Mideast edition, Thursday, May 3, 2007

ARLINGTON, Va. — U.S. Navy to SEAL officers: We need you, and we’ll make it worth your while to stick around.

Some SEALs are being offered up to $125,000 to stay in the special warfare community, Navy officials said.

The move comes as the Navy faces a jump in its requirement for SEAL officers, said Lt. David Silverman, assistant officer community manger for naval special warfare.

About 105 SEAL officers are eligible for the bonus, which targets officers with between 15 and 25 years of experience, Silverman said on Tuesday.

Under the bonus, officers can receive $15,000 a year if they sign a three-year contract or $25,000 per year if they sign a five-year contract, Silverman said.

Those officers with 21 years of service or more can still be paid the five-year rate until they reach 25 years of service, he said.

Officers will get the first installment when they sign their contracts and every year on the anniversary of the date they signed, he said.

Unlike enlisted sailors, officers are not eligible for a tax-free bonus if they sign their contracts while in a combat zone, Silverman said.

In early 2006, the Defense Department issued a report looking at the military’s future needs that called for Special Forces departmentwide to increase by 15 percent, or five battalions.

The Defense Department has asked the Navy to increase the number of SEAL officers by 58 percent between fiscal 2005 and the beginning of fiscal 2009, Silverman said.

Right now, the Navy has 517 SEAL officers, or about 92 percent of its authorized positions, he said.

But as of Oct. 1, the number of authorized positions for SEAL officers increases to 757, meaning the Navy expects the community to have less than 70 percent of its requirement.

By offering the bonus, the Navy hopes to keep SEAL officers who might be considering retiring, Silverman said.

Training new commanders and lieutenant commanders will take 10 to 15 years, he said.

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