Fact: The pending 2-year federal pay freeze will cause an exodus of top government talent and leave many vital federal programs floundering.
Fact: If Congress has the nerve to change the federal retirement formula, basing benefits on the highest-5 year average salary (rather than the current high-3 system) it will cause an exodus of top government talent, a brain drain of unprecedented and crippling proportions.
Fact: Since the late 1990s various individuals and groups have predicted a brain drain, a “retirement tsunami” in which all the smart, experienced people would leave and federal agencies would be left in charge of workers who would need a daily refresher course in how to find the snack bar and the parking lot.
So far it hasn’t happened. In fact, retirements have been off (as in down) in recent years, despite a batch of early-outs pushed by the U.S. Postal Service.
A number of factors, not least the stinking (outside of metro Washington) economy, appear to be the reasons feds are hanging on. Except for some super-experts (or people with connections, or both,) finding a good job outside government is easier said than done. Contractors that once offered good salaries and benefits (especially to well-connected feds with top-secret clearances) are now being federalized – moved back into government.
The terrible job market (10 percent unemployment in some places, twice that in the rust belt) means that feds who might want to go have no place to go. Deflation has meant that federal retirees didn’t get a cost of living adjustment in January 2010 and they won’t get one in January 2011. Predictions that double-digit inflation could be just down the road have convinced some, maybe many, retirement eligible feds that they are in a very good place. No layoffs. No pay cuts. Insurance for life. Hmmmmm!