The Pentagon plan to upgrade buyouts for civilian employees from $25,000 to $40,000 is still alive. If not kicking, it is at least still squirming. The bigger buyouts proposal is part of three important changes/improvements that are likely to be decided before Congress adjourns for the year.
The $40,000 buyouts are in the Senate version of the National Defense Authorization Act, which has been in the works most of the year. The House version of the NDAA is silent on the buyout issue. If Defense gets the green light to offer $40,000 buyouts, other agencies will seek to do the same thing. Buyouts (worth a maximum of $25,000 before deductions) were first offered as part of the Clinton administration’s 1990s downsizing operation. They were later extended to a dozen other agencies. Defense officials argued that they would have a hard time getting people to quit or retire today for a $25,000 buyout.
The Senate version of the NDAA also contains language that would almost totally revamp the concept of veterans preference from a lifetime option to a one-time deal. Currently, qualified military veterans get preference in hiring, and greater protection during times of layoff. The VP now is a lifetime benefit. But the Senate plan would make it a one-off option. The vet could use his /her preference one time. Then it would go away for them. Defense officials went directly Sen.
Defense officials went directly Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) for help. In addition to being one of the best-known, most admired military veterans in the nation, he’s also chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee. DoD brass made the case that vets preference sometimes hinders their ability to get the right (as in best) people for the job because the vast majority of current and future job applicants have not performed any creditable military service.
The third item in the NDAA would restore long-term per diem rates to Defense civilians sent for temporary duty in places too far to commute on a regular basis. Two years ago this week, Defense whacked the daily expense account rates by 25 percent to 45 percent, according to the Federal Managers Association. FMA has some members from the Puget Sound area of Washington State on “temporary “ assignments in San Diego. Some of them have been on TDY for nearly one year.
House and Senate staffers have been working on the conference report (a compromise package) all summer even though many members of the House and Senate have been out of town, campaigning for much of the year.
Congress, again, has failed to approve most appropriations bills for the executive branch. It is expected to approve an omnibus package that would continue most agencies spending at current (fiscal year 2017) levels through most of next year. But insiders say it is a point of pride that Congress almost always approves the NDAA each year, even if doing little else.
So the issue of bigger buyouts, restoration of per diem rates for long term DoD employees and veterans preference are very much alive in an otherwise quiet, do nothing, legislative session that’s about to end.