Normally, when agencies decide to cutback they offer buyouts. Officially known as VSIPs (voluntary separation incentive payments), buyouts are worth up to $25,000 before deductions. That was a fairly attractive sum in the 1990s when they were first launched. Today, not so much.
Air Force had two rounds of buyouts but didn’t get enough takers. So now it is going to do-it-your-self buzz cut, which, in government lingo, is known as a RIF. For reduction-in-force.
Like self-inflicted haircuts, RIFs can be messy. And produce surprising, as in OMG, results.
During a RIF, officials may target one position/individual for elimination. But if that employee has seniority/is a veteran or both, he/she can bump somebody with less service or who is not a veteran. People can also be demoted but in some cases allowed to keep their current salary for a period of time.
In many, maybe most, past RIFs the result is that people targeted for a layoff don’t get laid off. Under last-hired-first-fired rules some of the people agencies want to keep (younger employees, recently hired minorities) for both strategic and diversity reasons are pushed out the door.
During the 1990s, tens of thousands of feds got buyouts. Many of their jobs and functions were farmed out to contractors. But buyouts were used because the administration said it didn’t want to reverse the diversity gains it had made by hiring large numbers of college graduates, women and minorities.
Air Force’s coming do-it-yourself RIF will be little more than a trim compared to the downsizing of the 1990s. It was aimed primarily at older, non-minority workers with veterans preference. In other words fire-proof. It worked because $25k, back in the day, was worth something. At least more than in 2015 dollars.
But for thousands of Air Force civilians who may get caught up in what is being billed as a “small” action, it could get messy.