The Air Force has sharply cut the number of jobs eligible for re-enlistment bonuses in fiscal 2020.
The Air Force Personnel Center on Wednesday posted the list of 72 Air Force specialty codes for this year’s Selective Retention Bonus program, which went into effect Thursday. But that list is far shorter than the previous SRB listing from July, which had 107 career fields. Dozens more career fields are seeing their bonuses reduced.
Lt. Gen. Brian Kelly, the personnel chief, said in a news release that several years of improved manning and growth levels have left the service in a much better place.
“The Air Force works hard to retain our highly trained and experienced airmen and the annual Selective Retention Bonus program is a key element in that effort,” Kelly said. “Based on past efforts and the growth we’ve enjoyed the last few years, our manning levels are better than we’ve been in a while. Even so, we still have shortages and will continue to strategically use the Selective Retention Bonus program for those AFSCs that are most in need.”
Chief Master Sergeant of the Air Force Kaleth Wright, in the same release, acknowledged the disappointment some airmen might feel.
“We get this might not be what some folks were hoping for this year, but we’ve looked at it from all angles, and this is what our experts are telling us is the right decision,” Wright said. “When you look at it from an enterprise perspective, you can see that while not every career field gets a bonus, this is the right move to set our team up for success in the future.”
Airmen whose career field bonuses are being dropped or reduced, and who are now eligible to re-enlist, still have until Dec. 20 to re-enlist and get the fiscal 2019 bonus.
Capt. Carrie Volpe, in an email, said 39 AFSCs in all were removed from the list.
“Career fields ebb and flow from year to year, and this year was no different,” Volpe said. “The SRB is a tool that is used to ensure we’re keeping airmen where we need them most, and the 39 AFSCs removed from the list indicate areas where we’re more healthy.”
But due to high pace of operations, low manning, and worries over retention, the Air Force added three career fields in aircraft maintenance, as well as adding 3D0X3 cyber surety:
Among the career fields that were dropped entirely are 1A1X1 flight engineers, 1A2X1 aircraft loadmasters, and 1C1X1 air traffic control airmen. Other cut jobs are 1N8X1 targeting analysts, 1S0X1 safety, and 1A8X1 airborne crypto language analysts specializing in Arabic, Korean, Spanish and Hebrew.
Arabic and Korean specialists in the 1N3X1 crypto language analyst career field also lost their retention bonuses.
Chinese and Russian specialists in both the 1A8X1 and 1N3X1 career fields will still be eligible to receive retention bonuses, although those airborne crypto analysts will see them reduced.
These retention bonuses, which can be as much as $100,000, are regularly offered to skilled airmen in critical career fields to encourage them to stay in uniform. The Air Force calculates the bonus by multiplying one month of an airman’s salary, by the number of years the airman is re-enlisting, by a multiplier that is specific to the career field and number of years of service.
The Air Force said it will spend more than $150 million on this year’s program.
Stephen Losey is the air warfare reporter for Defense News. He previously covered leadership and personnel issues at Air Force Times, and the Pentagon, special operations and air warfare at Military.com. He has traveled to the Middle East to cover U.S. Air Force operations.