President Trump has signed into law (P.L. 115-84) a bill to would allow multiple age-based in-service withdrawals and multiple post-separation withdrawals in the TSP and to create more flexibility in the option to choose “substantially equal” withdrawals–by allowing annual or quarterly withdrawals in addition to monthly, changes in amounts at any time rather than just once a year, and the purchase of an annuity after receiving such payments, in addition to taking a lump-sum payment. It also ends the requirement for participants over age 70 ½ to make a withdrawal decision on the account balance at that point.

It’s unclear when those changes will take place since the TSP has to issues rules to carry them out–specifying, for example, whether there will be a limit on the number of age-based or post-separation withdrawals. That process typically involves a proposal, a comment period, and finalization after considering comments. Most likely that will take a number of months; the law gives the TSP up to two years.

Congress passes defense spending bill

Meanwhile, the House and Senate have passed and sent to the White House the annual defense budget (HR-2810) that affects some personnel policies there and some government-wide. For DoD, the measure extends by three years (through 2021) the department’s authority to pay buyouts of up to $40,000 rather than the $25,000 maximum applying at other agencies. It also keeps in place a lower per diem lodging rate for employees on extended assignments, with exceptions allowed at a component’s discretion; and continues or creates several special hiring and retention authorities for employees in acquisition-related jobs and certain high-demand occupations.

The bill would have a government-wide impact by strengthening the Office of Special Counsel’s investigative and enforcement powers and requiring that performance appraisals for supervisors include assessing how they respond to whistleblowers.

The measure meanwhile rejected the administration’s request for another round of base realignments and closings and its request to extend the $40,000 buyout maximum government-wide.