www.huh?/Facts and Figures for Federal Employees
By Doug Gillert
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, March 31, 1998 Downsizing. Reduction in force. Base closures. Outsourcing. Privatizing. Pay comparability. Retirement income. Promotion opportunities. Health benefits.
Whether you're new to civil service or have been around as long as my editors, these are words and terms that will affect you as long as you remain on the federal payroll.
It isn't easy keeping up with the many changes occurring throughout the federal government. Fortunately, the Internet provides hundreds of sites on the World Wide Web that can help you keep informed. I find the following web sites especially helpful:
The Department of Labor Employment and Training Administration provides information and assistance for employers and employees. Hypertext links take you to scores of related sites dealing with training, employment, unemployment compensation and other useful topics.
"Planning Your Future -- A Federal Employee's Survival Guide" is a sub-site of the Department of Labor Employment and Training Administration. Here, you'll find detailed information on RIFs and furloughs, buyouts, transition assistance, financial management, health and stress management, and a list of organizations and contacts.
I like what the authors of this site say about their objectives: "Many of us assumed that we would spend our entire careers in federal service," they write in a mission statement, "but over the next few years, many of us are facing a future where we will no longer be working for the government."
Despite the downward trend in opportunities for federal civilians, the authors believe federal employees can control their own future. "As individuals we will each need to choose how we will face an uncertain future," they advise. "Our goal is to give you -- our colleagues -- the information you need to make the choices that are best for you."
The Thrift Savings Plan web site describes the plan's features, rates of return and other current information about the federal 401(k). There's a calculator that can estimate your career earnings. You also can access your account if you have the right software and browser setup on your computer (details provided).
If you don't know it already, you need a Personal Identification Number to access your account, transfer amounts from one fund to another, or request a loan. This site provides the telephone number for the ThriftLine, which is where you call to get a PIN and also where you conduct any of the above-described transactions. I'll be nice, however, and give you the number: (504) 255-8777.
This is the home page of the Office of Personnel Management. From here you can link to any of OPM's other useful sites, including general schedule salary tables, nationwide job vacancies, forms and publications.
This is OPM's site for the Federal Employees Health Benefits Program. Especially helpful is a list of answers to frequently asked questions, and information on filing disputed claims or reporting health insurance fraud.
Not every federal job vacancy gets listed here, but hundreds do. And, in many cases, you can apply for a job on-line. USAJobs offers a list of the hottest current openings, and a link to "Planning Your Future -- A Federal Employee's Survival Guide."
Skip over the initial offerings in this site provided by the Defense Finance and Accounting Service and go directly to "Money Matters." Here, you'll find all civilian pay charts with locality tables; retired and annuitant pay and travel and transportation pay tables.
If you're interested in other pay matters, this is the place to go for the latest news, directives and references of the defense pay system.
Don Mace's FEDWeek has as its motto, "Putting Federal Employees and Retirees First." This thorough and very user-friendly site offers a weekly newsletter on line and by e-mail. Here, you'll get information about every aspect of the federal employee program –- from pay and promotions to retirement and survivor benefits to legislation and key court decisions affecting your federal career and benefits.
The e-mail feature is particularly nice if you want to automatically receive each week's newsletter without asking. And you can get both at work and home.
DefenseLINK may not deal directly with federal civilian careers, but if you're in the Department of Defense, it's a must stop for current information about DoD and the military. This site provides links to every service branch, defense agency and major command, plus news releases, fact sheets and other information about the federal government's largest civilian employer. It also links you to our site, the American Forces Press Service, at www.dtic.mil/afps, where you'll find news, feature stories, photographs and art for and about service members and DoD civilians.
I recommend you bookmark these and related regional, local and service branch-specific sites and visit them regularly. Collectively, they provide a good information road map to keep you on course in your federal career.
Questions or comments? E-mail email@example.com.
NOTE: Joint Ethics Regulation (DoD 550.7-R, section 2-301) spells out legal and illegal use of federal communications resources while on the job. In general, the restrictions that guide office telephone use also govern Internet use. See your supervisor or local computer policy experts for details.