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Across the Maneuver Center of Excellence, a reduction of 35 civilian positions is slated for fiscal 2014. To lessen the impact on the workforce, two options have been opened to personnel. They are Volunteer Early Retirement Authority, or VERA, and Voluntary Separation Incentive Pay, or VSIP.
To be eligible for early retirement, employees 50 and older must have at least 20 years of service; those younger must have at least 25 years.
To be eligible for VSIP, employees must be U.S. citizens serving under an appointment with no time limitation for at least 12 months. Employees who accept the incentive are paid up to $25,000. Under both options, employees must be off Army rolls no later than June 1.
The civilian Corp is a critical part of the Army and a key contributor of the Armys generating force, said Janice Johnson, the MCoE G-8. The Army investment is a developed, trained and skilled civilian workforce. The return on that investment has ensured that the Army has the best equipped and best trained Soldiers in the world.
However, with the current fiscal climate, Johnson said, the future budget is uncertain.
Were taking reductions in our budget this year, and civilian pay is a big percentage of our cost, she said. We have to find a way to reduce those costs, as well as costs across all categories training, travel, contracts. And the VERA/VSIP is just one strategy for dealing with the reductions in our civilian workforce.
While a reduction of positions is a necessity, the VERA and VSIP options are a way to avoid a reduction in force. Through voluntary early retirement or separation, employees who choose to leave make room for individuals who might otherwise be negatively affected by the workforce reduction.
The last time the VERA/VSIP window was open in 2012, leaders were looking for 20 or more volunteers, but didnt reach that goal, Johnson said.
A survey of interest was sent out several days ago to all applicable units and offices. By Friday, employees must indicate if they are interested in VERA or VSIP.
Brigade commanders or directors take a look at them, then decide if they want to offer VERA/VSIP, Johnson said. They have to restructure or abolish the position, so they have to look at their mission and determine whether or not they can afford to do that. In some cases, they may say yes, and in some cases, they say no. But thats not the final decision the final decision rests with the chief of staff.
Heading up an office composed entirely of civilians, Johnson said she understands how they feel.
I can tell you that with the talk of the furlough and reductions, its very stressful, but the message that we want to (share) is that well take every measure to minimize the effects on our people while we continue to support our mission and unit readiness. Our employees are the biggest part of what we do, and we want to make sure that we take away as much stress as possible. So if we can avoid a reduction in force, thats our priority to avoid it.
And thats the priority of the MCoE commanding general, Maj. Gen. H. R. McMaster, as well, Johnson said.
He wants to make sure we take care of the civilian workforce, she said. Thats what the CG has directed us to do: take care of the staff.
Civilians can access the Army Benefits Center at https://www.abc.army.mil.