Order Code RS22206
July 22, 2005
CRS Report for Congress
Received through the CRS Web
Military Base Closures and Affected Defense
Department Civil Service Employees
Clinton T. Brass and Barbara L. Schwemle
Analysts in American National Government
Government and Finance Division
As a step in the 2005 round of the base realignment and closure (BRAC) process,
the Department of Defense (DOD) has announced recommendations to close or realign
a number of U.S. military installations. DOD estimated that the recommended
realignments and closures would eliminate approximately 18,000 civilian positions and
significantly restructure support functions. If the President and Congress proceed with
implementation of the BRAC process, there will likely be several implications and
options for affected DOD civil service employees, relating to reductions in force (RIFs);
several types of transition assistance; DOD’s National Security Personnel System
(NSPS); and labor-management relations. This report will be updated if major changes
occur in the BRAC process regarding DOD civil service employees.
BRAC and DOD Civilian Employees
On May 13, 2005, DOD announced recommendations to close or realign a number
of U.S. military bases in order to consolidate forces and save funds. The announcement
occurred as a step in the 2005 round of the base realignment and closure (BRAC) process,
as authorized by Congress in 2001.1 Specifically, DOD recommended closures and
realignments that the agency estimated would eliminate approximately 18,000 civilian
support positions.2 In addition, the DOD recommendations contemplated significant
restructuring and consolidation of support functions with potential implications for
affected civilian employees. Under the BRAC framework, realignments and closures
For more on the BRAC process and specific timing of steps in the 2005 round, see CRS Report
RL32216, Military Base Closures: Implementing the 2005 Round, by David E. Lockwood. A
BRAC “timeline” is located on DOD’s main BRAC Web page, available at [http://www.
U.S. Department of Defense, “Part 1 of 2: Results and Process,” Base Closure and Realignment
Report, vol. 1, May 2005, p. 4 (hereafter “DOD BRAC Report”), available at [http://www.
Congressional Research Service ˜ The Library of Congress
would begin if the President approves and transmits the list of proposed realignments and
closures, and if Congress decides to not pass a joint resolution of disapproval.
Transition Assistance for Employees
According to DOD, “[w]hen implementing decisions during the past four BRAC
rounds, the Department worked diligently to assist its military and civilian personnel in
transition ... [and] attempted to minimize involuntary separations of Defense civilians at
closing or realigning installations through a variety of placement, retirement, and federal
retraining programs.”3 As evidence of the success of these programs, DOD also stated
that “[e]ven though the Department’s civilian workforce has been reduced by 40 percent
since the first BRAC rounds began in 1988, less than 10 percent of the affected employees
were involuntarily separated.”4 For the current round, DOD stated:
One of the Department’s challenges at installations subject to BRAC decisions is the
fair and effective management of human resources. The closure of installations with
the potential for separating a large number of civilian employees presents major
challenges to commanders and human resource personnel. While these installations
will still have missions to accomplish, the employees will be stressed about their
careers and employment security. In this atmosphere, productivity will suffer and the
employees’ overall quality of life may diminish. The Department has a number of
mitigating placement, transition, and worker assistance programs to draw from....5
In order to assist with efforts to mitigate the impact of job separations (e.g., through
reduction in force) and otherwise help civilian employees with transitions, DOD
established a “BRAC Transition” website and created a brochure to assist civil service
employees (appropriated fund employees) and nonappropriated fund (NAF) employees.6
The website outlines several available resources, including job placement programs,
separation incentives, and various benefit and entitlement programs, including some from
other agencies.7 This report focuses on DOD civil service (appropriated fund)
DOD BRAC Report, p. 27.
U.S. Department of Defense, BRAC Transition, Assistance for DOD Civilian Employees, Base
Realignment and Closure (BRAC) Information (Washington: DOD, [May 15, 2005]), p. 1,
available at [http://www.cpms.osd.mil/bractransition] (at bottom, select “download brochure”).
DOD BRAC Report, p. 29.
For the website, see [http://www.cpms.osd.mil/bractransition/]. The brochure is the previously
cited U.S. Department of Defense, BRAC Transition, Assistance for DOD Civilian Employees.
NAF employees can include personnel at post exchanges or commissaries and are not considered
federal civil service employees.
For more information, see CRS Report RS22184, Military Base Closures: Redevelopment
Assistance Programs, by Baird Webel.
For information about transition assistance specifically for NAF employees, see the BRAC
Transition website, which provides customized information for civil service and NAF employees.
For more on NAF employee policies, see, for example, U.S. Department of the Army, NAF
Employee Handbook, Aug. 2004, available at [http://cpol.army.mil/library/naf/handbook/].
What Will Happen to Affected DOD Civil Service Employees?
If BRAC closures and realignments are ultimately implemented, there will likely be
several implications and options for affected DOD civil service employees.9 The sections
below briefly identify a number of them. As noted in DOD’s BRAC report, however,
“[c]oncerns about the implementation of BRAC decisions are numerous and based on
very installation-specific circumstances. For many of these concerns, sufficient
information may be available only after BRAC decisions are finalized and installationspecific implementation plans are developed.”10 Therefore, it appears that detailed
information about many of these implications or options will emerge only if, and after,
a BRAC implementation process were to begin.
Reduction in Force (RIF). Perhaps the most severe potential effect of BRAC on
affected employees could be a reduction in force (RIF). Under delegated authority from
the Secretary of Defense, RIF actions are approved by certain senior DOD officials.
Redelegation of the approval authority to the lowest practical level is authorized when
fewer than 50 employees are involuntarily separated through RIF, or when the RIF occurs
as a result of BRAC. RIFs within DOD may not commence until 45 days after Congress
has received the appropriate information about the action. Each employee affected by a
RIF must receive a specific written notice of at least 60 full days (not counting notice
delivery dates and effective dates) before the action becomes effective. The employee’s
labor representative is notified at the same time. When 50 or more employees in a
competitive area are being separated, the state dislocated worker unit(s), chief elected
official(s) of local government(s) where the separations will occur, and the Office of
Personnel Management (OPM) must be notified in writing. Except in specific situations,
RIF or other termination notices cannot be issued or made effective between December
15 and January 3. DOD’s proposed regulations to implement the National Security
Personnel System (NSPS, described in a later section) suggest a change to the RIF rules.
If a RIF were to occur at an installation before the NSPS regulations are finalized and
become effective, an employee’s retention standing in a RIF would be based on tenure,
veterans’ preference, length of service, and performance. Were a RIF to occur after the
regulations become final (and assuming the proposed change is accepted), in an
installation implementing NSPS, performance would precede length of service in
determining retention standing. Under both the current and proposed regulations, a
higher-standing employee could displace (bump) a lower-standing employee on the same
retention list.11 DOD is to address potential changes to the RIF process proposed in the
NSPS regulations to ensure that the rules are applied consistently across DOD
components. Within 20 days of a RIF’s effective date, an employee may appeal the action
For press coverage, see Stephen Barr, “Help and Hope for Workers At Risk in Base Closings,”
Washington Post, May 15, 2005, p. C02.
DOD BRAC Report, pp. 28-29.
The current regulations at 5 CFR §351.702(a) provide that generally displacement may occur
if the employee (1) meets the OPM standards and requirements for the position; (2) is physically
qualified to perform the duties of the position; (3) meets any special qualifying condition for the
position; and (4) has the capacity, adaptability, and special skills needed to satisfactorily perform
the duties of the position without undue interruption. Under the proposed regulations at 5 CFR
§9901.608(a), displacement may occur if: (1) the employee is qualified for the position,
consistent with 5 CFR §351.702, and (2) no undue interruption would result from displacement.
to the Merit Systems Protection Board. Several authorities (i.e., VERA and VSIP,
described below) are intended to reduce the number of involuntary separations.
Transfer of Function. According to DOD, if an employee’s organization is
realigned to another geographic location, the employee might or might not be offered the
opportunity to move with the work.12 An employee’s right of assignment depends on
whether the employee’s organization is being moved due to a “transfer of function.” As
DOD explains, a transfer of function “occurs when a function ceases in one location and
is moved to one or more other locations that are not performing that specific type of
work.”13 In such a case, non-temporary employees would have the right to move with
their work if the alternative at the losing organization were separation or demotion due
to a RIF. If a realignment were not a transfer of function, an employee would not have
the right to accompany the function to the new location. In such a case, DOD might give
employees the opportunity to volunteer to relocate with the organization. If, however,
such an employee does not volunteer, or volunteers but is not selected, the employee
would be subject to a resulting RIF action and might be eligible for transition assistance.
Voluntary Early Retirement Authority (VERA). Employees who are at least
50 years of age with at least 20 years of creditable service (or 25 years of service at any
age) may be eligible for early retirement. These requirements apply to individuals
covered by the Civil Service Retirement System (CSRS) and the Federal Employees
Retirement System (FERS). Annuities for CSRS employees are reduced by 2% a year for
each year the retiree is under age 55. Individuals serving under an appointment without
time limit and continuously employed by DOD for more than 30 days before an
installation’s reduction or restructuring was approved are eligible for VERA. Employees
who are involuntarily separated for misconduct or unacceptable performance, or who have
received a specific RIF separation notice, are not eligible for early retirement. VERA is
not an entitlement and may be offered to all employees or to specific groups of
employees, depending on the circumstances of the reduction or restructuring.
Voluntary Separation Incentive Payments (VSIPs). Employees who accept
a VSIP (also known as a “buyout”) agree to separate from the workforce voluntarily by
optional retirement, early retirement (under VERA), or resignation. Generally employees
must be U.S. citizens, have permanent appointments, and have at least 12 months of
continuous employment with DOD to be eligible for a separation incentive. VSIPs are
$25,000 or the amount of severance pay an employee would receive under the standard
formula, whichever is less, and are taxable. Individuals receiving an incentive payment
who want to return to employment with DOD within 12 months of separation or with any
federal agency within five years, must repay the full amount of the VSIP. Under a
program called VSIP Phase II, cash incentives may be offered to encourage employees at
installations that are not downsizing to resign or retire. This would create vacancies for
U.S. Department of Defense, “Base Realignment and Closure (BRAC) 2005 Frequently Asked
Questions,” question #17 for appropriated fund employees (hereafter, “BRAC FAQs”), available
Detailed information about transfers of function is available from U.S. Office of Personnel
Management, Restructuring Information Handbook, module 4, June 2002, available at
individuals who are registered for the Priority Placement Program and who may be
involuntarily separated because their installation is restructuring or closing.14
Job Placement Programs. Among the programs available to assist displaced
civilian employees in continuing their careers in other federal agencies are the Priority
Placement Program (PPP), Interagency Career Transition Assistance Plan (ICTAP),
Reemployment Priority List (RPL), and job exchanges.15 Generally, these programs
involve some degree of priority placement within a certain geographic or commuting area
and require the displaced individual to have a certain level of competency in order to be
placed. Each also has certain registration requirements and time limitations. NAF
employees are covered by a separate RPL and can be placed in civil service positions
under an interchange agreement signed by DOD and OPM. DOD employees whose work
is contracted out or whose bases are being closed must be given “the right of first refusal”
for vacant positions (i.e., environmental cleanup and restoration or security) by the
contractor retained to prepare an installation for closure or to maintain it after closure.
Retraining and readjustment assistance (including career counseling, testing, and
placement assistance) is provided to displaced federal employees under the Workforce
Investment Act, which is administered through state employment security agencies.
Benefits and Entitlements. For civil service employees who are separated by
RIF, transfer of function, or other displacement action, a number of “benefit and
entitlement” programs would be available for eligible employees.16 DOD commanders
and activity heads are authorized to use appropriated funds to provide certain assistance,
such as career transition training, to employees adversely affected by BRAC.
Outplacement subsidies could also be offered to other federal agencies to hire displaced
DOD employees through reimbursement for moving expenses. Employees who are
involuntarily separated may also be entitled to severance pay, extended employment for
retirement or health benefits, or temporary continuation of health insurance coverage,
among other entitlements and benefits.
National Security Personnel System. Implementation of DOD’s NSPS could
have implications in some respects for how DOD employees are affected by the BRAC
process.17 According to DOD, “[b]enefits such as health and life insurance, retirement,
thrift savings plan, annual and sick leave, severance pay and moving expenses are
untouched as a result of NSPS. Additionally, the Department’s primary tools for
transition assistance for its civilians, such as outplacement services, priority placement
and separation incentives, will be available to employees under NSPS. Eligibility for
Further details are available at [http://www.cpms.osd.mil/bractransition/Separation.htm].
Fact sheets are available at [http://www.cpms.osd.mil/bractransition/Job_Placement.htm].
Detailed fact sheets are available at [http://www.cpms.osd.mil/bractransition/Benefits.htm].
The NSPS was enacted as part of Title XI of the National Defense Authorization Act for
FY2004 (P.L. 108-136; 117 Stat. 1392, at 1621), and allows DOD to establish a new human
resources management system for the agency, notwithstanding a number of provisions of Title
5, United States Code, which establish various policies related to management of the federal civil
service. See CRS Report RL31954, DOD’s National Security Personnel System: Provisions of
Law and Implementation Plans, coordinated by Barbara L. Schwemle. For a DOD overview of
NSPS implementation plans and timing, see [http://www.cpms.osd.mil/nsps/overview.html].
those programs and services is not affected by NSPS.”18 Nevertheless, it is possible that
NSPS implementation might affect collective bargaining agreements and RIFs, with
attendant implications for employees, as discussed elsewhere in this report. It is not yet
clear, however, if or when the NSPS would be implemented for employees potentially
affected by the BRAC process. According to DOD, BRAC will not affect the “overall
implementation” of NSPS, and activities on the BRAC list will not automatically be
excluded from “Spiral One” of the NSPS implementation. However, “[c]omponents will
assess whether inclusion of a BRAC site in Spiral One is appropriate, considering such
factors as the anticipated time frame for the closure/realignment and impact on the
mission and the workforce.”19
Labor Management Relations.20 DOD employees are currently represented by
41 unions.21 While the Secretary of Defense has broad authority to take appropriate action
to provide for the more effective and efficient operation of the agency, including the
transfer and reassignment of any function or duty, the collective bargaining agreements
that were negotiated by the DOD and the unions may include provisions that have an
impact on the BRAC process and, therefore, DOD employees. For example, an
agreement may include a negotiated grievance procedure that could be invoked in
connection with a RIF action.22 Similarly, the collective bargaining agreement discussed
in National Federation of Federal Employees v. FLRA, a case involving non-professional
employees at the U.S. Army’s Letterkenny Depot whose activities were transferred
following a decision by the BRAC Commission, included a provision that permitted the
union to request bargaining within 10 days after receiving notice of a change in working
conditions (369 F.3d 548 (D.C. Cir. 2004)). Although a collective bargaining agreement
may include provisions that affect the BRAC process, such provisions could be nullified
by the implementation of the NSPS. A section of the proposed NSPS regulations would
make any provision of a collective bargaining agreement that is inconsistent with the
regulations or DOD implementing issuances unenforceable.23 Another section of the
proposed regulations states that management has no obligation to bargain over a change
to a condition of employment unless the change is “foreseeable, substantial, and
significant in terms of both impact and duration on the bargaining unit, or on those
employees in that part of the bargaining unit affected by the change.”24 Whether unions
have a significant role in the BRAC process would seem to depend on the provisions of
existing agreements, the final NSPS regulations, and other DOD implementing issuances.
U.S. Department of Defense, “BRAC FAQs,” question #28 for appropriated fund employees.
Ibid., question #27 for appropriated fund employees.
Jon O. Shimabukuro, Legislative Attorney, American Law Division, prepared this section.
70 Fed. Reg. 7556 (Feb. 14, 2005) (proposed NSPS rule).
See, e.g., Snyder v. Dept. of Defense, No. 00-3022, 2000 WL 380089 (Fed. Cir. Apr. 11, 2000).
70 Fed. Reg. 7596 (Feb. 14, 2005) (proposed section 9901.905(a)).
70 Fed. Reg. 7601 (Feb. 14, 2005) (proposed section 9901.917(d)(2)).