Defense Department officials said Monday that up to 6,005 civilian employees across the Air Force will be offered incentives to voluntarily separate from civil service.
An additional – but unspecified number – will be given early retirement clearance. Participants in the two programs must agree to leave the Air Force by Dec. 31.
For several weeks the Air Force has been asking eligible civilian workers to apply for Voluntary Early Retirement Authority and Voluntary Separation Incentive Pay programs. Monday’s announcement did not indicate how many civilian workers had expressed interest in the programs.
How the actions will impact the 15,000 civilians at Robins Air Force Base is not immediately clear although more than 2,000 expressed interest in a previous survey earlier this year.
Maj. Gen. Sharon K.G. Dunbar, Air Force director of force management policy, said the goal of the two programs is to reduce the anticipated impact of fiscal year 2012 funding cuts. The new fiscal year kicks in Oct. 1.
“Complying with lower civilian funding levels requires adjusting the size of our civilian workforce,” Dunbar is quoted in the Air Force press release. “These voluntary programs will also help generate flexibility to balance positions with mission priorities.”
Next year’s budget will hold civilian manning at fiscal year 2010 levels, the press release indicated, eliminating nearly nine percent in planned growth for the Air Force civilian work force.
The VSIP program offers financial incentives for employees to voluntarily separate from civil service. The payment is equivalent to an employee’s severance pay entitlement up to a maximum of $25,000.
According to the Air Force announcement, employees eligible for voluntary early retirement must be at least 50 years old with 20 years of creditable service or have 25 years of qualifying service at any age.
Officials indicated that the VERA/VSIP actions will be targeted to job series that “may be affected by downsizing or restructuring.”
Employees who apply for VERA or VSIP “make a commitment to separate by Dec. 31 if their application is approved,” the announcement indicated. The commitment cannot be withdrawn except for extreme hardship or extraordinary circumstances, the notice added.
“We’re grateful for the immense contributions of our civilian workforce and we are committed to providing support through the changes ahead,” Dunbar said. “We’ll move through these changes and challenges together as a team.”
Air Force already implemented a 90-day hiring freeze in August. That effort, along with VERA/VSIP, is geared to “reduce the size of the civilian workforce and generate vacancies for permanent employees whose positions may be restructured, transferred or eliminated,” the general stressed.