The United States Navy is about to offer experience SEAL officers up to $25,000 a year on top of their pay and allowances to stay in the Navy for up to five years.
According to an All Navy administrative message released last month, the service is offering this Naval Special Warfare Officer Retention Bonus to any active duty officer with at least 15 years of active-duty commissioned service, and who has screened positive for an XO tour will get as much as $25,000 a year if they sign an agreement to stay in the Navy for five years.
For signing a three-year agreement, officers will get up to $15,000 per year. Active-duty officers who successfully screen for a CO tour will get $25,000 a year for three years. Reserve officers who screen successfully for an XO tour will get $20,000 a year for signing a five-year contract and $10,000 a year for a three-year deal.
The reason for this was outlined by Lt. Cdr. Nathan Christensen, a spokesman for the Chief of Naval Personnel, who told WATM, "Top talent is tough to draw in and even tougher to keep. We are seeing some fraying around the edges in terms of SEAL Officer retention, as our control grade officers (O4/O5) in the Navy SEAL community are currently undermanned."
"This program seeks to retain more Naval Special Warfare Officers with vital military skills that cannot be easily or quickly replaced," Christensen added. "These officers are highly trained leaders and their unique skill sets are in high demand within military and civilian sectors. We believe this helps reduces this potential loss of that talent and experience."
Ward Carroll, the President of Military One Click and a former Naval Flight Officer who served as a radar intercept officer on F-14 Tomcats, noted that this is not an unusual approach, saying, "Bonuses like this have been around for years." Carroll added that similar bonuses were paid out to Naval Aviators and NFOs back in the late 1980s.
Echoing this when asked for comment was Robert Maginnis, a retired Army lieutenant colonel who now serves as a Senior Fellow for National Defense at the Family Research Council, who noted, "Our special operations people are great patriots and the best of our fighters but they are also human."
"Those I know suffer from deployment fatigue and especially the baggage like broken families," Maginnis said. "This comes to a head at the 10 to 12-year point."
"I'd argue a Special Operations CD-R or XO is perhaps one of the most valuable personnel in the entire armed forces," he added. "They are skilled, experienced and have the respect of likeminded warriors."
Elaine Donnelly of the Center for Military Readiness blamed the White House for the shortage, saying that Navy Sec. Ray Mabus focused too much on social change within the service rather than helping sailors who are fighting worldwide every day.
"I would add, however, that the Navy has not improved the situation by relentlessly pursuing social agendas that will make SEAL life more difficult and dangerous," she said, adding the Navy ignored surveys expressing opposition to women serving in special operations assignments and empirical data that she felt warranted a request for an exemption.
"$25,000 retention bonuses may help to retain SEAL warriors, but breakdowns in vertical cohesion, meaning trust between commanders and the troops they lead, may be even more costly," Donnelly concluded.