House and Senate members have finished a conference on the fiscal 2018 DoD authorization bill (HR-2810), backing an extension of authority to pay buyouts of up to $40,000 at that department but declining to extend that figure government-wide.

The bill, now ready for final voting in Congress, extends through September 2021 DoD’s authority to pay up to $40,000 in buyouts–also called voluntary separation incentive payments–compared with the $25,000 limit applying elsewhere. DoD received authority to pay the higher amount in its budget last year, although that measure allowed it only through next September.

The House originally had backed an extension for DoD while the Senate version was silent. However, prospects of a government-wide boost increased during the conference when the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee backed the higher amount for all agencies in passing S-1888.

The White House had asked Congress to include a boost to $40,000 government-wide in the measure, which is one of the few that legislators consider “must-pass” each year and thus a good candidate for carrying such provisions. Now, however, enactment would have to come as an attachment to some other bill or as the freestanding measure.

The Senate could vote on S-1888 at any time, although there is currently no counterpart in the House.

The House-Senate report on the final DoD bill did not address buyouts as a policy although it did tell the Pentagon to produce several reports before the new deadline on the impact of the higher amount–possibly a signal that Congress is waiting to be convinced that it is necessary, even at DoD.