Voluntary Early Separation Pay/Early Retirement Pay. In the military draw-down of the early 90s, Congress authorized a special pay for military members who volunteered to separate early from the military, or volunteered to retire early. This special authorization expired years ago. Section 643 of the new law, re-enacts voluntary separation pay and voluntary early retirement pay, for members who voluntarily separate early in conjunction with a pre-planned military draw-down program. This is focused primarily at the Air Force, who has announced they may be cutting up to 40,000 military and civilian positions between now and 2011.
As the law does not require a service to pay this special pay, and does not provide for any additional funding -- and -- especially as none of the branches asked Congress for this provision, it is unclear whether or not any of the services will take advantage of the program, before the authority expires in 2008.
Maximum Enlistment Age. Section 543 of the bill increases the maximum non-prior service enlistment age for active duty enlistments from age 35 to age 42. The Army was the only service which petitioned Congress for this change, so it is doubtful that any of the other active duty services will increase their maximum non-prior service enlistment ages, especially considering that two of the services (Marine Corps and Air Force) have maximum active duty enlistment ages far below age 35, which was the limit under previous law.
It's unclear how the Army will implement this change. Some sources have unofficially stated that the Army will limit over age-35 enlistments to individuals who already have skills, training, and experience in certain Army critical specialties (such as linguists), and other sources have speculated that the Army will limit it to only a small percent of enlistees per year.
Maximum Term of Active Duty Enlistment. Previous law limits the maximum active duty years for an initial enlistment to six years. Section 544 of the bill allows the services to offer an eight year active duty enlistment contract.
Active Duty End Strength. Section 401 of the bill increases the authorized strength of the active duty Army by 10,000 and of the active duty Marine Corps by 1,000. New active duty end-strength ceilings are:
- Army, 512,400
- Navy, 352,700
- Marine Corps, 179,000
- Air Force, 357,400