WASHINGTON — House lawmakers want to extend bigger payouts for Defense Department civilian employees who leave their jobs early.

Included in the annual defense authorization bill passed by the House Armed Services Committee last week is language extending the Voluntary Separation Incentive Pay plus-up to $40,000 for defense civilians for another four years.

Currently, federal workers in other agencies are limited to $25,000 payouts. But lawmakers last year created a one-year pilot for the Defense Department to offer an extra $15,000, as an added incentive for workers considering an early separation.

Now, House lawmakers want to extend that to 2021. Committee officials said the goal is not to dramatically increase the number of civilians leaving the department, but to give defense officials better tools to manage the size of their workforce.

Under program rules, federal workers are only eligible for the buyouts if they have worked for the federal government for three years and have a clean employment record, without any outstanding problems or loans.

Payouts are calculated based on employees’ service and salaries, but the $25,000 maximum has limited the buyout incentive for some older workers. Until last year’s pilot, the payout cap had not been updated since the 1990s.

Department officials last year said they hoped to save up to $2 billion in personnel costs by reducing staffing in various military agencies by up to 25 percent in coming years. The Voluntary Separation Incentive Pay program is one of the key initiatives in that effort.

Nearly 750,000 civilians work in the Defense Department today. Lawmakers also included language in the bill requiring a report on the defense civilian workforce, to ensure that current levels are appropriate and that "every proposal to change military force structure is accompanied with the associated civilian force structure changes needed to support that."

The House is expected to vote on the full defense bill — which authorizes $696.5 billion in military spending for fiscal 2018 — later this month. Senate negotiators must also agree to the VSIP extension for military civilians before it can be sent to the president to be signed into law.

Leo Shane III covers Congress, Veterans Affairs and the White House for Military Times. He can be reached at lshane@militarytimes.com.