Pentagon Aims to Cut Soldiers Serving Beyond Enlistment End Date

The Defense Department will seek to drastically reduce the number of soldiers forced to serve beyond their enlistment end date, and all those who have done so since October 2008 will be compensated $ 500 for every extra month they have served, Secretary of Defense Robert Gates announced Wednesday.

"Our goal is to cut the number of those stop-lost by 50 percent by June 2010 and to eliminate the regular use of stop-loss across the entire Army by March 2011," Gates said.

The Army also announced Wednesday that in the future soldiers who wish to stay beyond the end of their  enlistment will receive cash incentives in an amount that has yet been determined.

But for all those who may enlist it's important to note that the stop-loss policy will not be removed from the language within the Army enlistment contract. It will remain in all contracts and if deemed necessary the policy could be reinstated. Gates said such a scenario could occur in an "emergency situation," or "where we absolutely had to have somebody's skills for a specific, limited period of time."

Stop loss, or the policy of keeping soldiers in the Army even after their contract has expired, was first introduced during the Persian Gulf War under then President George H.W. Bush, and was heavily relied upon again in 2007 during the Iraq surge. Gates said he's wanted to "drastically reduce" the number of soldiers on stop loss ever since he took the job but that the surge prevented him from doing so. Now that the surge is over, he says, keeping the policy would be equivalent to "breaking faith."

Gates did warn there are risks associated with ending stop-loss, but said keeping the policy would not be fair to the soldiers.

"While these changes do carry some risk, I believe it is important that we do everything possible to see that soldiers are not unnecessarily forced to stay in the Army beyond their end-of-turn of service date."

At the end of this January there were 13,200 currently serving under a stop-loss status.