As millions of civilians file for unemployment benefits as restaurants, shops and other businesses shut down during the novel coronavirus crisis, the Navy is offering about 10,000 more sailors the chance to pocket extra cash if they agree to reenlist.
The service announced updates to its 2020 Selective Reenlistment Bonus program last week. It is now offering reenlistment bonuses to sailors in 27 skill sets that weren't previously eligible for them. Sailors can also reenlist up to a year out from their end-of-service contract dates, rather than waiting until they are nine months out from that date.
The changes mean about 10,000 more enlisted sailors will now qualify for reenlistment bonuses, the service said in a news release announcing the changes. The move is meant to give sailors more flexibility and stability in their lives and careers, Capt. Angela Katson, head of enlisted plans and policy for the chief of naval personnel, said in a statement.
"Although overall enlisted retention is high, the Navy continues to use the Selective Reenlistment Bonus program to offer competitive financial incentives to sailors in needed skill sets across the fleet," she said.
A spokesman for Naval Personnel Command said the changes aren't related to the coronavirus pandemic. While the global health crisis has affected some recruiting and entry-level training efforts, Pentagon leaders have said they're unlikely to turn to stop-loss orders that would require troops to stay beyond their planned exit dates in order to maintain the size of the force.
Bonuses vary by rating and time in uniform, but can pay up to $100,000 to those in hard-to-fill jobs. While the updates give some sailors who previously didn't have a shot at bonuses the option to pocket re-up cash -- such as those as aviation boatswain's mates (launch and recovery) or aviation electrician's mates -- others in more than two dozen fields will see decreases.
The Navy will continue adjusting bonus amounts and eligibility based on retention goals, according to the service-wide administrative message announcing the changes.
The service has touted high reenlistment bonuses in recent years. It blasted past its 2019 retention goals for enlisted sailors in the first 10 years of their careers. Last year, it held onto nearly 65% of Zone A sailors, or those with less than six years in. And 72% of Zone B sailors -- those with six to 10 years in -- reenlisted.
Leaders have credited the high retention levels not only to bonuses, but also to changes in Navy culture. That includes more career flexibility and family-friendly policies.