Secretary Clough announces buyout opportunity

The Smithsonian has decided to exercise its authority to offer certain Federal employees the opportunity to request a voluntary separation incentive payment (buyout).  We also requested and received approval from the Office of Personnel Management to offer early retirement (“early-out”) to Federal employees.

By exercising these authorities, the Institution will be able to reshape the workforce to meet current and future programming needs as we continue to move forward in implementing the Strategic Plan.  This will also help us address critical Federal budgetary issues.

A buyout is a lump-sum payment provided to an eligible employee who resigns or retires voluntarily during a specified period established by the Smithsonian. The amount of the separation incentive is not discretionary. It is an amount equal to an employee’s calculated severance pay or $25,000, whichever is less.  Employees who wish to take early retirement without a buyout will be permitted to do so.

We are offering the buyout to Federal employees, except those listed below:

  • Animal Keepers (wage series 5001)
  • Building/Facilities Services Workers, Custodians & Laborers (wage series 5701, 3502, 3566)
  • Electricians (wage series 2805)
  • Engineering Equipment Operators (wage series 5716)
  • HVAC Mechanics (wage series 5301)
  • Maintenance Mechanics/Workers (wage series 4749)
  • Physical Security Specialists (series 0080)
  • Pipefitters (wage series 4204)
  • Police Officers (series 0083)
  • Security Guards (series 0085)
  • Utility System Repairers/Operators (wage series 4742)
  • Veterinary Medical Officers (series 701)
  • Motor Vehicle Operators (wage series 5703)
  • Federal senior level directors reporting to the Secretary, an Under Secretary, Assistant Secretary, or Deputy Under Secretary

It’s a big decision.

We are not offering the buyout to any Trust fund employees.

In addition to the position-related criteria, there also are additional criteria that individuals must meet to be eligible for the buyout and early-out:

1) An individual must have continuous employment with the Federal government for the last three years;

2) An individual must not be a re-employed annuitant;

3) An individual must not have received a buyout from the Federal government or the Smithsonian previously;

4) An individual’s current appointment must be a permanent appointment without a time limit;

5) An individual must not have received a recruitment or relocation incentive within the last 24 months;

6) An individual must not have received a retention incentive within the last 12 months;

7) An individual must not have received a final removal decision based upon misconduct or unacceptable performance; and

8 ) An individual must be willing to resign or retire during the designated separation window (Oct. 1, 2011 – Oct. 3, 2011).

In order to help individuals make the decision as to whether or not to request the buyout, the Office of Human Resources will prepare buyout and retirement annuity estimates for employees.  Employees may request those estimates during the period of May 11, 2011 through June 1, 2011, with the goal of providing all employees with the requested estimates by July 1, 2011.  Employees will then have until July 22, 2011 to decide if they wish to request a buyout.

Once requests are submitted by July 22, 2011, Human Resources will perform the final eligibility checks and notify individuals and unit leadership by August 1, 2011.  Under this plan, employees must retire or resign from the Smithsonian with an effective date of separation beginning on Saturday, October 1, 2011 but no later than Monday, October 3, 2011.

OHR will be issuing detailed information and instructions to human resources liaisons in the near future. These materials contain detailed information on eligibility for a buyout payment, retirement eligibility, deadlines for submitting documents, requesting buyout and retirement annuity estimates, forms, and other important information.  Additionally, these materials will be available on PRISM, as well as in the “What’s New” feature on the OHR website.

I want to emphasize that requesting a buyout is entirely voluntary on your part.  To help you make this important decision, the Benefits Specialists in OHR are prepared to offer retirement counseling and information necessary for you to make an informed decision.

Posted: 12 May 2011
About the Author:

Wayne Clough served as the 12th Secretary of the Smithsonian Institution from 2008 to 2013. He oversaw several major openings at the Smithsonian, including the Sant Ocean Hall at the Museum of Natural History and the reopening of the American History Museum.