Commerce offers buyouts, early outs

The Commerce Department is offering buyouts and early outs to several agencies within the department and is waiting for approval from the Office of Personnel Management to authorize use of the incentives to more agencies and operating units.

Scott Quehl, chief financial officer and assistant secretary for administration, sent an email last week to Commerce workers notifying them of the department's intention to offer the incentives to eligible employees. Employees at the Patent and Trademark Office did not receive the email.

OPM has approved buyout and early out authority to the following bureaus and offices within Commerce:

  • Bureau of Economic Analysis
  • Economic Development Administration
  • International Trade Administration
  • Minority Business Development Agency
  • National Institute of Standards and Technology
  • National Telecommunications and Information Administration
  • Office of the Secretary
  • Census Bureau (headquarters)

Within the Office of the Secretary, employees in the following offices could be eligible for buyouts or early retirement: Administrative Services, Human Resources Management, Security, Financial Management, Program Evaluation and Risk Managements, General Counsel, and Public Affairs.

The buyout and early out authority is effective from Aug. 9 through Dec. 31, 2012.

While both are voluntary, buyouts and early outs are different. To be eligible for a Voluntary Early Retirement Authorization (early out), employees must have 20 years of service and be at least 50 years old, or have at least 25 years of service -- this applies to those covered under the Civil Service Retirement System or the Federal Employees Retirement System. Buyouts, or Voluntary Separation Incentive Payments, are cash incentives of up to $25,000 for employees and can be offered along with an early out.

"The VERA/VSIP authorities will allow the department the flexibility in managing the organization to support the existing and emerging mission-critical needs in a lean budget environment," the memo stated.

Several agencies have sought buyout and early out authority this year. Last week, the Education Department and Government Accountability Office announced plans to offer the incentives.

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