Federal agencies anticipating major and minor RIFs (reductions in force) this summer and next year expect to have a pretty good idea later this month who will be going out the door.

Guess-estimates (and they are just guesses) as to the impact of the RIFs in metro Washington, which has 350,000 federal workers, range from a conservative couple of hundred to dire predictions that up to 30,000 local feds (that would be nearly 1 of every 10 here) will be getting a U.S. version of the pink slip. The truth is somewhere in between, but nobody knows just where.

Department of Transportation, with 10,000 workers have (and about 60,000 others nationwide), is expecting a RIF of about 1,500 this year. At the same time, DOT will be hiring about 800 people to prevent a "workforce imbalance" resulting from heavy normal turnover in the clerical ranks.

Housing and Urban Development has asked its headquarters office and regional units to report back by Friday as to the impact of budget and program cuts on the staff. HUD is also facing a workforce imbalance, which is typical of federal agencies under hiring freezes or in RIF situations.

HUD, for example, is over its new personnel ceiling in some of its program areas, such as housing and community planning, but under its ceiling in other areas not due for job, fund or program cuts. HUD remains under a self-imposed hiring freeze, and it has barred most permanent reassignments pending a check of its budget, personnel and RIF outlook.

Health and Human Services, Commerce and General Services Administration are also anticipating RIFs, but the numbers haven't jelled yet.

As reported here May 7, RIFs are coming for the National Bureau of Standards, Labor Department, Environmental Protection Agency, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, Public Health Service and Community Services Administration.

Some agencies will be hiring people even as they are RIFfing workers. The Office of Personnel Management has urged departments to go slow in hiring until they can take care of their own people facing RIFs or qualified workers from other agencies. There is a rush to get on at the Defense Department. Many workers in agencies facing RIFs believe that holing up in the Pentagon will make them more fire-proof.

Attrition is down in many agencies, mainly because of uncertain economic conditions and the fear of RIFs. When the government stops hiring, or starts firing here, many people who would normally retire hand on to their jobs.

HUD, for example, normally has a 1 percent attrition rate. But that has been cut in half (through January, February and March) as eligible workers who could be expected to retire, hang on.

Agencies facing RIFs are planning to ask the Office of Personnel Management for permission to allow selected workers in specific grades, jobs and geographic areas to retire on early-out. In an early-out situation, which must be cleared by OPM, designated employes can retire on immediate pensions if they are age 50 with 20 years service, or at any age with 25 years service. They take an annuity cut for each year they are under age 55, but many are anxious to go.