In a bid to stanch an outflow of elite US troops skilled in
combatting terrorism and insurgencies, the Pentagon has approved an
unusual incentives package aimed at retaining Special Operations
Forces such as Green Berets and Navy SEALs.
Facing stiff competition from private security firms, the CIA,
and other government agencies that are luring the seasoned commandos
with six-figure contracts, the Pentagon plans to budget over $100
million a year for bonuses and special pay for junior and senior
Special Operations Forces (SOF) members who agree to stay in the
force, according to senior defense officials and military sources.
In an unusual departure, the package approved Dec. 22 offers lump
sum payments to keep the most experienced special operators in the
force past the military's traditional 20-year retirement mark.
The policy underscores the urgency with which the Pentagon needs
senior noncommissioned officers to maintain high standards as the
49,000-strong force expands its ranks to meet heavy demands around
the globe and has become a more integral part of the war on terror.
"We are offering handsome rewards to agree to substantial service
beyond 20 years. That's a new objective," says David S.C. Chu, under
secretary of Defense for personnel and readiness. "We're reaching a
point ... where we're going to want more Special Operators to stay
past 20 years of service than has been true historically, and
particularly to be successful in the war on terror."
Since the Sept. 11 attacks, Special Operations Forces have faced
their biggest deployments in history, playing central roles in
defeating the Taliban in Afghanistan and overthrowing the regime of
Saddam Hussein in Iraq. They've also conducted smaller campaigns
against terrorist and anti-government groups in a number of other
regions, including the Philippines, Colombia, and the Horn of
Trained and equipped by the Special Operations Command (SOCOM)
based in Tampa, Fla., the forces include Army Green Berets skilled
in mentoring indigenous forces, Navy SEALs and Delta Force members
specialized in quick strikes and raids, and Air Force experts in
directing airstrikes from the ground.
How stretched elite units are
Today, demands on the force are growing as the Pentagon moves to
shift its strategy in Iraq to focus on training Iraqi forces, while
expanding secret efforts to track down terrorist groups beyond Iraq
For example, US commanders are planning to bolster the role of
Army Special Forces (Green Berets) in Iraq, embedding them as
mentors in an effort to strengthen Iraq's fledgling security forces.
Nevertheless, the back-to-back deployments with only a few months
at home in between are straining the elite troops and their