Sailors answer questions from students at Everett High School in Boston on March 20, 2023, during a Navy outreach event.

Sailors answer questions from students at Everett High School in Boston on March 20, 2023, during a Navy outreach event. (Dylan Lavin/U.S. Navy)

WASHINGTON — The Navy is offering a maximum $75,000 enlistment bonus to recruits pursuing certain nuclear-related jobs to boost enlistment in the service.

“The Navy’s nuclear ratings are among the most important and most demanding in the U.S. military,” said Lt. Cmdr. Richard Parker, spokesman for Navy Recruiting Command. “In order to attract the best qualified personnel to operate these systems, we offer competitive incentives that are attractive to those who have the skills to become rated for the Navy’s nuclear program.”

The bonus, which is an increase to last year’s offer of $50,000, was announced June 15 by the Navy Recruiting Command as part of the Enlistment Incentives Program. This incentive has been in the works since December 2022 when President Joe Biden signed the fiscal 2023 National Defense Authorization Act, which includes the bonus for recruits in the annual bill that sets policy and spending priorities for the Pentagon.

The Navy barely met its active-duty enlistment goal last year, surpassing its target of 33,400 by 42 people.

Navy officials have predicted a tougher recruiting landscape this year and have taken steps to widen the candidate pool. Some changes include raising the maximum enlistment age from 39 to 41 and accepting lower scores on entrance exams.

The bonus will apply to sailors pursuing one of three rates — electronic technician nuclear, machinist mate nuclear and electrician’s mate nuclear. Future nuclear sailors can earn $25,000 after completing basic training with the remaining $50,000 broken up into two installments. A sailor can receive 33% of the $50,000 after completing Nuclear Power School, which covers the basics of physics and reactor engineering, and 67% after completing the Nuclear Power Training Unit, which provides practical instruction in reactor operation.

“You have to have people that have the acumen to understand the science, math, engineering and technology that all come together,” Parker said. “Those positions are hard to fill with the civilian world, so we want to make it attractive for potential recruits.”

To qualify for the Nuclear Power Program, a recruit must score higher than 252 on the Armed Services Vocational Aptitude Battery. That is the highest score for any job in the U.S. military, Parker said. Nuclear recruits are typically required to fulfill a six-year enlistment, with two years of additional training in math- and science-related fields.

The Navy operates more than 60 nuclear-powered vessels but recruits in the nuclear-power ratings made up less than 8% of the active-duty recruits in fiscal 2022, Parker said.

However, $75,000 is not guaranteed for every sailor. Bonuses can be determined by the date a recruit ships out for basic training, when a candidate enters the Delayed Entry Program, and the classification assigned by the recruit’s Military Entrance Processing Station.

Future sailors who joined the service’s Delayed Entry Program after June 18 must ship to boot camp by Sept. 30 — the end of fiscal 2023 — to qualify for the maximum bonus, according to the enlistment incentives program.

The $75,000 bonus also can be combined with a $65,000 student loan repayment program offered by the Navy.

“They are not mutually exclusive, so if a future sailor maximizes both, that respectively adds up to a life-altering $140,000, and the opportunity to serve in the world’s finest Navy,” said Rear Adm. Lex Walker, commander of the Navy Recruiting Command.

The Navy has until Sept. 30 to meet its recruitment goal of 37,700 new active-duty sailors. An update on the Navy’s recruitment numbers was not available, Parker said.

Here is a list of some of the other Navy jobs being offered enlistment bonuses, which can be combined with the $25,000 shipping-out bonus:

• Air rescue swimmer — $15,000.

• Special warfare boat operator — $15,000.

• Missile technician — $5,000.

• Machinist’s mate submarines — $10,000.

• Sub-electronics computer field — $15,000.

• Cryptologic technician interpretive — $15,000.

• Information system technician submarines — $15,000.

• Explosive ordnance — $15,000.

• Hospital corpsman — $15,000.

• Cryptologic technician networks — $5,000.

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Matthew Adams covers the Defense Department at the Pentagon. His past reporting experience includes covering politics for The Dallas Morning News, Houston Chronicle and The News and Observer. He is based in Washington, D.C.

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