Buyouts and bats: Endangered species?

Friday - 5/23/2014, 2:00am EDT

What do federal buyouts have in common with the beloved Indiana Bat?

Short answer: A lot.

Or, at least, maybe more than you might think.

The thing is that the odds of your ever seeing a $25,000 buyout, known in government as a VSI (voluntary separation incentive payment), are about as good as your chances of coming across a Myotis sodalis, the proper name for the flying mammals. Both those kinds of bats and buyouts appear to be on the endangered species list.

Buyouts were the name of the downsizing game in the 1990s. They started in the Defense Department but soon spread to other agencies under orders from the White House to cut the federal payroll. Buyouts enjoyed a brief but smaller return a couple of years ago.

The elusive Indiana bat. (Photo by Adam Mann/FWS.gov)

But since sequestration, furloughs and the two-year budget agreement, most agencies that must reduce staff seem to be depending on attrition or early- retirements (VERAs). In the past, early-outs were popular when accompanied by a buyout. But when it is a standalone early-retirement offer the take rate is less than 2 percent.

Buyouts were a popular tool with agencies in 2012. The U.S. Postal Service offered buyouts (worth $15,000). Agriculture, the Broadcasting Board of Governors, Census offered selected workers $25,000 payments (before deductions) to quit or retire. The General Services Administration had two rounds involving about 1,000 workers. IRS offered about 700 buyouts. Air Force completed a third round of buyouts in 2012, That enabled it to cuts its headquarters staff 20 percent in just one year.

Buyouts and early outs in 2014 are a different story. Social Security is offering 200 to 300 employees the chance to take early retirement. Agriculture is looking about about 100 buyouts, not many in such a vast and widespread operation.

Some agencies may be waiting until closer to the end of this fiscal year (Sept. 30) to decide what they need to do, and how they can do it. Others, according to some HR experts, are waiting to see what the new phased-retirement program looks like. OPM has been working on it for sometime and lots of people hope the final regs will come soon. As one HR type put it: "Congress said do it, but the question is do what?" She said implementing phased retirement "is a lot tougher than most people think." Even so she predicted the regulations would be out by mid-summer.

Meantime if you hear of a buyout, or see one of those endangered Indiana Bats, let us know ASAP.


NEARLY USELESS FACTOID

Compiled by Jack Moore

Smokey Bear has his own zip code: 20252.

(Source: OMG Facts)


MORE FROM FEDERAL NEWS RADIO

The New Model of Trust in Government
Trust is fickle and just a few small events can cause that trust to break. In part 3 of Federal News Radio's special report, Trust Redefined: Reconnecting Government and Its Employees, we asked federal employee groups and union leaders about how they define trust between employees and the government now, and what this trust will look like in the future. More articles and analysis from the special report below…

AFGE head: Congress can't be trusted to do right by feds
Federal employees take an oath to uphold and defend the U.S. Constitution, and they carry out that mission with honor and duty every single day. Yet they are being impeded by a corrosive political environment that denigrates them and their vital role in serving the public. When Congress enacts laws that deny federal employees an annual pay raise and force new workers to contribute more of their salary to a fully-funded pension system, that trust is eroded.

Sen. Jon Tester: How to make the federal workforce feel respected once again
Pushing for pay freezes, sequestration and the government shutdown may score political points back home, but it's not sound policy. It sends a message to workers that they are expendable. We all know that's not true.