EPA sets aside $12M for buyouts

Source: Kevin Bogardus, E&E News reporter • Posted: Friday, May 19, 2017

U.S. EPA is setting aside millions of dollars to offer its staff in early retirement and buyout packages.

An internal budget memo obtained by E&E News shows EPA has slated $12 million in incentive payments for the remainder of this fiscal year to encourage employees to leave the agency.

“Senior leadership made decisions to allocate the carryover funds set aside earlier this year to address agency’s priorities for incentive payments for workforce reshaping,” said the memo, which was signed by David Bloom, EPA’s acting chief financial officer.

EPA said last month that it would undertake what is known as the “early-out” program to comply with guidance from the Office of Management and Budget to reduce the federal workforce (Greenwire, April 19).

An EPA spokeswoman told E&E News the agency is looking to make the best use of taxpayer funds.

“Streamlining and reorganizing is good government and important to maximizing taxpayer dollars. This includes looking at developing opportunities for individuals to retire early. It’s a process that mirrors what the Obama administration EPA did about four years ago, to ensure that payroll expenses do not overtake funds used for vital programs to protect the environment,” EPA spokeswoman Liz Bowman said.

“We will offer both voluntary buyouts and voluntary early retirements. Both scenarios offer employees an incentive payment to leave the agency.”

Under the buyout program offered by the Obama administration, EPA spent more on buyouts to have employees leave the agency early. In total, 456 employees took the agency’s early-out offer, with the agency paying out roughly $16.2 million in buyout incentives and annual leave payments, according to an inspector general report.

President Trump has proposed to slash the agency’s budget for fiscal 2018. Under the White House proposal, EPA’s budget would be cut by 31 percent, or $2.6 billion, resulting in 3,200 fewer jobs at the agency.

The memo also notes that EPA has set aside $800,000 in carryover funds for travel for Administrator Scott Pruitt’s protective detail.

The agency has requested increased protection for Pruitt, asking for 10 full-time employees to provide a “24/7 security detail” for the EPA chief in an earlier budget document. Former EPA officials have said that would be a significant uptick in security compared with past administrators.