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Separation, Early Retirement Programs to Continue

By Master Sgt. Stephen Barrett, USA
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, April 2, 1996 – Two separation programs designed to ease service members transition to civilian life will continue in fiscal 1997. DoD is also programming an additional $109 million to continue the early retirement program.

However, with DoD's goal of 1.45 million in active service in sight, Defense Undersecretary Edwin Dorn said the Voluntary Separation Incentive and Special Separation Benefit programs will gradually stop.

"Those programs are going to remain in place until we are at our target number," said Dorn. "Once DoD finishes its drawdown, we will not need to pay people to leave the force. We'll allow VSI and SSB to lapse."

Defense officials said DoD has budgeted for the VSI/SSB programs. "Those eligible and desiring to take advantage of either program will be able to do so," said Army Lt. Col. William Foster of DoD's Compensation Office.

For fiscal 1997, DoD budgeted $26.1 million to continue the Special Separation Benefit program. This incentive provides lump-sum payments to service members with six to 19 years of service who voluntarily separate. Payments are based on rank and time in service, with eligible members usually in overstrength skills.

Officials hope to separate nearly 450 service members using the Special Separation Benefit and another 385 with the Variable Separation Incentive. The latter pays an annual separation allowance based on the member's rank and longevity.

Over 106,000 service members have used the programs since 1992. The largest exit was that first year, when over 47,000 opted for the Special Separation Benefit and nearly 6,300 others took Variable Separation Incentive offers.

Foster said over 2,800 service members will retire in 1997 under the Temporary Early Retirement Authority. This program allows service members with 15 to 20 years' service to retire early.

Although the services set their own requirements, they generally offer early retirement to those in overstrength or discontinued job specialties. Since fiscal 1992, nearly 33,000 service members opted for early retirement.

The services may use selective early retirement and reduction-in-force boards to reduce personnel numbers, if needed. "If we can get the people out by using voluntary methods, we won't have to force people out," Foster said.

In the past five years, over 10,000 service members received early retirement notices -- including nearly 1,000 in fiscal 1995.

The Marine Corps met its personnel cutbacks in 1994, and both the Army and Air Force will complete their drawdown by this October. However, the Navy will continue its drawdown over the next three years, officials said.

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