In an attempt to create an elite force of close-combat war-fighters, the military is pondering a revolutionary set of proposals that would include huge monetary bonuses, a significant base salary, and a minimum age of 26-years-old.
The Close Combat Lethality Task Force (CCLTF), which was launched by Gen. James Mattis during his tenure as Secretary of Defense, has been experimenting with ideas on how to make the war-fighters who are more likely to engage in close combat with an enemy as lethal and effective as possible.
The CCLTF has already reached out to the cream of the crop in the U.S. military in an attempt to better inform its proposals. In the previous months, members of the task force visited both the Special Operations Command and Joint Special Operations Command, and observed and talked to members of the 75th Ranger Regiment, Navy SEAL teams, and Delta Force, among other units.
The task force is addressing a very specific audience: the approximately 45,000 infantry and close-combat military occupational specialties (MOS) in the Army and Marine Corps (0311 for the Marine Corps, 11B for the Army). That number reflects only active duty personnel and not Reserve and National Guard soldiers and Marines.
The concept, however, isn’t limited just to infantrymen but also includes all the close-combat MOS, such as combat engineers, combat medics, fire support teams, etc.
With respect to potential recruitment issues, Army Maj. Gen. Robert Scales, an adviser to the CCLTF, said in a statement to Military.com: “We are talking about long service here, so you are not recruiting 44,000 a year, you are not recruiting 22,000 a year. You are recruiting about 9,000 a year. Are you telling me that in this country of about 325 million people, you can’t find eight or nine thousand people a year who will take $60,000, plus a quarter-of-a-million-dollar bonus?”
There are bound to be significant trade-offs, however. The plan to offer $250,000 bonuses and base salaries of $60,000 to close to 45,000 personnel would cost billions, raising a number of questions: First, how important would infantry and close-combat troops be in a conventional conflict with competitors such as China and Russia? Second, with a constant battle over the military budget by the different branches and departments within those branches, which projects would suffer to fund this proposal?
“I think the question I would ask is, what are the low-hanging fruit that they can grab that are going to provide them with a really high return on investment,” said Chris Dougherty, a former Ranger and a senior fellow at the Center for a New American Security, in a statement to Military.com. Dougherty adds that it would be more feasible for the task force to develop a proposal that utilizes the current recruiting and training programs, thereby keeping the cost down, but which also ensures close-combat personnel spend more time training.
An audacious scheme, for sure. Yet it’s bound to face hard criticism by the many skeptics – and vested interests – in the Pentagon.