Along with the potential for voluntary retirement and other normal attrition to lessen the chances of RIFs in the Trump administration’s planned–but still unspecified–downsizing of the federal workforce, employees are increasingly expressing hope for a surge in early retirement and buyout offers. OPM puts out data on the former, but not the latter, showing that only a small portion of retirements consist of those so-called early outs. Under that authority, an agency may allow retirement for an employee at least 50 years old with at least 20 years of service, or at any age with at least 25 years (there would be a reduction in the annuity for those relative few who are under CSRS and under 55 years old). DoD has standing authority to offer early outs while other agencies must get permission from OPM, by making a case the authority is needed to avoid RIFs. OPM data show that of the nearly 400,000 retirements of executive branch employees outside the Postal Service and intelligence community over fiscal 2011-2016 inclusive, under 14,000–3 percent–were early outs. In 2016, there were fewer than 1,000 early outs, just above 1 percent of the total that year. DoD also has standing authority to offer buyouts–and under a law passed last year, it can pay up to $40,000 rather than the $25,000 maximum at other agencies–as do several other agencies, while most agencies similarly must get OPM permission. Buyouts were widely used during the Clinton administration’s federal workforce cuts but have been much less common since then. The two often are offered together, although there is no requirement that they must be; buyouts can be offered regardless of a person’s retirement eligibility under either regular or early-out rules.
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