More Downsizing Indicators

As further evidence that the federal government has begun the process of downsizing, a number of federal agencies have recently made —or will soon make—voluntary buyout and early retirement offers to employees. More than a dozen agencies made such offers last year, and even more are in the works. Specifically:

  • On January 12, the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) offered buyouts and early outs to about 400 analysts, communications staffers, and other support employees. Those who accept an offer must leave their jobs by March 2. This follows an earlier (November 2011) round of offers to about 5,400 of the agency’s 100,000 employees; the agency planned to accept only 1,600 of those offers but has not released any further information on that round.
  • On January 11, the Air Force told Congress it plans to cut about 4,500 civilian employees through buyouts and early outs. It had announced a second round of offers the preceding week. Applications are due by February 3, and those whose applications are approved must leave their jobs by April 30. In the Air Force’s first round of offers, which ended December 31, 1,054 employees accepted buyouts or early outs. The Air Force also lifted a four-month hiring freeze in December, which it said had helped cut nearly 9,000 civilian positions.
  • On January 10, the General Services Administration (GSA) asked the Office of Personnel Management for permission to offer buyouts and early retirement to up to 5 percent of its workforce, primarily employees in GSA’s Assisted Acquisition Service Support Center in San Francisco as well as its Federal Acquisition Service, Office of Citizen Services and Innovative Technology, Office of Governmentwide Policy, and Office of the Chief Financial Officer.  The reductions will be focused in the Washington, D.C., area, New Jersey, and California. Other GSA offices are still analyzing their employment levels, and the agency could offer additional buyouts and early outs after those reviews are completed. It is unclear when the offers will be formally made, or how many will be accepted.

Other agencies offering buyouts in fiscal 2012 include the Departments of Agriculture, Commerce, and Education; the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency; and NASA. Offers generally are capped at $25,000 per employee. For a roster of recent and ongoing federal agency buyout offers, see here.