The Selective Reenlistment Bonus (SRB) is the Department of Defense’s tool to keep highly skilled military members in uniform and often to help shore up retention in critically-staffed career fields. Depending on the branch of military service, this bonus may be referred to as a Selective Retention Bonus, but the idea is essentially the same.
According to the Department of Defense, the SRB should not be confused with a different type of retention bonus known as the Section 355 Critical Skills Retention Bonus (CSRB) or Bonus for Assignment to High Priority Unit. The Selective Reenlistment Bonus is “Section 38” rather than Section 355.
Why A Reenlistment Bonus?
The various branches of military service acknowledge certain truths about reenlistment–the United States Air Force official policy includes this statement from the Air Force official site:
“Reenlistment in the Regular Air Force is not an inherent individual right for enlisted Airmen. It is a privilege and confers an obligation to serve.”
Reenlistment is possible for military members who are considered suitable to reenlist, meet the eligibility requirements, and have “qualities essential for continued service and can perform duty in a career field in which the Air Force has a specific need,” according to the official site.
This philosophy is expressed in different ways depending on the branch of military service, but as a rule, only the servicemember’s command has the power to approve or deny reenlistment. Those who are not selected for reenlistment are separated from military service on the Date Of Separation (DOS) listed on the most current military record.
Those who are accepted as re-enlistees may not necessarily qualify for a reenlistment bonus. Those who do must meet certain requirements established by both the DoD and the branch of service.
Reenlistment bonuses are paid to keep highly qualified service members in uniform; they are also paid to insure critically-staffed career fields in the Army, Navy, Air Force, Space Force, and Marine Corps are operating at end-strength levels acceptable to the Department of Defense.
How Much Is The SRB?
The maximum amount prescribed by law that a servicemember can receive through a single SRB option is $90,000 for a minimum three-year re-enlistment period. The actual amounts of an SRB will vary depending on circumstances.
Chapter 9, Page 61 of the DoD Financial Management Regulation states that SRB bonuses are based on “multiples, not to exceed ten, of the member’s monthly basic pay at the time of discharge, release from active duty, or the day before beginning of extension, multiplied by years of additional obligated service.”
As DoD literature reminds servicemembers, “Reenlistment bonus amounts will vary depending on the member’s prior years of service.” Bonuses may be paid either in a lump sum or in yearly installment payments, but the DoD regulations specifically discussing SRBs states, “Selective reenlistment bonus (SRB) payments are paid by installments.
When installments are authorized, the servicemember will get “no less than 50%” of the bonus as an up-front payment. Any upfront payments should be delivered no more than 30 days after the reenlistment date.
Those who signed up for SRB but did not receive this payment within the 30-day window should contact their finance office to investigate the hold-up.
Who Is Eligible For SRB?
According to the Defense Accounting And Finance Service (DFAS), an SRB may be due a service members who meets these DoD requirements:
- Falls into a “zone” of conditions for reenlistment (see below)
- Is qualified in a military specialty currently paying SRB
- Is E-3 or higher
- The servicemember reenlists within 3 months of the date of discharge or release from voluntary active duty-“lesser periods” of eligibility may apply depending on circumstances
- The service member otherwise extends enlistment, or “enlists in Regular Component within 3 months of release from Active Duty as member of Reserve Component”
The SRB “zones” are described in DFAS literature as follows:
- Zone A (requiring two to six years of active duty service)
- Zone B (requiring six to 10 years of active service)
- Zone C (requiring 10-14 years of active service)
Zone A Requirements
To be eligible for Zone A, the following is required:
- Must complete 21 months of continuous active duty (Reserve training duty doesn’t count and any break in service must last fewer than three months) but not more than six years of active duty (on the date of reenlistment or at the start of an extension of enlistment.)
- Marine Corps should know that when computing the six year active service requirement for Zone A, “prior active service in any other Military Department is excluded and only active service in the Marine Corps is included.” Certain restrictions may apply.
- Zone A requirements also include the service member reenlisting or voluntarily extending an enlistment “in the Regular component of the Service concerned for a period of at least 3 years provided the reenlistment or extension, when coupled with existing active service, provides a total period of active service of at least 6 years.”
- The servicemember must not have previously received Zone A SRB money.
- With one exception for those in the Navy 6-YO Program, the service member must not “have previously received a variable reenlistment bonus (VRB).”
Zone B Requirements
To qualify for Zone B, the service member must:
- Have at least six but no more than 10 years of active duty service on the date of reenlistment or beginning of an extension of enlistment.
- Reenlist or voluntarily extend an enlistment in the regular component of the branch of service concerned “for a period of at least 3 years provided the reenlistment or extension, when coupled with existing active service, provides a total period of active service of at least 10 years.”
- The servicemember must not have received a Zone B SRB previously.
Zone C Requirements
To qualify for Zone C the servicemember must:
- Have completed at least 10 years but no more than 14 years of active military service on the date of reenlistment or beginning of an extension of enlistment.
- Reenlist or voluntarily extend enlistment in the regular component of military service for at least three years, “provided the reenlistment or extension, when coupled with existing active service, provides a total period of active duty of at least 14 years.”
Additional Considerations For SRB
Members who are discharged “within 3 months of their normal ETS for the purpose of immediate reenlistment” are viewed by the DoD as having met the terms of the enlistment contract. However, any “unserved period” within the last 3 months is “considered as existing obligated service when computing the SRB entitlement.”
Those who were discharged involuntarily (and before the expiration of their enlistment or extension) via military early separation programs “who are reenlisted immediately following discharge” are similarly considered “to have completed their Service agreement.” Any unserved time terminates on the day of involuntary discharge.
The rules in this section add that any military member who volunteers to separate early (instead of being involuntarily separated) “is not considered to have been involuntarily discharged” and do not qualify for the above consideration.
Joe Wallace is a 13-year veteran of the United States Air Force and a former reporter for Air Force Television News