Changes to DoD personnel policies – including large ones such as the creation of the National Security Personnel System during the Bush administration and its repeal early in the Obama administration – typically are made through the annual DoD authorization bill. And that bill also is commonly used for making government-wide changes and how it shapes up bears watching as it could impact not only defense personnel but all federal employees.

DoD has not yet made its annual formal proposals to Congress for that bill, since the federal budget process is off to a later start due to the presidential transition. (Those proposals, which typically begin in March, now are projected for May.) Last year’s package of proposals was the origin of a change allowing DoD to pay a maximum buyout of up to $40,000, rather than the longstanding $25,000 amount, which remains in effect elsewhere.

Many of the proposed changes originate with the Armed Services committees in the House and Senate and that process is playing out now. This was the case last year when the Senate panel inserted language to have veterans preference apply only to an initial competitive service job government-wide. That language was dropped after opposition – Congress settled on a more limited change, to restrict hiring by DoD of military retirees in the first six months after their military retirement – but sponsors could try again this year.

DoD also is commonly used as a testing ground for general personnel policies. Two such policies, currently applying only there but seen as candidates for expansion, are doubling the standard probationary period for newly hired employees to two years, and use of performance ratings as the first, rather than the last, determinant of retention standing in a RIF.