NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

Who Will Do The Government's Work?

September 19, 2002

The General Accounting Office has been issuing dozens of studies calling attention to a grave problem: the graying of the 1.7 million-employee federal workforce and a tidal wave of expected retirements.

  • Overall, about one-half of all government workers will be eligible to retire in the next three years.
  • Only 7.5 percent of the federal workforce is under age 30 -- while 38 percent is over 50.
  • The implications for prosecuting the war on terrorism are considerable -- since more than 30 percent of people working for the Federal Bureau of Investigation, and the State and Defense departments will be eligible to retire by 2006.
  • The Nuclear Regulatory Commission will see about 77 percent of its senior executive staff eligible to retire by 2005.

Many of those approaching retirement were baby-boomers who answered Cold War-era calls to public service -- and who have since then risen to high positions in a host of critical departments and agencies.

Federal programs may only have worsened the prospects for recruiting replacements for the retirees. College graduates are shunning government service in favor of higher-paying jobs in private industry -- in part so they can pay off their college loans.

Source: Kelly K. Spors and John J. Fialka, "Filling a Public-Service Void," Wall Street Journal, September 19, 2002.

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