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Air Force offering buyouts to trim civilian employee ranks

KAISERSLAUTERN, Germany — The Air Force is preparing to pay up to $25,000 to potentially thousands of civilian employees willing to leave their jobs by the end of December.

The move, announced by the service this week, comes as military services face reduced funding in fiscal 2012 for their civilian work forces as part of a Defense Department effort to rein in military spending ahead of steep budget cuts.

The Army announced last month that, in addition to cutting about 27,000 soldiers, it planned to eliminate more than 8,000 civilian jobs.

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In August, the Air Force froze civilian hiring for 90 days, and prior to that, required that commands hire only one civilian for every two civilian vacancies.

In its latest effort to trim civilian payrolls, the Air Force will use a combination of buy-outs – or voluntary separation incentive pay – and early retirement options.

Buy-out payments are equivalent to an employee’s severance pay entitlement, up to a maximum of $25,000, according to information from the Air Force.

The Air Force is prepared to approve up to 6,005 voluntary separation incentive pay applications, officials said.

Employees being considered for buy-outs have jobs that might be affected by downsizing or restructuring, Air Force officials said, without elaborating on which jobs those are.

Those employees have already received what the Air Force calls “surveys” identifying them as being eligible for a buy-out, early retirement, or both, and asking if they’re interested in putting together a separation package, Air Force officials said.

“It is optional to fill out the survey,” said U.S. Air Forces in Europe spokesman Mike Kucharek.

But employees in oversaturated career fields who decline an early out run the risk of being part of involuntary lay-offs later on, Kucharek said, if the Air Force doesn’t get enough civilians to agree to leave their jobs.

Maj. Joel Harper, an Air Force spokesman at the Pentagon, said the Air Force had planned to grow its civilian work force to about 200,000 positions in fiscal 2012.

“As result of fiscal realities and the secretary of defense-mandated efficiencies, which the Air Force supports, we’re going to be at approximately 180,000,” he said Friday.

USAFE has about 2,350 civilian employees throughout Europe, not including local nationals or nonappropriated fund staffers, Kucharek said.

svanj@estripes.osd.mil

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