Is it your turn for a buyout?

Lots of people in government say they would leave in a heartbeat if their agency would offer them a modest $25,000 buyout. Otherwise they will stick until the economy improves. Others say the plan is to work till they drop — unless and until Uncle Sam shows them the buyout money!

So what are your odds of getting a buyout (VSIP) and/or an early- out (VERA) offer sooner rather than later? Obviously, it depends on your agency’s budget status and strategy.

Air Force, as previously reported, says it will trim its current civilian workforce from 186,026 down to 183,328 in fiscal 2015. That new fiscal year begins Oct. 1. The Federal Times says Air Force is considering buyouts as one way to slim down.

Most other federal operations — military and civilian — are downsizing either because of the two-year budget agreement, sequestration, administration plans or changing mission. In any event, it is unlikely that many agencies are going to grow.


It’s possible that the Obama administration will take a leaf from the Clinton years’ downsizing plan. President Clinton wanted to trim more than 300,000-plus federal jobs while preserving the “diversity gains” made in hiring large numbers of women and minorities. When the government has a layoff (RIF), the rules were last-hired-first fired. Veterans also had special job protection. In a RIF, older, senior employees with veterans’ preference could bump newcomers out of their jobs. The solution: Give $25,000 payments to selected employees in Defense shipyards, depots and at air bases if they would take regular or early- retirement. The buyouts were later spread to other agencies. In those days, the buyout, even after deductions, was enough for a down-payment on a house or to buy a new car.

Thanks to the buyouts, RIFs were kept to a minimum and the diversity gains were protected. Many jobs that had been done in-house in federal agencies were outsourced to private contractors. Many operations — such as HR — were downsized and consolidated.

Buyouts are most cost-effective for agencies if employees leave early (October, November, December) in the fiscal year. Getting a $60,000 a year worker off the payroll for $25,000 is a win-win for agencies.

There probably won’t be much in the way of buyout news for the next couple of months. Agencies will need to see where they stand, and how much and where they have to cut. There will also be the usual game of chicken between people who run front-line programs — as in, should we keep the Army and Navy? — vs. the bean counters who consider only numbers.

If you want to figure your buyout odds, start with this rundown of the President’s budget to see where your agency stands in terms of staffing level and where you will be this time next year.


Compiled by Jack Moore

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