The Senate Armed Services is joining its House counterpart this week in drafting a key annual bill, the DoD authorization, with prospects for a round of base closings and changes to personnel policies including veterans preference among the key issues.
While the House panel started last week, releasing some details of its plans, and hopes to finish this week, the Senate committee plans to complete the entire process this week, meaning that both versions could be ready for floor voting after the congressional July 4 recess week.
The Pentagon has asked once again for authority to conduct a round of base realignments and closings, which it projects would eliminate 26,000 civilian federal employee jobs; while that would not occur until 2021, preliminary work would begin shortly after enactment. The Senate traditionally has been more receptive of the idea than the House has been–the House bill under consideration would again deny the request–but the House ultimately has prevailed in annual conferences between the two.
Also being watched is whether the Senate panel will try again on a provision it raised last year but dropped after opposition from the House: to limit veterans preference in hiring to only the first competitive service job. That could impact not only those who have preference and who are seeking a different federal job but also other candidates for those positions who do not have preference, since they no longer would be at a disadvantage versus those who do. That proposal would not have affected separate non-competitive hiring authorities for veterans, nor their advantage in RIFs.
Last year the House accepted another veterans hiring provision originated by the Senate, eliminating what had become a widely used exception to a general ban on DoD hiring military retirees within six months of their retirement. The House version approved by a subcommittee last week however would reinstate that exception.
Last year the Senate panel originated authority for DoD to pay buyouts of up to $40,000 rather than the $25,000 standard, a provision that the House later accepted, although only through September 2018. The House bill would extend that three additional years.
The House measure also would extend several special benefits for employees working in combat zones and certain other designated areas. The same has been done annually for a number of years.