Congress has started writing the annual DoD authorization bill, a must-pass piece of legislation that often carries as riders changes to personnel policy at DoD and government-wide.

The process is starting in the Senate — the House is to follow in upcoming weeks — with potential provisions including a move to set the maximum buyout payment at $40,000 government-wide; that amount already is in effect at DoD but for other agencies the limit is the same $25,000 that has been in effect since buyouts began during the Clinton administration.

The Trump administration once again has sought the higher amount and the increase came close to becoming law last year: the Senate included it in its version of the DoD bill but the language was dropped when the House insisted that the cost be offset, structuring it so that the offset would have to come from a reduction in benefits for military retirees.

Democrats now in control of the House may be more favorable toward boosting the amount, however, and the bill will provide them with the opportunity to propose language to repeal several personnel policies enacted in recent years. Two such prospects are the general requirement that DoD employees serve a two-year probationary period, rather than the standard one year, and that performance ratings be the top factor for deciding retention in RIFs at DoD rather than the last.

Also expected in the House is an expansion of a bipartisan effort to improve the department’s acquisition workforce, including boosting training through creating a Civil Servant Training Corps modeled after the ROTC.

The bill also annually contains relatively minor, uncontroversial provisions to enhance DoD’s ability to recruit and retain employees in high-demand occupations and to provide special benefits for employees assigned to areas of active conflict.

Read more on government VSIP buyout policies at ask.FEDweek.com