On Tuesday, the Department of Defense became the latest organization to begin offering phased retirement to its civilian workers. Phased management allows full time employees start working part time and start drawing retirement benefits. It enables organizations to provide mentoring to younger workers while drawing on decades of experience and institutional knowledge that older workers typically have.
The DoD employs 1/3rd of the non postal federal workers in the US. With Tuesday's announcement, it became the largest organization to offer the program to its older workers.
No takers for phased retirement?
Phased retirement is a contentious subject in the US and there is little love lost for the program. The typical phased retirement program involves part time workers who will get half their salary for a year and half of their collected retirement benefits. During this period, they will have to spend at least 20% of their time on the job, training new workers.
The DoD's phased retirement plan will cover civilian employees in a number of defense related agencies, including employees in military departments, combatant commands and Office of Secretary of Defense. Only those are eligible who have earned a 'fully successful' rating on their most recent performance rating.
NARFE hails DoD phased retirement plan and calls for more federal agencies to adopt it
The National Active and Retired Federal Employees Association hailed the DoD announcement and said the program was long overdue in the DoD. Phased retirement was signed into law in 2012 by President Barak Obama but the response was lackluster.
A big reason is, the Office of Personnel Management took until 2014 to draw up the rules for the plan. Consequently, only 80 federal employees across 15 federal departments are on a phased retirement plan. About 7 workers have already completed the program since 2014.
Phased retirement is like New Coke, says former senior government functionary
ICF International Senior Vice President Jeff Neal, formerly chief human capital officer with the Department of Homeland Security, said that the program was sound on paper but it just hadn't caught up with federal workers.
He said that while it was a good thing that the government was looking at reform ideas, it is important to think whether ideas like the phased retirement program can actually be implemented and if there is a market for such programs.
He even went as far as to compare the program to New Coke, which also looked great but couldn't quite catch up. We can only hope that the Department of Defense's push will give new impetus to the dying program.