Fed retirements on the rise

Federal agencies can expect to lose more employees to retirement over the next five years, according to a recent General Accounting Office report, which evaluated the status of 24 major agencies.

As far as technology-related jobs go, 30 percent of computer specialists, 38 percent of telecommunications specialists and 53 percent of program managers will be eligible to retire as of the end of fiscal 2006, according to GAO. However, actual retirements are expected to be about 14 percent of computer specialists, 20 percent of telecom specialists and 30 percent of program managers.

Overall, GAO estimates that by 2006, about 31 percent of the agency employees working in 1998 — or 493,000 people — will be eligible to retire. And GAO forecasts that through the end of 2006, about half of the eligible employees — 236,000, the equivalent of 15 percent of the 1998 workforce — will actually retire. This 15 percent retirement rate is higher than the actual rate of 11 percent for fiscal years 1991 through 1998.

In fact, the number of employees retiring will be nearly the same as the decrease in employees during the downsizing of the 1990s, which was problematic because it was done without much forethought, GAO said.

Agencies must act promptly to ensure that they have the skilled workers they need to deliver services and products to the public, GAO said. In this case, agencies can plan better for what they know is coming. "Managing the effect of federal retirements on an agency's capability to accomplish its missions is an important part of workforce planning," the report said.

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