Buyouts and Justin Bieber

Sending an in-house tweet or email that includes the word “buyout” is the federal equivalent of yelling “Justin Bieber’s in the hall” at an exclusive all-girls middle school.

Fun, but dangerous. Charles Dickens would probably call it Great Expectations. Fast forward to February 2014…

We are currently in prime buyout time. Here’s why:

  • The fiscal year is still young. Paying somebody $25,000 to leave the payroll would still be cost-effective in many situations in some agencies.
  • For the first time in years, most agency budgets have been given the OK by Congress. Sequestration, the monster that was supposed to devour Uncle Sam, has mostly been tamed or is being ignored.
  • Politicians who normally delight on beating up the bureaucracy are busy either working to get reelected or, if they are in safe seats, working to ensure that their political party keeps — or takes over — leadership in the House and Senate.
  • The number of federal and postal workers who are eligible to retire with annuities equal to 55 percent to 80 percent of their salary is at record levels.
  • The improved stock market (except for last month) has revived many Thrift Savings Plan Accounts that shrunk or were stagnant for several years.

And there are other signs…


Two very different federal operations have announced plans for early retirement (VERAs) or buyout (VSIPs). Or both. As reported here Friday, the Social Security Administration will be offering early retirement — age 50 with 20 years or any age with 25 years service — between March and July. SSA has about 60,000 workers.

Federal News Radio reported yesterday that the Environmental Protection Agency will offer both early-outs and buyouts.

A number of federal agencies — including units of the Defense Department — are surveying employees to see if there is interest in buyouts/early outs (short answer, yes) or would employees be content to take early retirement without a buyout (short answer, not many).

The Internal Revenue Service, under very new management, has announced early on that it will not be furloughing any of its 90,000 employees this year. Congress has held the IRS budget steady, but sequestration reduced its available funds. At the same time, Congress is pushing the agency to collect billions in delinquent taxes.

Previous IRS commissioners have often come in as political watchdogs, caretakers or fiscal fixers. Many were outsiders with no government experience. The current commissioner, John Koskinen, is a veteran of federal service. He falls into the been-there, done-that, got-the-T-shirt category. On Friday he announced that IRS (which last year had to furlough many employees for three days) won’t go through that exercise again. The idea of furloughing many employees who bring in much more than they earn always struck sensible people — outside of Congress — as not really bright.

When, and if the good news hits, it is likely there will be more stand-alone early-outs than VERAs plus buyouts. But because early-outs, alone, are not as popular, there is a good chance more agencies will offer both — although in some cases they could be targeted to specific geographical areas, occupations or grade levels.

Causey Awards nominations now open

Nominations for Federal News Radio’s fifth annual Causey Awards are now open. The awards recognize outstanding achievements in human capital management.

While we’re looking for people who made a difference in the HR world, they don’t necessarily have to work in an HR role. In the past, we’ve honored CIOs, a chief of staff and an inspector general, in addition to human resources professionals, all for their contributions in the HR arena.

Click here to nominate someone today.


Compiled by Jack Moore

The very first Academy Awards ceremony in 1929 — the waning era of silent movies — included an award for best screen-title writing. The winner was a silent film called The Red Mill, starring Marion Davies.

(Source: And the Oscar Goes to…)


Nominations open for 2014 Causey Awards
Federal News Radio’s 5th Annual Causey Awards seek to recognize and honor the good works of people who challenged the status quo and changed, for the better, human capital management. Nominate someone today for his or her outstanding achievements and important human capital/human resources contributions. While we’re looking for people who made a difference in the HR world, they don’t necessarily have to work in an HR role. In the past, we’ve honored CIOs, a chief of staff, and an inspector general, in addition to human resources professionals, all for their contributions in the HR arena.

EPA plans early-outs targeted at higher grades
The Environmental Protection Agency has issued targeted early-retirement and buyout offers to hundreds of employees nationwide, according to an American Federation of Government Employees local. EPA officials are planning to offer early-outs at 19 different offices within the agency, spanning all 10 regions. Workers who sign up can receive up to $25,000 and will have to be off the rolls by early April.

Rocky start to 2014 as TSP returns trend negative
Returns for nearly all of the funds in the Thrift Savings Plan trended downward in January following a rocky month on Wall Street. The largest declines came in the stock funds. The large-cap C Fund fell by 3.45 percent, the small-cap S Fund inched down 1.91 percent and the I Fund, made up of international stocks, plunged by more than 4 percent, according to new data from the Federal Retirement Thrift Investment Board.

IRS chief: No furloughs this year
The head of the Internal Revenue Service said the agency isn’t planning employee any furloughs this year, even though Congress decided not to restore funding to the agency that had been lost due to the across-the-board sequestration cuts.