Despite record numbers of volunteers, and people wanting to stay in uniform, the Department of Defense is still running scared and is looking for new programs that will help keep people in the service. In addition to making an effort to insure that very few troops keeping getting sent overseas, there is also an increasing use of financial incentives. It was noticed that most of the reserve troops called up were actually making more on active duty than they were in their regular jobs. While most of the officers and NCOs in the reserves have high paying jobs (because of seniority and better education), the lower ranking troops were often recruited using the money angle. Reservists (and National Guard) normally spend about seven weeks a year on duty. That seven weeks of military pay is an attractive supplement to a low paying job. But more incentives are needed for those troops with special skills who are needed in places like Iraq and Afghanistan for more than 12 months at a time. For those people, the Department of Defense is providing an extra thousand dollars a month in "hazardous-duty" and " assignment incentive" pay. Many commandoes, Special Forces and SOCOM support troops fit this category. Most of these guys are already pretty well paid (over $50,000 a year), but every little bit helps, and often it's just the thought that counts.
The Navy also used money to deal with a morale problem they were having with sailors who served in the eastern Mediterranean during the Iraq campaign. Since many of the ships these sailors were on were supporting combat operations in Iraq, the sailors felt they should have gotten the Imminent Danger Pay and Combat Zone Tax Relief benefits that sailors in the Persian Gulf got. So the navy is going to award these benefits, retroactively, to some 18,000 sailors (for the period from March 19 through Aug. 1, 2003).
The Department of Defense knows that dealing with troop morale, during a long war (on terror), and with an all-volunteer force, is a unique experience. All past wars were fought with lots of conscripts and did not have all the uncertainties of the war on terror. So the plan appears to use the best people as much as possible, but don't lose them in the process.