$40,000 buyouts limited to defense civilians

The tidal wave of buyouts many feds expected (or at least hoped for) hasn’t happened yet. And when it does come, it may be more of the drip, drip variety than a 1990s-style buyout tsunami.

Most of the activity seems to be limited to a few Defense Department installations (including, and maybe limited to, the Philadelphia area), a handful of jobs at the Internal Revenue Service in the Cincinnati area and now the State Department.

The New York Times first reported that State’s top political management will offer 641 buyouts on a first-come, first served basis. The buyouts will be worth $25,000 maximum before deductions and employees offered them would have to be off the payroll by April. About 25 percent of the buyouts will go to Foreign Service personnel, with the remainder earmarked for mostly higher-grade members of the civil service, both at Foggy Bottom headquarters and around the world. Overall, State is under orders from Secretary Rex Tillerson to trim a total of 1,982 workers.

Currently, DoD is the only agency that can offer workers up to $40,000 to take regular or early retirement. And that isn’t likely to change anytime soon. The Senate proposed extending the $40K buyouts to other agencies, but House conferees didn’t go along. So the two-tier buyout system remains in place. All nondefense agencies are still limited to $25,000. Defense will continue offering up to $40,000.

A handful of agencies are expected to try to downsize by offering employees VERAs — the option to take early retirement, but without any buyouts (VSIPS). If that half-a-loaf tactic is used, it’s unlikely many employees will take it. A veteran congressional staffer said that offering early retirement alone “is about as exciting as taking a bath with your socks on. As in, few people do it.”

Experienced feds, to the extent their new political bosses will listen to them, will counsel against reductions-in-force. They are messy (last hired, first fired), and can be more expensive than actual buyouts. And they rarely accomplish the desired balance of jobs political appointees want.

Half a dozen agencies are making plans for limited buyouts, but it could be weeks, even months, before they make their bid to the Office of Personnel Management.

Nearly Useless Factoid

By David Thornton

A single strand of human hair could hold 100g (3oz) in weight; the combined hair of a whole head could support 12 metric tons, or the weight of two elephants. Weight for weight, it is not as strong as steel, more like aluminum, or reinforced glass fibers or Kevlar, which is used to make bulletproof vests.

Source: The Guardian

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