The Senate is begrudgingly allowing Gen. Michael Dugan, relieved as Air Force chief of staff for his public comments on the Persian Gulf, to delay his retirement until Jan. 1 and boost his pension by more than $17,000 a year.

Over the weekend, the Senate Armed Services Committee and the full Senate approved President Bush's nomination of Dugan to retire in the grade of full general.However, in a report accompanying the panel's recommendation and released Monday, the committee questioned the extraordinary treatment of Dugan.

Defense Secretary Dick Cheney fired Dugan, 53, as the Air Force's top officer on Sept. 17 after Dugan told reporters about contingency plans to unleash massive air raids on Iraq and target Saddam Hussein personally.

Under current law, Dugan would have been demoted two pay grades to major general 90 days after his firing and would have been retired on Dec. 17 with benefits based on the lower rank. However, Bush nominated him to retire at four-star rank on Jan. 1.

"The primary reason for allowing Gen. Dugan to retire on Jan. 1, 1991, is to permit him to take advantage of the increase in the basic pay for the grade of general upon which his retired pay would be calculated," the committee said.

A four-star general's basic annual pay goes from $78,199 to $97,814 on Jan. 1, and retirement as a full general on that day will mean an increase in Dugan's pension of $17,625 over what he would have received in retirement in 1990 as a major general.