Multiple Federal Agencies with Tight Budgets Seek Buyouts

With the tightening of budgets, some federal agencies are seeking buyouts and early retirements to lower personnel expenses.

The Departments of Housing and Urban Development and Agriculture and the Government Printing Office recently received permission from the Office of Personnel Management (OPM) to offer buyouts and early outs to some of its offices. The Federal Trade Commission, Postal Service and Smithsonian Institution have either already asked for permission or are planning for buyouts.

Last week, the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) joined in and said it will seek buyout and early retirement authority within the next month, while the Department of Education and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives are currently deciding whether or not to offer buyouts to some employees.

"This will be a direct result of diminishing budgets," said former OPM executive Henry Romero. "I think we'll see more agency requests to OPM for approval of buyout authority."

NRC's budget has been flat this year and it will most likely decrease in fiscal year 2012. Due to increases in rent and other expenses, the agency has had to find other ways to cut costs. Chief Human Capital Officer Miriam Cohen said that the agency has turned to buyouts and early retirements to decrease its support staff - including management analysts, information technology employees and human resources professionals.

NRC has requested its front-line managers to assess staffing levels to see if current grade levels need to be maintained. For example, Cohen said they are evaluating if a retiring GS-15 needs to be replaced by someone of the same grade or if a new employee could be hired at a lower grade and still complete the job.

Last week, the Department of Education also said they are considering offering buyouts to employees. "We haven't made any definitive decisions about whether we are going to offer additional buyouts down the line, but we are making some decisions now on that," said Education spokesman David Thomas.

Education plans to make the decision no later than July 1.

John Palguta, vice president for policy at the Partnership for Public Service, said he doesn't believe there will be mass buyouts at agencies until next fiscal year, if at all.

"I don't think we are going to see any kind of buyout floodgate open prior to fiscal 2012," he said. "The expectation is 2012 is going to be tighter than 2011. But it would be premature for most agencies to start processing buyouts until they get a better sense of what they actually have to deal with."

Posted in General News

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