OK, so you’re a mid-career federal worker with a growing need. An itch that won’t go away. A dream that has become all-consuming. A desire that must be fulfilled. Chances are it is either:
Date with Justin Bieber
Dinner and a show with Beyoncé
Getting a $25,000 buyout offer from your federal agency.
For the average fed, given the way things are and are going, you are probably wiser to plan on where, when and for how long you and Justin or Beyoncé are going to hang out.
Buyouts, no matter how much you want one and how much sense it makes to you, are definitely not in the cards for the vast majority of federal workers. Remember, this is hard-times 2014, not the mid-1990s when buyouts were being offered all over the place.
In today’s budgetary enviroment , buyouts have gone from the one- size-fits all variety to laser-like operations specifically tailored for and limited to a handful of workers based on occupation, grade level, geography and diversity goals.
The how-about-us? buyout queries to Federal News Radio have come from workers in a dozen agencies with the most from the Internal Revenue Service and Defense. The IRS situation is unknown, because in recent years it has been asked to do more with less (fewer employees, lowered budgets). The top man on the job there, of course, is John Koskinen, who doesn’t look like past commissioners. Many former IRS bosses were on-the-way-up political appointees or established lawyers. Koskinen is 70-plus, with a long and lucrative private-sector background. He took over Freddie Mac at a time when it was bleeding cash and one of its top officials had earlier committed suicide.
The IRS, as is often the case, is again under political assault. This time from Republicans angry over the service’s tough line on tax exemption for conservative political groups. Koskinen, as the ultimate Mr. Fixit, understands how private and public organizations function. It’s likely he, himself, will make the decision whether, when and to whom buyouts might be offered.
Defense is also between a budgetary rock and a hard place. Even as it is planning to cut civilian employment and reduce the regular Army to pre-World War II levels (whatever that means), Russia is flexing its muscle in the touchy, bloody situation in Ukraine.
Buyouts are most cost-effective (to the government) if offered early in the fiscal year (October, November and December). Offers made later than that tend to be targeted to higher-grade (higher paid) workers. Whatever happens, buyouts will be less numerous than early-retirement offers.
Here’s what one benefits specialist told me:
“Make your financial plans. See what it would be like to trade a paycheck every two weeks for a reduced pension benefit each month. Be ready if an offer comes along, but don’t build your hopes on getting one. And remember, after deductions you will be lucky to walk away with $18K.”
Key Senate panel wants to ensure federal pay keeps pace with private sector The Senate subcommittee with oversight of the federal workforce will take up the issue of federal-employee compensation and sinking employee morale. Sen. Jon Tester (D-Mont.), the subcommittee chairman, said at the National Treasury Employees Union’s annual legislative conference that an upcoming hearing will focus, in part, on making sure federal pay stays competitive with the private sector.
Will IRS budget pleas be ignored in Congress? IRS Commissioner John Koskinen told members of the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Financial Services and General Government that budget and staffing reductions are impacting the agency’s core missions of customer service and tax collection. The agency projects it will only be able to answer 61 percent of phone calls this year, meaning some 20 million phone calls will go unanswered. Meanwhile, taxpayers attempting to reach IRS offices are facing wait times that stretch past 20 minutes.
More agencies turn to targeted buyouts, early retirements While the latest rounds of buyouts and early retirements span agencies as diverse as the Naval Sea Systems Command and the Interior Department’s Bureau of Land Management, one thing many of them have in common is the targeted nature of the offers. In many instances, agencies are targeting offers to employees in specific job areas or agency locations.