Air Force to survey buyout interest

Monday - 4/25/2011, 8:12am EDT

By Suzanne Kubota
Senior Internet Editor
FederalNewsRadio.com

Federal civilian employees at the Air Force Materiel Command could be getting buyout and early retirement offers of up to $25,000.

AirForceTimes reports AFMC will begin surveying its 64,800 civilian employees May 1 to gauge their interest in the Voluntary Early Retirement Authority and Voluntary Separation Incentive Payments programs, or VERA and VSIP. The Office of Personnel Management created the programs and would have to give the Air Force permission to implement them.

GovExec reports John Steenbock, the personnel director, says the Materiel Command has already imposed headcount controls. It's hiring only in critical mission areas. Even at that, the command is filling one position for every two vacant slots.

If sufficient numbers don't take a buyout, Steenbock says involuntary separations could follow. The chairman of the union representing the civilian workers tells the Air Force Times he thinks his members will overwhelmingly endorse buyout and early retirement offers - perhaps in numbers bigger than the Air Force can handle.

"Federal employees feel like they're under attack," John Santry of the American Federation of Government Employees Air Force Caucus told the Times. Santry said civilian workers eligible for retirement probably would be willing to leave regardless of whether an incentive is offered. "There are really a lot of hurt feelings out there," he said.

President Obama has charged the Pentagon with finding $400 billion in national security cuts by 2023 in addition to the $400 billion already announced as cuts in the past two years.

Assistant Secretary of Defense for Public Affairs Doug B. Wilson told the news show "This Week in Defense News" that it was too early to tell where the cuts might come, but the survey suggests the Air Force is looking for savings by reducing its civilian workforce.

If employees show interest in the programs, AFMC will ask the Air Force to fund incentive payouts in September and December.

The Dayton Business Journal reports AFMC controls all the research, acquisitions and maintenance for the entire Air Force and has an annual budget approaching $60 billion.

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