The chairman of the House Armed Services committee expects only "fine tuning" to military retirement reform overhaul proposals under consideration on Capitol Hill, not an entirely new plan or a halt to the effort.
"At this point, there aren't big differences on the retirement plan" between the House and Senate plans, said Rep. Mac Thornberry, R-Texas, during a roundtable with reporters Tuesday. "I don't expect either the House or the Senate would say, 'We're going to put this off again.'"
The House has already approved changes in its annual defense authorization bill to replace the current 20-year, all-or-nothing military retirement system with a blended plan that would include 401(k)-style contributions for all service members.
The Senate is considering its draft of the authorization bill this week. Once complete, the two bills will have to go through a conference committee to reconcile the differing aspects.
Thornberry said he doesn't see any sticking points between the differing pieces of legislation that would make for lengthy or contentious conference work, including the retirement proposals.
Both plans are based on recommendations from the Military Compensation and Retirement Modernization Commission earlier this year. The House draft would extend government contributions to investment plans past 20 years of service. The Senate plan keeps certain lump-sum payout options and delays some of those federal contributions.
Both plans would go into effect in fiscal 2017, giving military officials time to implement the changes and educate troops about their retirement options. The new plans would cover all troops who enlist after September 2016 but be optional for current service members.
White House officials have said they'd prefer to study the commission's retirement overhaul for several more months before moving ahead with changes, and several veterans groups have expressed similar concerns about the long-term effect on retention of midcareer troops.
Thornberry said lawmakers will "continue to listen to military leadership and concerns they have," but he does not anticipate stalling the reform momentum now.
He said amendments to the Senate authorization bill could alter that prediction, but no high-profile changes to the retirement reforms have been proposed by senators so far. The Senate is expected to vote on its authorization bill draft at the end of this week or early next week.