Early Retirement in Forecast for Some Weather Service Employees

By Stephen Barr
Tuesday, February 14, 2006

In an effort to trim payroll costs, the National Weather Service plans to offer early retirement to about 1,000 employees, including staff members at the National Hurricane Center in Miami.

Greg Romano , a Weather Service spokesman, said the agency predicts that only 50 employees will take the offer, based on experience. The Weather Service does not plan to offer cash buyouts with the early-outs, which can reduce pensions under the old Civil Service Retirement System by 2 percent for each year a worker is short of 55.

The plan to offer early retirements awaits approval by the Office of Personnel Management, Romano said.

He emphasized that the agency could refuse early-retirement requests from employees who hold critical jobs, such as forecasters and hurricane experts. "We are looking at this very, very carefully to make sure people are in the right positions to save lives and protect property," he said.

Although only 5 percent of the eligible employees might take the offer, Romano said, it will help the agency trim labor costs over the next year. The Weather Service hopes early-outs will be taken by employees who are nearing retirement and at the top of their pay grades, allowing the agency to replace them with qualified junior staff members, he said.

Sen. Bill Nelson (D-Fla.) -- a member of the Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee, which oversees the Weather Service -- called the early-out plan "wrongheaded budget thinking."

Nelson said the agency -- "unbelievably" -- will be offering early-outs to a dozen of the approximately 40 employees at the Hurricane Center. That offer, he said, comes after he pushed in Congress to have four positions added to the center's staff to reduce the use of military personnel during the busy hurricane season.

"They better be very careful not to cut critical jobs," Nelson said, adding, "I think it is wrongheaded budgetary planning, and we're going to have to try to reverse it."

Romano said the Weather Service hopes to offer early-outs this fiscal year, which ends Oct. 1. The Weather Service has more than 4,500 employees.

To be eligible for an early-out, an employee must have completed at least 20 years of service and be at least 50 or have completed 25 years of service, regardless of age.

The Bush administration's fiscal 2007 budget request seeks an additional $43 million for the Weather Service and would bring spending to about $882 million. Some of the extra funding would go to strengthen the U.S. tsunami warning program, to enhance data buoys in the Caribbean and Gulf of Mexico and to improve telecommunications.

NSPS Update

The performance management system that the Defense Department will use to link job ratings for civil service employees to their pay raises is being modified "to ensure the system is clear and understandable," the Pentagon said yesterday.

The Pentagon has been developing workplace rules for Defense civilians for much of the last year, and officials recently announced that they would revise parts of the new personnel system based on feedback from employees and unions.

In an update on the Web site for the new National Security Personnel System, the Pentagon said its revision will focus on job objectives -- what is expected of employees -- to show how individual performance contributes to organizational goals. That link will be a primary factor in performance ratings, the Pentagon said.

The proposed revisions to the performance management system will be completed this month and will be shared with unions, the Pentagon said. Officials hope to launch the first phase of the system April 30. When complete, NSPS will apply to more than 650,000 employees.


Suzette Kern , chief financial officer for the Commerce Department's Economics and Statistics Administration, retired Jan. 3 after 30 years of federal service. She was active in the National Capital Area Chapter of the American Society for Public Administration, serving as board member, president and representative to the national council.

Milton Holzman , a computer specialist at the Internal Revenue Service, will retire March 17 after 30 years of government service.


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