DOE lab proposes voluntary separation program to cut workforce

A multidisciplinary research institution is planning to shrink its workforce by up to 800 employees through voluntary buyouts as a way to avoid involuntary layoffs, according to its head.

In a Feb. 21 meeting with employees, Los Alamos National Laboratory Director Charlie McMillan said a reduced budget had contributed to the decision to slash between 400 and 800 workers through a voluntary program. The lab’s fiscal year 2012 budget is more than $300 million lower than 2011's, and future budgets are expected to remain stagnant or lower, he said.

The lab, which conducts strategic science on behalf of national security, is run by Bechtel National, the University of California, The Babcock & Wilcox Company, and URS for the Energy Department's NNSA.

“With a smaller workforce possessing the essential skills, we will be better positioned to deliver on current and future national security commitments,” McMillan said. “Allowing employees to apply for voluntary separation is a prudent step.”

The voluntary separation program excludes certain job functions, and some applications could be denied to maintain adequate skill levels. A team of senior managers will also continue to pursue other cost-cutting measures.

McMillan said he was “very hopeful” the lab could achieve the needed savings without involuntary layoffs and pointed to efforts in 2008 when it took similar action. More details about the program will be released after the National Nuclear Security Administration green-lights the project.

A similar kind of option to choose was announced in President Barack Obama’s 2013 budget, which included a “semi-retirement” proposal. It would allow retirement-eligible federal employees to work part-time while simultaneously collecting partial pension checks and earning partial retirement benefits for their part-time service, Federal Times reported Feb. 20.

About the Author

Camille Tuutti is a former FCW staff writer who covered federal oversight and the workforce.

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