Foreign Relations Authorization Act, Fiscal Year 1979 Statement on Signing H.R. 12598 Into Law.
I have signed into law H.R. 12598, the Foreign Relations Authorization Act of 1979.
H.R. 12598 authorizes fiscal year 1979 appropriations for the Department of State, the International Communication Agency (ICA), and the Board for International Broadcasting (BIB) in the aggregate amount of $1,904,992,000. In addition, the bill contains a number of provisions sought by the administration which will allow us to conduct foreign affairs better.
H.R. 12598 also permits more than 800 senior Foreign Service officers, whose pay is at $47,500, to retire voluntarily between October 1, 1978, and December 31, 1979, and compute their annuities on the basis of their highest single year's salary. This is commonly referred to as "high one" retirement authority. Currently, annuities of all civil service and other Foreign Service employees are based on the average of their highest 3 years' salaries.
This extraordinary retirement bonus-only for high-ranking Foreign Service officers paid at the statutory ceiling of $47,500—will serve as an inducement to retirement at most only 17 months earlier than they might otherwise elect under the "high three" computation formula.
I strongly oppose this provision. Enactment of a "high one" bonus for the Foreign Service introduces a new one-time retirement benefit, despite my call for a moratorium on nonessential Government retirement liberalizations. This call came during the deliberations of the new President's Commission on Pension Policy, which was established to review the Nation's retirement and disability systems, including Federal employee retirement systems.
Nevertheless, I am signing H.R. 12598 despite the "high one" retirement provision, because the bill authorizes urgently needed appropriations for State, ICA, and BIB, while also creating new tools to help these agencies carry out their foreign affairs programs. In this regard, I note that the conference report on H.R. 12598 explains that the Senate, which did not include "high one" in its version of the bill, acceded to the House: "... because of the serious personnel surplus in senior Foreign Service ranks. It is not to be construed as a precedent for broadening other Government retirement inducement authorities now or in the future. Both the House International Relations Committee and the House Post Office and Civil Service Committee Chairmen have agreed that enacting this provision will not constitute a precedent for other U.S. Government personnel systems."
In approving H.R. 12598, I am taking in good faith the conferees' assurances that the bill's "high one" retirement authority will not serve as a precedent for other Government retirement programs.
Note: As enacted, H.R. 12598 is Public Law 95-426, approved October 7.
Jimmy Carter, Foreign Relations Authorization Act, Fiscal Year 1979 Statement on Signing H.R. 12598 Into Law. Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project https://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/node/243899