of this year are a good indication of what might be available to those thinking about staying in uniform.
“We don’t think we will do an extension. That was a decision that made sense last year in ’17,” Seamands said. “What we’re looking for now is a longer commitment. We will have re-enlistment bonuses for our NCOs. But, they won’t be for extensions. I don’t see that happening.”
Army Recruiting Command will also see a bump in its goals, Seamands said, and the door will stay open for reserve component NCOs who want to go active.
“In order to increase the officer flow, we plan on doubling the size of [Officer Candidate School] for next year,” Seamands said. “It will go from about 500 to 1,000 next year.”
But those plans all depend on what Congress can agree on, of course.
“It is our intent to grow,” Seamands said. “I think it is Congress’s intent to grow.”
Meghann Myers is the Pentagon bureau chief at Military Times. She covers operations, policy, personnel, leadership and other issues affecting service members. Follow on Twitter @Meghann_MT