Three months into the fiscal year, Navy personnel officials have released an extensive re-up bonus update and officials say sailors can count on more frequent updates from now on.

The Selective Reenlistment Bonus (SRB) Program update released in October 2016 includes 16 award levels, decreased 49 awards, added 49 new eligible skills and removed seven skills eligible to receive bonuses. This marks the second SRB policy released for fiscal 2017.

PDF:  Navy Selective Reenlistment Bonus - Jan. 2017

Navy personnel officials have been saying for the past three years that a new, more dynamic SRB program is on the way. In the past, the Navy would issue only one SRB message a year, and sailors in bonus-eligible skills could re-up nearly anytime and collect. 

That's no longer the case, as officials will now plan to update more often and say that sailors should plan to act quickly to guarantee they can cash in.

"We have been talking about doing more frequent SRB updates for some time now as the Navy moves to making SRB a more flexible tool," said Lt. Cmdr. Nate Christensen, spokesman for the chief of naval personnel. "We are making more frequent SRB updates in real time that are designed to help both the Navy and individual Sailors plan and make decisions better," Christensen said.

How the SRB works

The Navy pays bonuses at five maximum levels: $30,000, $45,000, $60,000, $75,000 and $100,000. The level depends on how critical the Navy's need for a given skill is.

Half is paid in a lump sum upfront, and the remainder is paid annually on the re-up anniversary, with equal amounts for each remaining year. Award levels can change depending on a sailor's years of service, which determines which re-enlistment zone they are in. 

Each bonus eligible skill is assigned a numeric "multiple" used to calculate how close they get to their maximum allowed payout level, along with paygrade and months of the new contract.

Because payments are broken up over the enlistment, the Navy's overall bonus budget is broken into two parts — initial contracts and anniversary payments.

The total SRB budget for fiscal year 201717 is $250 million, Christensen said. Of that, $127 million has been set aside for new initial contracts though that could change some if extra money is needed for anniversary payments.

As of Jan. 3, the Navy has already spent $39.2 million, on 2,383 new SRB contracts, he said.

The 49 new skills added this update include 15 in re-up Zone A — sailors who have less than six years of service and who are shipping over for the first time. Of note are Navy Divers holding the 5343 Second Class Diver have returned to the list after an absence of a few years. 

Navy Divers with the 5343 Second Class Diver Navy Enlisted Classification have been added back to the re-up bonus list for the first time in several years This means extra incentives are now available to keep divers like Navy Diver 2nd Class Octavio Alvarez, left, who is watching for the sea floor as he and Navy Diver 3rd Class James Lindley in the Navy. The pair, diving from the salvage ship Grasp were descending to conduct excavation of a U.S. aircraft crash site near Trieste, Italy.

Photo Credit: U.S. Navy

In Zone B, sailors between six and 10 years of service have 21 new skills on the list the highest increase of any zone. Here, submarine-qualified sonar technicians with the 0416 Acoustic Intelligence Specialist Navy Enlisted Classification now qualify for a bonus at a level normally seen for nuclear power sailors qualifying for up to $100,000, with a multiple of 8.

Increases in payouts on this list are mostly for special warfare and special warfare boat operators as well as explosive ordnance disposal technicians. Here, Naval Aircrewman Mechanical sailors with the 8235 E-6B Flight Engineer NEC have seen their multiple double, from 0.5 to 1.0.

Mark D. Faram is a former reporter for Navy Times. He was a senior writer covering personnel, cultural and historical issues. A nine-year active duty Navy veteran, Faram served from 1978 to 1987 as a Navy Diver and photographer.

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