Air Force Dramatically Cuts List of Specialties Eligible for Selective Retention Bonus

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U.S. Air Force Airman 1st Class Jarrett Hoyt, 415th Aircraft Maintenance Unit hydraulics specialist, drains fuel from the inflight refueling pod on a HC-130J Combat King II on the flight line at Kirtland Air Force Base, N.M., on Nov. 14, 2019. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Dylan Nuckolls)
U.S. Air Force Airman 1st Class Jarrett Hoyt, 415th Aircraft Maintenance Unit hydraulics specialist, drains fuel from the inflight refueling pod on a HC-130J Combat King II on the flight line at Kirtland Air Force Base, N.M., on Nov. 14, 2019. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Dylan Nuckolls)

The U.S. Air Force has whittled down its list of specialties eligible for the fiscal 2020 Selective Retention Bonus program, reversing previous expansions.

According to a recent news release, the Air Force said it can issue bonuses to 72 specialties in undermanned careers such as maintenance, cyber, space, nuclear and various support jobs.

"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," Chief Master Sergeant of the Air Force Kaleth O. Wright said in the release. "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."

Officials said nearly 40 Air Force Specialty Codes were removed from the list. By comparison, airmen in 117 career fields were eligible to receive the bonus in early 2016.

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The number of eligible jobs had been higher over the last few years following sequestration in an effort to keep airmen in the service longer, especially those in undermanned career fields or those with high training costs.

The service said it will spend more than $150 million for the fiscal 2020 program; 68 specialty codes remain on the list from the 2019 program, with four aircraft maintenance and cyber security jobs added, according to the release.

"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," said Lt. Gen. Brian Kelly, the Air Force Manpower, Personnel and Services deputy chief of staff. "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."

Wright added, "We've used this program to balance career fields across the force for many years. We'll continue to use bonuses where needed to make sure that our critical career fields are manned in order to meet mission requirements."

Airmen can find the specialty code list and more information about the program on the personnel center's website. The 2020 program goes into effect Nov. 21.

"Airmen in skills identified for a reduction or termination, and who are currently eligible to reenlist, will have until Dec. 20 to take advantage of the bonus at the previous rate," the release states.

-- Oriana Pawlyk can be reached at oriana.pawlyk@military.com. Follow her on Twitter at @Oriana0214.

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