Defense Spending Bill Signed, $40K Buyout Authority Extended for DoD

President Trump has signed into law the annual DoD authorization bill, which among other things extends DoD’s authority to pay buyouts of up to $40,000 by another three years, through fiscal 2021.

The administration had sought language in the bill to set that figure government-wide—a $25,000 maximum applies at other agencies—but Congress instead agreed only to the extension at DoD. The measure meanwhile tells the Pentagon to produce several reports before the new expiration date on the impact of the higher amount—possibly a signal that Congress is waiting to be convinced that it is necessary, even at DoD.

The measure also once again denies the Pentagon’s request—similar requests date back many years into the Obama administration—to create a commission to lay the groundwork for another round of base realignments and closings. The House voted several times against that idea, while several Senate leaders initially hoped to create a compromise that would address concerns arising from the prior rounds before dropping even that idea.

The measure also makes no changes in a DoD policy of paying lower per diem lodging rates for long-term assignments, a policy designed to encourage those employees to use less expensive extended-stay type lodging. The House had moved to repeal that policy on grounds that it dissuades employees from taking important long-term assignments such as ship repair work, but the final version notes that DoD components may pay standard amounts at their discretion.