Phased Retirements Could Help Offset IT Brain Drain

Program promotes mentorship opportunities.

Amid rising concerns over a potential brain drain in the federal IT and cyber forces, agencies and employees may take heart in knowing they can soon take advantage of a program that will allow outgoing retirees to work part time to help mentor and train their replacements.

The Office of Personnel Management on Wednesday released proposed regulations to allow federal employees to take a “phased retirement,” enabling would-be retirees to work a part-time schedule while beginning to draw prorated retirement benefits. This will allow agencies to better capture the knowledge of these seasoned workers and foster mentoring relationships.

The phased retirements could be particularly helpful for the federal IT and cybersecurity fields, where the vast majority of the workforce is over age 40, with most being closer to the retirement age threshold. Many experts also have cited a need for knowledge transfer and mentorship opportunities in the IT and cyber fields.

The program is entirely voluntary, and no employee should feel entitled to a phased retirement, OPM said. Participation requires the consent of both the employee and the agency, and employees must meet several age, service and retirement requirements, according to the notice.   

This change to federal retirement laws has been years in the making. Under prior law, federal employees had little economic incentive to move into part-time work because their potential retirement benefits would often be equal to or greater than their part-time salary.

A phased retiree “would receive more income than he or she would earn by simply changing to a part-time work schedule or by simply retiring, while continuing to share knowledge and expertise with the next generation of federal leaders via mentoring and role-modeling,” OPM stated in the Federal Register.