Selective Reenlistment Bonus (SRB)

The Selective Reenlistment Bonus (SRB) is the Department of Defense’s tool to keep highly skilled military members in uniform and often to help support retention in critically-staffed career fields. Depending on the branch of military service, this bonus may be referred to as a Selective Retention Bonus, but the idea is essentially the same.

According to the Department of Defense, the SRB should not be confused with a different kind of retention bonus referred to as the Section 355 Critical Skills Retention Bonus (CSRB) or Bonus for Assignment to High Priority Unit. The Selective Reenlistment Bonus is “Section 38” instead of Section 355.

Why a Reenlistment Bonus?

The various branches of military service recognize certain truths concerning reenlistment– the United States Air Force official policy includes this statement from the Air Force official website:

“Reenlistment in the Regular Air Force is not an inherent individual right for enlisted Airmen. It is a privilege and confers an obligation to serve.”

Reenlistment is possible for military members who are considered suitable to reenlist, meet the eligibility requirements, and have “qualities essential for continued service and can perform duty in a career field in which the Air Force has a specific need,” according to the official site.

This philosophy is conveyed in different ways depending on the branch of military service, but as a rule, only the servicemember’s command has the power to accept or deny reenlistment. Those who are not picked for reenlistment are separated from military service on the Date Of Separation (DOS) provided on the most current military record.

Those who are accepted as re-enlistees may not necessarily qualify for a reenlistment bonus. Those who do have to meet specific requirements established by both the DoD and the branch of service.

Reenlistment bonuses are paid to keep highly qualified service members in uniform; they are also paid to guarantee critically-staffed career fields in the Army, Navy, Air Force, Space Force, and Marine Corps are operating at end-strength levels acceptable to the Department of Defense.

How Much is the SRB?

The maximum amount prescribed by law that a service member can receive through a single SRB option is $90,000 for a minimum three-year re-enlistment period. The actual amounts of an SRB will vary depending on circumstances.

Chapter 9, Page 61 of the DoD Financial Management Regulation states that SRB bonuses are based on “multiples, not to exceed ten, of the member’s monthly basic pay at the time of discharge, release from active duty, or the day before the beginning of extension, multiplied by years of additional obligated service.”.

As DoD literature advises service members, “Reenlistment bonus amounts will vary depending on the member’s prior years of service.” Bonuses may be paid either in a lump sum or in annual installment payments, but the DoD regulations specifically discussing SRBs state, “Selective reenlistment bonus (SRB) payments are paid by installments.

When installments are authorized, the servicemember will get “no less than 50%” of the bonus as an up-front payment. Any upfront payments should be delivered no more than 30 days after the reenlistment date.

Those who signed up for SRB but did not get this payment within the 30-day window should contact their finance office to investigate the hold-up.

Who is Eligible for SRB?

According to the Defense Accounting And Finance Service (DFAS), an SRB may be due to a service member who meets these DoD requirements:

  • Fall under a “zone” of conditions for reenlistment (see below).
  • Is qualified in a military specialty currently paying SRB.
  • Is E-3 or higher.
  • The servicemember reenlists within 3 months of the date of discharge or release from voluntary active duty-” lesser periods” of eligibility may apply depending on circumstances.
  • The service member otherwise extends enlistment, or “enlists in Regular Component within 3 months of release from Active Duty as member of Reserve Component”.

The SRB “zones” are defined in DFAS literature as follows:

  • Zone A (requiring two to six years of active duty service)
  • Zone B (requiring six to ten years of active service)
  • Zone C (requiring 10-14 years of active service)

Additional Considerations For SRB

Members who are discharged “within 3 months of their normal ETS for the purpose of immediate reenlistment” are viewed by the DoD as having met the terms of the enlistment contract. However, any “unserved period” within the last 3 months is “considered as existing obligated service when computing the SRB entitlement.”

Those who were discharged involuntarily (and before the expiration of their enlistment or extension) through military early separation programs “who are reenlisted immediately the following discharge” are likewise considered “to have completed their Service agreement.” Any unserved time ends on the day of involuntary discharge.

The rules in this section add that any military member who volunteers to separate early (instead of being involuntarily separated) “is not considered to have been involuntarily discharged” and does not qualify for the above consideration.

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