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Incentives target special ops troops

Pentagon wants to retain counterterrorism specialists

From Mike Mount
CNN Washington Bureau

September 11 attacks
Donald H. Rumsfeld

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- The Pentagon has approved an incentives package designed to retain special operations troops in the military, Pentagon officials said Friday.

The package -- approved December 22 for $168 million over three years -- is aimed at keeping Navy SEALs, Army Green Berets and other troops trained to fight terrorists from taking lucrative positions with security contractors or other government agencies, the officials said.

The incentives are directed at troops with a good deal of wartime experience and highly specialized skills that take considerable time and money to replace.

Only "operators" -- troops on the ground conducting missions -- are targeted, not everybody in the 49,000-person special ops community, the officials said.

Depending on how long special ops troops commit to stay with the military, they could receive an additional $8,000 to $150,000 beyond their regular salaries.

There are also incentives for junior special ops troops to keep them for a "reasonably full career," one Pentagon official said.

The money will come from the fiscal year 2005 supplemental and the FY 2006 and FY 2007 defense budgets, officials said.

"This is not about a need to increase the size of the [special ops] community," said Pentagon spokesman Lt. Col. Joe Richard.

"It is about keeping the ones we already have and keeping that experience and skill level without having to continually train large numbers to replace the ones that left."

The package is not that unusual. In the past, the Pentagon has offered incentives to pilots to try to keep them from leaving for higher-paying jobs in the commercial airline business.

Special ops troops have been widely used since the attacks of September 11, 2001, in the war on terrorism, the war in Iraq and around the world.

They are also considered an integral part of Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld's plan to fight terrorism as well as transform the military.

Their constant deployments and potential future use has put greater demands on the soldiers and their families, causing them to look at their bottom line.

Pentagon officials say that a good number of these troops are reaching a point of retirement, and the military wants more special ops troops to stay past 20 years of service, the customary eligible retirement point for troops.

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