Fedweek

The Senate has passed its version of the annual defense authorization bill (HR-5515) that would raise the maximum buyout payment to $40,000 government-wide.

The House in passing its own version of the bill earlier was silent regarding buyouts, in effect a decision to keep the maximum at $25,000 everywhere but DoD, where it already is $40,000.

Many employees of other agencies have been eagerly anticipating a move to the higher amount, saying $25,000 is not enough to sway them into leaving but the higher amount might tip their decision. However, the measure would not change the general policy that agencies offer buyouts only at their discretion; they most commonly are used when shedding jobs due to budget cuts or reorganizations, often along with early-out offers.

Another question is whether agencies could afford to pay the higher amount even if they do need to cut positions, especially where the motivation is an already tight budget. Since agencies could pay up to that amount at their discretion, the result might be a patchwork of differing amounts among agencies.

In terms of timing, offering buyouts makes the most sense for agencies early in a fiscal year, since they would have time to recoup the up-front costs within that same budget year by not filling the vacancies created. However, an increase, should Congress approve it, likely would not be effective at least until the enactment date of the DoD bill, and potentially later. That measure often is not finished until late in the calendar year, several months after the fiscal year has started. That too would raise uncertainty regarding how widely a higher amount would be offered.