Government workers whose payroll Thrift Savings Plan investment choices are now limited may be totally free to put any or all of their money into high-risk stock and bond market options through their tax-deferred plan starting in November.

Most of workers' investments now are limited to a government-backed Treasury securities option.

The Senate Governmental Affairs Committee unanimously approved a bill Thursday allowing unlimited investment options. The same plan passed the House, also by voice vote, in April. The White House supports it.

If the bill becomes law, any employee could take money that up to now has been limited to the G-Fund (Treasury option) and put it, plus any or all future investments, into the higher-risk C-Fund (stock market) or F-Fund (bond market) options.

Agency contributions to employee accounts, which must now be invested in the G-Fund, could also be put into either or both of the other funds.

Currently people under the Federal Employees Retirement System are allowed to invest up to 10 percent of their pay in the Thrift Savings Plan, plus get a 5 percent match from the government.

All of the government contribution, and some of their own investment, must be made into the G-Fund.

The nearly 2 million workers who remain in the old Civil Service Retirement System can invest 5 percent of pay, but under current law it must all go to the Treasury fund.

The G-Fund is now worth $5.9 billion. The C-Fund is worth $120 million and the F-Fund is worth $32 million.Early Retirements

The Office of Personnel Management has given special early-retirement authority to the Defense Logistics Agency in Alameda, Calif., and the Interior Department's National Mapping Division at all locations except Lakewood, Colo. Both are expecting layoffs and realignments this summer. Under the early-out authority -- which OPM must approve -- agencies undergoing major cutbacks can let employees retire at age 50 with 20 years of service, or at any age with 25 years of service. Normally workers must be at least 55 with 20 years of service before they can retire on immediate annuities.

Meanwhile, congressional sources expect that an early-out will be approved shortly for Navy's big Mare Island facility in California. Rep. Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.), who represents the Mare Island area, has proposed giving defense workers a 5-year pension credit sweetener to retire early. Her bill applies only to units undergoing layoffs.

Army Materiel Command's unofficial rumor mill is predicting an imminent early-out. But Army officials say they haven't asked OPM for the authority.


The Council of Former Federal Executives will talk about political and pay reforms, and retiree cost-of-living adjustments, at its June 18 luncheon at the Westpark Hotel in Rosslyn. Speakers include Judy Park, legislative director of the National Association of Retired Federal Employees, and Tom Eickmeyer of the Senate Governmental Affairs Committee. For details, call 532-8203.