The current congressional war against "double dippers" in government isn't likely to inflict any serious financial damage to the 141,000 military retiree-civil servants who now draw both pensions and paychecks from Uncle Sam.
But insiders believe the House, at least, will move to crack down on the take-home pay of several dozen high-ranking military officers. Most are based here in Washington and they get anywhere from $60,000 to $80,000 in combined pay and pension from the government.
The House has been talking tough about changing dual compensation laws. They permit retired reserve officers and enlished personnel (about 95 per cent of the military retirees in government) to get full pay and full pension if they make second careers as civilian federal workers. But the Senate, which has at least a dozen top-ranking military retirees, isn't likely to go along with any tough cutoff of dual compensation benefits.
Recent hearings on dual compensation have concentrated on the high-rollers among the retired military community, ex-admirals and generals who took top federal jobs upon retiring and who now earn more than the Vice President, and twice as much as their career civilian counterparts in government.
But the average military retiree in government isn't getting rich, the House investigations Subcommittee, has concluded: and it will go very slowly in cutting back benefits for them. There is talk, in fact, of "grandfathering in" most retired military personnel already working for Uncle Sam, and applying new retirement or pay maximums to military retirees who go into government as civilians in the future.
The odds are that if any legislative proposal makes it through Congress it will be limited to future retirees, and that any cutbacks in pension for retired military personnel will be along the lines of similar restrictions for federal workers who retire and are rehired by the government.
Civilian federal retirees who rejoin the government are not allowed to get more money from the government than the pay for the grade job they are doing. Their annuity is reduced while they are rehired by the government so that they cannot double dip and collect full pension and full pay. Capitol Hill watchers say something like that might be extended to future military retirees.
But there is a feeling in the Congress that top-ranking military officers - the ex-generals and admirals who get $70,000 to $80,000 - may be cut back in a phase-out program that will eventually correct the "problem" but with enough of a phase-out so that most of the retirees turned civilians will again be retirees before there is any whack in their paychecks.