Military Service Obligation

A military service obligation (MSO) refers to the total required service (active duty and reserve commitments) that an individual must serve upon accepting an appointment with a military service. The active duty service obligation (ADSO) is a specific period of active duty that an officer must serve before becoming eligible for voluntary separation or retirement.

Federal Law

10 U.S. Code § 651: The military service obligation must be set to be between 6 and 8 years for officers, and shall be set by the SECDEF by the armed forces under their jurisdiction and by the Secretary of Homeland Security for the Coast Guard when it is not operating as service in the Navy, unless such person is sooner discharged under such regulations because of personal hardship. Upon release from active-duty service, officers, if qualified, shall complete any remaining MSO in the Reserve component of the Armed Forces. For the armed forces under the jurisdiction of the Secretary of Defense, the MSO for initial appointment in a critically short health professional specialty may be reduced by the Service Secretary to the greater of 2 years or the period of obligated service incurred by the officer upon accepting an accession bonus.

10 U.S. Code § 653: The minimum service obligation is to be set at 6 years for all pilots and at 8 years for all fixed-wing jet aircraft pilots. The minimum service obligation for navigators and flight officers is to be set at 6 years. For members of the active component, the service obligation is a period of active duty; for members of a reserve component who completed flight training in an active duty for training status, the service obligation is a period of service in an active status in the Selected Reserve.

10 U.S. Code § 7448, § 8459, and § 9448: Cadets obtaining appointments as officers upon graduation from the U.S. Military Academy, Naval Academy or Air Force Academy will have an ADSO of no less than 5 years.

10 U.S. Code § 2107: Graduates of an ROTC scholarship program incur a 4-year ADSO and 8-year MSO if they accept a commission as a regular officer; an 8-years MSO if they accept a commission and serve in a reserve component; or at least a 6-year MSO and up to an 8-year ADSO if they accept a commission and serve in a reserve component with at least 2 years of active duty.

10 U.S. Code § 2107a: Graduates of an Army Reserve or Army National Guard ROTC scholarship program incur an 8-year MSO in a troop program unit of the Army Reserve or Army National Guard. The TPU obligation may be amended to be an ADSO.

10 U.S. Code § 2114: Graduates of the Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences incur an ADSO of at least 7 years. Those serving on active duty for less than 10 years shall serve in the Ready Reserve as follows: For active duty service less than 8 years, 6 years in the Ready Reserve. For at least 8 but less than 9 years of active duty, 4 years in the Ready Reserve. And for at least 9 years but less than 10, 2 years in the ready reserve.

Additional service obligation may be accrued for officers who take advantage of certain education and incentive pay opportunities.

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DoD Policy

DODI 1304.25: MSO in active and reserve components of the Armed Forces is set to be 8 years.

Time spent in delayed entry programs (DEP) is counted as part of this MSO, unless the member separates while in the delayed entry program. Those discharged from a DEP before entry onto active or reserve duty shall not have their time in the DEP counted as part of any MSO.

Service Secretaries may grant waivers reducing MSO from 8 to 6 when a Service member is released from the Active Component and affiliates with the Selected Reserve.

DODI 1215.08: Service Secretaries set the ADSO to be served by any ROTC scholarship recipient, to include an additional obligation equivalent to any scholarship extended beyond 4 years.

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Air Force Policy

AFI 36-2107: Service academy graduates incur a 5-year active duty service commitment (ADSC). AFROTC graduates incur a 4-year ADSC. Officers commissioning from all other sources incur a 4-year ADSC, except chaplains incur a 3-year ADSC. Other ADSCs are incurred for permanent change of station moves, various training and education programs, aviation bonus and other continuation pays, the career intermission program, and the world class athlete program.

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Army Policy

AR350-100: Service academy graduates incur a 5-year ADSO. ROTC scholarship graduates selected for active duty incur a 4-year ADSO. Non-scholarship ROTC graduates selected for active duty incur a 3-year ADSO. Officer candidate school (OCS) graduates incur a 3-year ADSO. Direct-appointment officers who receive a call to active duty incur a 3-year ADSO. Officers assigned overseas must complete their tour, officers assigned to a life-cycle unit incur an ADSO through the completion of the unit life cycle (usually 3 years), and officers reassigned on permanent change of station from overseas to CONUS or from one CONUS location to another incur a 1-year ADSO. Officers also incur ADSOs various for various types of military and civilian schooling.

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Navy Policy

OPNAVINST 1420.1B: Graduates of OCS are appointed as ensigns and incur a 4-year ADSO. Certain designators incur greater ADSOs (generally 5 years) because of required follow-on training.

NAVADMIN 257.09: Graduates of the NROTC scholarship program incur a 5-year ADSO.

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Marine Corps Policy

MCO 1306.17F: Enlisted Marines who complete the NROTC scholarship program and are commissioned incur a 4-year ADSO. Enlisted Marines who graduate from a service academy incur a 5-year ADSO.

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