About Those Buyout Rumors

Monday - 6/28/2010, 4:00am EDT

Senior Correspondent Mike Causey has stepped away from the keyboard for a much-needed break. While he's searching for his inner vuvuzela we present "The Most Popular Federal Reports of the Year... So Far". This column was originally published on March 10th. sk

Very little in this column is true which, by and large, is a good thing.

If you haven't heard about a pending early retirement/buyout/layoff plan being cooked up by Uncle Sam, either you haven't been listening, or you've been a fed for a long time and have heard this before. Many times.

Rumors of a government-wide or agency-specific plan to encourage feds to leave are, according to in-the-know-officials, just that. Federal unions and management groups confirm that the chatter is there, but it's all hot air.

With the exception of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration and the U.S. Postal Service (admittedly two big exceptions) most federal operations aren't in a position where they want or need to trim the workforce. Or to offer incentives to get people to take early-retirement.

Last year 1,233 federal workers (outside of the U.S. Postal Service) took early retirement. When okayed by agencies, workers under the CSRS retirement plan (the one that covers most retirement-eligible employees) can leave on immediate annuity at age 50 with 20 years of service or at any age with 25 years of federal service.

In 2005 more than 7,500 feds took early outs. That dropped to 5,700 in 2006, to 4,700 in 2007 and 3,510 in 2008. Bottom line is that although agencies continue to offer early retirement (in very,very rare cases with a $25,000 buyout payment) there are few takers.

Despite the the lack-of-interest in or need for early outs, those hope-springs-eternal rumors persist. In addition to alleged buyout/early out plans, the false reports speak of major upcoming reductions-in-force although RIFs have been a non-starter since the Clinton administration downsized government. The fact is that some of the rumors are decades old. If your parents were civil servants, odds are Mom and Dad were spooked too. Until they had been around for while. Some of the hit-the-road rumors are decades old.

In several agencies, according to the rumor mill, a buyout-early out package is "on the desk" of the big boss. Probably not.

The last presidential election jump-started a rumor that the new administration would make efforts to encourage old-timers to retire so that bright, fresh talent could surge into government. Another was that Congress might re-impose mandatory retirement (at age 65 or 70) across-the-government. While that is far-fetched and unlikely the government did have a mandatory retirement age (70) up until the mid-1970s.

Other recycled rumors racing around the internet include a much updated (but bogus) proposal to give workers an extra 5 years credit (in both age and service) to encourage them to leave. When it first surfaced, the alleged buyout would have been $5,000. That has been adjusted for inflation (although it is equally incorrect) to $50,000 or, in some versions, six months salary.

E-mail Mike: mcausey@federalnewsradio.com


Nearly Useless Factoid
by Suzanne Kubota

Congratulations Cleveland! Last March, more than 20,000 fans at the Quicken Loans Arena "sported Cavs-branded Snuggies for five minutes to set the world record for the largest gathering of people wearing fleece blankets." Cleveland rocks the Snuggie.


ALSO ON FEDERAL NEWS RADIO
IG: IRS feds abused tax credit
Other headlines from this morning's Federal Newscast include Freddie Mac fires technology VP, FDA finds unsanitary airline food and Two Census Bureau managers fired for creating at least 10,000 bogus questionnaires to meet deadlines. Read more here.

Why continuous monitoring is gaining popularity
Continuous monitoring is gaining a lot of buzz, but what is it, exactly? Eric Chabrow is executive editor at GovInfoSecurity.com and blogs about the federal government and privacy. He says continuous monitoring is becoming a hot topic because, under FISMA, agencies have to report how they protect their information systems. The law, though, isn't very specific, and this is where new concepts come in. Read more here.

Sammies nominee creates eco-friendly building
A building that runs on almost no energy. It's not magic, it's called a net zero building -- and the Energy Department can now boast of creating the world's largest. Jeff Baker is director in the Office of Laboratory Operations at the Energy Department. He led the design and construction of the Research Support Facility using standard materials, but put them together in a slightly different way. And his work has earned him a Sammies nomination. Read more here.