The Environmental Protection Agency is awaiting a green light for a significant early-out program, according to agency documents and a leader at one of the unions representing EPA workers.
The proposed offer, which would combine a standard early retirement package with buyouts worth up to $25,000, aims to trim about 1,000 employees, said John O’ Grady, president of the American Federation of Government Employees local that represents many EPA staff in the Chicago area. While the proposal is not agency-wide, it would affect 19 offices and locations around the country and target staff at the GS-13 through GS-15 levels, O’Grady said, adding that Office of Personnel Management approval is expected by the end of next week.
Bob Perciasepe, the EPA’s deputy administrator, could not be reached for comment Friday. But in an email to employees last month, Perciasepe said that early-outs “can be used to realign our workforce to meet changing mission requirements and move toward new models of work.”
Hiring restrictions, such as filling only one of every two or three vacancies, have been both difficult to manage, Perciasepe said, and challenged EPA’s ability to attract new talent, build staff diversity and develop skills needed to do its job “of protecting human health and environment.”
The early-out plan was previously reported by Inside EPA and Greenwire.
EPA has been hard-hit by budget cuts in recent years. Under the recently signed fiscal 2014 spending bill, the agency will get $8.2 billion, or almost two percent less than last year. As of September, its workforce numbered about 17,000, down from 18,750 two years earlier, according to OPM statistics.
Those taking the looming early-out offer will have to exit by April 4, O’Grady said. Although those that remain will be expected to do more work, “I don’t think we have that kind of slack anymore,” he said.
“What doesn’t get done – that’s really the question that should be asked.”