- The Washington Times - Tuesday, November 27, 2001

Eleven federal agencies which employ most of the federal work force will pay civilian workers from $12,000 to $25,000 to retire within the next three years as they work to thwart a "brain drain" expected from a surge of federal retirements.
The Department of Defense will buy out about 5,000 civilians over the next four years. It's part of a "reshaping" program, now partially on hold because of the September 11 terrorist attacks and the war in Afghanistan. Buyouts will allow DOD agencies (Army, Navy, Air Force) to control partially the retirement flow of its aging force of critical-skill specialists and address "skills imbalances" with promotions and new hires.
The Department of Veterans Affairs (second-largest agency after Defense and the U.S. Postal Service) also has the legal green light to offer buyouts to up to 7,700 of its employees.
Congress also has issued special buyout authority to the Central Intelligence Agency, National Security Agency, National Aeronautics and Space Administration and the Department of Energy, which plan substantial cutbacks. Buyouts are also authorized for the Government Printing Office (its program was just extended), Department of Energy, Internal Revenue Service, and the Bonneville Power Administration. The Treasury Department's buyout authority is limited to the Office of the Inspector General for Tax Administration.
The buyouts all have one thing in common: Payments cannot exceed $25,000 and that's before taxes and other deductions.
The Clinton administration used buyouts to shrink the number of civilian federal jobs especially in defense agencies to the levels of the Kennedy administration in 1962. More than 200,000 workers were paid to retire. In many instances, the buyouts targeted what were considered "overhead" jobs in payroll, personnel, accounting and other services, but were turned over to contractors who now outnumber civilian feds in half a dozen agencies.
They also were used to lure retirement-age males with veterans preference protection out so that the administration's diversity program hiring Hispanics, women and minorities would not be disturbed.
Buyouts could become a permanent, governmentwide program if Congress OKs an administration package in the Senate. It would make as many as 50,000 eligible for a buyout.

Health insurance tip
Health insurance expert Walton Francis (Washington Consumers Checkbook) recommends that retirees and workers who are in the Blue Cross standard and high-option plans consider the GEHA plan. Blue Cross standard option next year will cost individuals $550 in premiums versus GEHA's standard premium of $480.
Blue Cross is dropping its high-option (high premium) plan next year. Most of the 100,000 people covered by it are retirees who can get comparable coverage by switching to GEHA by the Dec. 10 deadline, he says.

Child care
President Bush last week signed legislation (PL 107-67) that permits federal agencies to use appropriated funds to help subsidize child care costs of employees. For details on the program, go to: https://www.opm.gov/wrkfam/html/cldguide.htm.

Pay raise yes and no
The January civilian federal pay raise is official. It will average 4.6 percent. But what you will get depends on how much the president allocates to locality pay (he could put in some, all or none of it) and where you live. The bigger the amount set aside for locality raises the larger the actual increase for feds in cities like New York, Los Angeles, Houston, San Francisco and Baltimore and Washington. Bottom line: Some will get more than 4.6 percent, maybe a lot more. Some will get less than 4.6 percent.


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