July 19, 2005
Uncle Sam wants you - even if you're 42 years old
By Rick Maze
Times staff writer
The Defense Department quietly asked Congress on Monday to raise the
maximum age for military recruits to 42 for all branches of the
Under current law, the maximum age to enlist in the active components
is 35, while people up to age 39 may enlist in the reserves. By
practice, the accepted age for recruits is 27 for the Air Force, 28
for the Marine Corps and 34 for the Navy and Army, although the Army
Reserve and Navy Reserve sometimes take people up to age 39 in some
The Pentagon's request to raise the maximum recruit age to 42 is part
of what defense officials are calling a package of "urgent wartime
support initiatives" sent to Congress Monday night prior to a Tuesday
hearing of the House Armed Services military personnel subcommittee.
At that hearing, David S.C. Chu, under secretary of defense for
personnel and readiness, said he felt the military's recent problems
with recruiting were improving, but that additional incentives would
Chu mentioned the age change in passing during the hearing but gave no
other details, such as whether any of the services were seriously
considering recruiting 42-year-olds.
Most of the initiatives in the package were previously requested by
the Bush administration as part of the 2006 defense budget, which is
pending before Congress. They include raising the maximum
re-enlistment bonus to ,000; maximum hardship duty pay to 0 a
month; special pay and incentive bonuses for nuclear qualified
officers to ,000; assignment incentive pay to ,000; and
increasing accession and affiliation bonuses for reservists.
The request, not yet approved by the White House, also asks lawmakers
to revise some benefits proposals already before Congress.
For example, the Bush administration originally asked Congress to
increase enlistment bonuses to ,000, but the Pentagon now wants
bonuses of up to ,000.
The administration also asked for an Army-only test of a ,000
referral bonus that would be paid to current soldiers if they get
someone to enter the Army and make it through basic and advanced
training. Now, the Pentagon wants that payment to be ,500.
The request also includes a new Army initiative that officials are
calling the Army Home Ownership program. It would set aside money for
new recruits that could be used to buy a home at the end of an
enlistment, an idea that Army officials believe will help convince
parents and other "adult influencers" of service-age youths about the
benefits of joining the military.
Lawmakers are sympathetic to the need to do more. Rep. John McHugh,
R-N.Y., said he is willing to look at new pay-and-benefits
initiatives, although he personally believes that what the Pentagon
needs is an increase in personnel to cut the workload on active and
reserve service member.
Rep. Vic Snyder of Arkansas, the subcommittee's ranking Democrat, also
vowed to help.
"Recruitment is a challenge right now," Snyder said. "Both the
military and Congress are working on solutions, but I expect these
challenges will be with us for some time. Military service is
honorable and can be a real growing opportunity for a young man or