The income of many retired regular military officers in civilian federal jobs could take a substantial jump next month because of the in-the-works repeal of the so-called dual compensation law.

Ending the decades-old "double dipper" rule is one of many military benefits--from pay raises to a 401(k) plan option--in the massive defense authorization bill. It has already passed the House by a lopsided 375 to 45 vote. The Senate is expected to pass the bill this week.

President Clinton has issued a veto-warning about the bill. But it has nothing to do with the pay or savings provisions for military personnel. He opposes language involving security at the Department of Energy. If he vetoes the bill, Congress could quickly modify it and sent it back to the White House.

The authorization bill contains several key provisions for military personnel. Best known is the 4.8 percent pay raise in January.

Federal workers who begrudge the military a raise need to do a reality check: Without it, civil servants would have been looking at the 4.4 percent raise the president proposed after six years of White House-ordered diet pay raises.

Rep. Steny H. Hoyer (D-Md.) and Sen. Ted Stevens (R-Alaska) used the military raise to justify "parity" language in the Treasury, Postal Service, general government appropriations bill, which has passed the House and Senate and gone to the White House. Once signed into law, that bill guarantees civilian federal workers, outside of the U.S. Postal Service, an average 4.8 percent increase, their largest raise in years.

Language in the defense bill also would repeal the decades-old dual compensation rule. Under current law, retired regular officers who hold civil service jobs are allowed to collect only half of any retired military pay in excess of $10,300 a year if they joined the military before Aug. 1, 1986. For those who joined the service after Aug. 1, 1986, the pay limitation is $9,300.

The law was passed at a time when Congress feared that high-ranking military personnel would--in some cases, they already had--set up civil service jobs for themselves when they retired.

Backers say the dual compensation law made it less attractive for officers to "double-dip." Opponents say the law deprives the government of some of its best potential civil servants and amounts to discrimination against a specific class of people.

Repeal of the dual compensation law has been a longtime goal of the Retired Officers Association.

More on Military Raises

A federal worker whose e-mail address includes the initials DOG made this request: "Please try to explain why the military is getting 1.5 percent to 5.5 percent additional pay raises in June? How does that wash with the feds only getting the 4.8 percent in January. . . . Is something fishy going on?"

The short answer is that the military is getting additional raises of varying amounts in midyear because Congress wants it that way. The Marine Corps is the only branch meeting its recruiting goals. The Air Force and the Navy are losing pilots and other key personnel because of low pay and extended overseas assignments. Meanwhile, federal civilian job turnover is at near record lows, with no shortage of job applicants.

Also, about a third of the federal work force will get an extra 3 percent raise next year based on time-in-grade.

New federal pay tables won't be available until the White House decides how to divide the pending 4.8 percent raise between national and locality adjustments.

But folks curious about military pay tables for next year can look them up on the Internet at www.armedforcesnews.com.

Buyout Watch

Sharon A., an employee of the Small Business Administration, asks about the chances of Congress approving buyouts for her agency. Currently, 10 federal departments and agencies--listed in the Federal Diary yesterday--have authority to pay workers up to $25,000 (before deductions) to quit or retire.

The Treasury, Postal Service, general government appropriations bill, when signed into law, will give buyout authority to the General Services Administration and to the Treasury Department's Financial Management Service and Treasury's office of inspector general for tax administration. Congress hasn't acted on--and probably won't--requests for new buyouts at the Department of Veterans Affairs and the Agency for International Development. Nor has Congress acted on requests to extend buyout programs due to expire at the CIA (Sept. 30) and the Department of Energy (Jan. 1, 2002).

Mike Causey's e-mail address is causeym@washpost.com

Tuesday, Sept. 21, 1999