The EPA’s announcement that it will offer early retirement and buyout incentive payments–pending approval by OPM–could be the first of many similar announcements by federal agencies, although others appear to be taking a wait and see attitude for the present.
Under early out 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). Buyouts are generally up to $25,000 (DoD may pay up to $40,000) pre-tax and require that recipients pay back the full amount if they return to government work within five years.
The EPA had been considered among the agencies most likely to make such offers, since it was targeted for the most severe cuts in a preliminary White House budget proposal for the upcoming fiscal year. That plan, to be followed by a more detailed one in May, projected a cut of about 3,200 employees at the EPA, a fifth of its workforce.
EPA also is continuing a general hiring freeze for itself even though the government-wide general freeze has been lifted. The State Department, also targeted in the preliminary budget, previously had done the same, excepting some national security positions, and the TSA is hiring only for front-line positions.
While final budget decisions are to be negotiated in the months ahead with Congress, a recent OMB memo on restructuring agencies and cutting federal jobs told agencies to assume that those proposals will be approved. It also promised quick consideration of early out and buyout requests, although it did not recommend either for or against using them.