More than a third of federal employees on-board as of 2015 will be eligible to retire by 2020, with the rates especially high in certain agencies, GAO has said. The rate of voluntary retirements is a consideration for whether the government may have to resort to RIFs during the still undefined downsizing of the federal workforce the Trump administration plans. Also, employees not close to retirement eligibility watch the rate in assessing their prospects to move up in the organization as vacancies are created among older and typically more senior employees. GAO said that 34.3 percent of employees government-wide will meet eligibility criteria, with rates in the 45 percent range at HUD, NASA, NSF, NRC, SBA and EPA. Agencies only in the 25-30 percent range, in contrast, include DHS, OPM, SSA and AID. The largest, DoD, is slightly below average while the second-largest, VA, is slightly above. Said GAO, “Various factors can affect when individuals actually retire, and some amount of retirement and other forms of attrition can be beneficial because it creates opportunities to bring fresh skills on board and it allows organizations to restructure themselves to better meet program goals and fiscal realities. But if turnover is not strategically monitored and managed, gaps can develop in an organization’s institutional knowledge and leadership.” The data were contained in the GAO’s biennial description of “high-risk” government programs; recruiting and retention, particularly in high-demand occupations, has been on that list for many years. There have also been predictions for years of a “retirement wave” as baby boom employees hit retirement eligibility, but in practice the rate of voluntary regular retirements has been relatively flat, in the 60,000 range annually for executive branch agencies excluding the independent USPS and intelligence community.
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