Legislation allowing military recruits to enter service up to age 42
and to create a new $1,000 finder’s fee for service members who tip off
recruiters to good prospects has received tentative approval in the Senate.
A package of 81 approved amendments to the 2006 defense authorization bill unveiled
Monday includes a recruiting and retention plan, proposed by Sen. John McCain,
R-Ariz., and prepared by the Army, that also:
• Raises the maximum enlistment bonus.
• Allows people with prior military service to get more than one bonus
for joining the reserves.
• Increases the maximum bonus for officers joining the reserves.
Sen. John Warner, R-Va., the Senate Armed Services Committee chairman who submitted
the package of approved amendments, said the 81 amendments in it represented
those on which agreement had been reached between Democrats and Republicans
during the two-month delay in work on the defense bill.
Warner said the package has amendments offered by 68 of the 100 senators, and
that he and Sen. Carl Levin of Michigan, his committee’s ranking Democrat,
would urge its adoption when the Senate gets back to work on the bill, which
could be this week.
Raising enlistment and re-enlistment bonuses is the military’s traditional
response to past problems in manning the force, but increasing the maximum recruiting
age and paying a referral bonus are new ideas, both aimed at the Army and its
The current age limit for active-duty recruits, 35, would increase
to 42 for the all of the services.
The provision is not controversial because it is expected the military would
use the new authority sparingly. The Army is the only service to express interest,
and Army officials told the House Armed Services Committee earlier this year
that the new authority would be used only for a few critical specialties.
The finder’s fee idea, however, does come with some controversy. Under
the proposal, a member of the Army, Army Reserve or Army National Guard could
receive a $1,000 bonus for referring a person who has never served in the armed
forces to a recruiter.
For the finder to get the fee, the potential recruit would have to enlist in
the Army, Army Reserve or Army National Guard and finish basic and advanced
training. No payments would be given for referring an immediate family member,
and anyone in a recruiting or career counselor assignment would be ineligible.
McCain’s proposal limits the number of bonuses to 1,000 as an initial
test and would cancel the program on Jan. 1, 2008.
Army officials have talked about wanting to offer bonuses of up to $2,500 and
another new enlistment incentive of up to $25,000 that could be used as a down
payment on the purchase of a home.