Hundreds of federal employees could lose or change jobs as the Census Bureau revamps the structure of its regional field offices.
The bureau has announced a plan to close six of 12 regional offices in an effort to streamline business and reduce costs.
The closures will affect about 330 employees, or almost five percent of Census’ field workforce of about 7,200, according to the bureau. But agency leaders are expecting a net loss of up to 130 jobs because some employees will have the opportunity to take jobs at other regional offices or at headquarters.
“As we go through this transition over the next 18 months, our regional office employees affected by this realignment will be our first priority,” Census Bureau Director Robert Groves said.
The bureau has asked the Office of Personnel Management (OPM) for approval to provide affected employees with other job opportunities, transition assistance, early retirement and retirement incentives. Some employees will receive preference hiring with other federal agencies according to the bureau. Others will receive resume preparation and job-search assistance. Eligible employees will receive individualized details about retirement, separation incentives, severance pay and/or unemployment benefits.
Census Bureau leaders expect most of the workforce reductions to come from attrition and early retirements.
The reforms are aimed at keeping “pace with modern survey collection methods worldwide and reduce costs by an estimated $15 million to $18 million annually beginning in 2014,” Census said in a statement. “The reforms build on the work the bureau’s leadership did in bringing in the 2010 Census on time and 25 percent under budget.”
The agency has realized a decline in the amount of federally-sponsored survey work, which makes up more than 20 percent of its budget, the bureau said. In addition, survey sponsors are demanding lower costs, improved efficiency, and increased responsiveness.
The bureau expects the $15 to $18 million in cost savings to begin in fiscal 2014. The money-saving approach will focus on allowing more field employees, including supervisory staff, to work from home, and deploying modern management metrics.
“Advances in technology have allowed survey organizations to provide field interviewers with better tools and move to a leaner management structure,” the bureau said. “Increasing virtualization of supervision using more timely management information can yield both cost and quality advantages.”
“Director Groves and his staff at Census are making good on the President’s charge to cut costs and change the way the government does business,” Commerce Secretary Gary Locke said. “This reorganization supports the administration’s ongoing effort to make government more efficient, effective and accountable to the American people.”
This realignment is the first since 1961 when the field offices were set up to administer data collection.