Proposals Coming Soon on Key Bills Affecting Federal Employees

Low angled view of the U.S. Capitol East Facade Front in Washington, DC.

With federal agency funding for the remainder of the current fiscal year now set, the White House is due to soon release a full proposal for the upcoming year, a document that will add detail to spending plans already described in outline form for some agencies, while also addressing policy issues.

The release of the White House budget plan for the fiscal year starting each October triggers a process in Congress that always is contentious and that this year is expected to be especially so. It will be condensed as well; the proposal typically is released in February but was delayed due to the transition. Congress has started hearings toward crafting annual appropriations bills but has not started writing those bills, a process usually under way by now.

A preliminary budget released in March proposed shifting some $54 billion to DoD, DHS and VA at the expense of other agencies, most notably EPA, State and HHS. It also proposed ending numerous programs and shuttering two dozen small agencies or sub-agencies.

However, that document addressed only the largest 18 departments and agencies and provided few details even for them. The fuller budget is to lay out plans for the scores of other agencies funded by the budget, as well as address various policy initiatives.

Also off to a late start is another major annual bill key to federal employees, the DoD authorization; spending priorities in that bill reflect those of the overall budget proposal. The Pentagon has not yet sent its annual recommendations, usually released by now, on policy matters that sometimes would affect only DoD employees but that sometimes would apply government-wide.

Last year, for example, DoD recommended boosting the buyout maximum from $25,000 to $40,000 government-wide, although Congress ultimately agreed to the boost only for DoD. Other provisions enacted in recent years, which like the higher buyout amount are viewed as potentially setting the table for use government-wide, include doubling the standard probationary period to two years and making performance the first determinant of retention, rather than the last, in RIFs.

The DoD bill also often becomes the vehicle to carry personnel policy changes initiated from Congress, since it is considered a “must-pass.” Last year for example, it contained government-wide restrictions on use of administrative leave during disciplinary investigations and proceedings. Also, the Senate initially moved to restrict veterans preference to the first competitive service job; that idea was dropped after resistance from the House, but it could resurface.