Wednesday, January 26, 2005

Hey, Fourteen Nine-fiddy more, that would pay for a nice service


Looking for new ways to bolster its thinning ranks, the Army National Guard is seeking legal authority to offer $15,000 bonuses to active-duty soldiers willing to join the Guard — up from $50 now.

Lt. Gen. H Steven Blum, chief of the National Guard Bureau, told reporters Tuesday that the Guard is 15,000 soldiers below its normal strength of 350,000, and he expects further short-term declines despite recent gains from tripling re-enlistment bonuses for Guardsmen deployed abroad.

If the Guard fails to return to its normal troop level of 350,000 by the end of the budget year on Sept. 30, it will be the first time that has happened since 1989, the three-star general said. He added that he believes he has a formula for restoring the Guard's strength.

Heavily stressed by longer-than-anticpated combat and support duties in Iraq (news - web sites), Afghanistan (news - web sites) and elsewhere, the Guard recently increased first-time enlistment bonuses and added 1,400 recruiters.

In explaining his interest in getting congressional approval for $15,000 bonuses to entice active-duty military members to join the Guard, Blum said he believes he could get 8,000 new Guardsmen this way. He said the existing $50 bonus carries little weight in today's economy.

"That incentive may have been a big deal 50 years ago, but it doesn't buy much today," he said.

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