Shrinking the Workforce at EPA

The workforce at EPA will be getting smaller. $12 million has been identified for early retirement and buyout payments at the agency.

Perhaps this will qualify as “good news” for some employees at the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). After news articles about legislation introduced to abolish the agency, significant budget cuts, and staffing reductions, the bar for “good news” does not have to be very high.

This good news for EPA is that an agency memorandum dated May 17, 2017 was surfaced in Government Executive that notes $12 million has been allocated for VERA/VSIP incentive payments. The memo was issued shortly before the proposed budget from the administration is released later this week.  David Bloom, EPA’s acting chief financial officer wrote in the agency memo:

“Senior leadership made decisions to allocate the carryover funds set aside earlier this year to address [EPA’s] priorities for incentive payments for workforce reshaping….”

In plain English, VERA/VSIP  refers to early retirement options and buyouts.


VERA refers to a Voluntary Early Retirement Authorization. It is sometimes just called an “early out.”

The federal government’s term for a buyout is a “Voluntary Separation Incentive Payment (VSIP)”.  The amount of a buyout is usually the lesser of $25,000 or the amount of severance pay to which an employee would be entitled based on their length of service. Normally, $25,000 is the smaller amount.

A memorandum previously issued to EPA employees contained this statement:

The OMB guidance also requires all agencies to begin taking immediate actions on near-term workforce reductions. In light of this guidance, we will begin the steps necessary to initiate an early out/buy out (VERA.VSIP) program. Our goal its to complete this program by the end of FY 2017.

(See Buyouts, Early Outs and Federal Employees)

The latest financial document indicates the agency is following through and considering how to fund these programs to shrink the size of the agency’s workforce. EPA may be reducing its workforce by approximately 3,000 people. The Office of Personnel Management will have to approve the agency’s buyout/early out plan.

Bloom’s memorandum indicates the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) budget review for the fiscal 2017 spending plan “is expected to begin no later than May 25, 2017.” EPA has to submit its Enacted Operating Plan to Congress on June 5th. The memo notes that the EPA resource management staff “will need to prepare the data under a challenging schedule to adhere to the deadlines.”

As noted above, EPA has advised employees it plans to complete the current separation incentive program by the end of the 2017 fiscal year.

About the Author

Ralph Smith has several decades of experience working with federal human resources issues. He has written extensively on a full range of human resources topics in books and newsletters and is a co-founder of two companies and several newsletters on federal human resources. Follow Ralph on Twitter: @RalphSmith47