President Trump has signed into law the annual defense authorization bill which keeps the buyout amount at $25,000 for non-defense agencies despite his request to boost the amount government-wide to the $40,000 already applying at DoD.
Enactment of the bill represents the third year in a row that Congress has rejected a requested buyout boost for agencies other than DoD as part of that bill. The $25,000 has remained unchanged for most agencies since buyouts started early in the Clinton administration, although Congress three years ago did increase the amount for DoD.
Enactment of the bill likely kills chances for this year for increasing buyouts elsewhere. Although an attempt still could be made on another bill, by agreeing in a conference to drop original Senate language that would have granted the increase—and indexed the amount to inflation in following years—Congress likely has settled the issue for the year.
The bill meanwhile provides for a 2.6 percent raise for uniformed military personnel in January, virtually assuring that their raise will exceed anything paid to federal employees. The administration has recommended no raise and the House effectively backed that position in its version of a separate spending bill. The Senate version, however, calls for a 1.9 percent raise, leaving the federal employee raise still to be resolved. There is only the slimmest of chances of boosting that raise to match the military figure in the name of “pay parity.”
The measure also repeals a reduction in per diem expenses in effect since late 2014 for DoD employees on long-term temporary duty, a provision that had been criticized as forcing those employees to subsidize the cost and thus discouraging people from going on such assignments. The measure also begins or expands several special hiring authorities for high-demand occupations at DoD, and gives agencies greater leeway to quickly hire college students and recent graduates.