Federal Employee News - TSP Update - image: NASA Astronauts, hotshots, and stock graph

NASA Accepting Astronaut Applications, TSP’s I-Fund’s New Index, and More Federal Employee News

A round-up of federal employee news revolving around the world of US federal government employees and their retirement benefits. This article reviews the recent graduating class of NASA astronauts, provides a status update on TSP’s new index for the I-fund, and we’ll take a look at the shortage of wildland firefighters working for the National Forest Service (NFS).

NASA Astronauts

On March 5, the 2021 class of NASA astronauts officially graduated from the program. 10 of the 12 individuals are now eligible for flight missions. Two notable local graduates include Andre Douglas of Chesapeake, VA and Chris Williams from Potomac, MD. Also on March 5th, NASA opened up the application process for the next class of potential astronauts. The previous time astronaut applications were open, over 12,000 entries were submitted.

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Any US citizen can apply for the position with this link until April 16th. The starting annual salary is listed as $152,258 with the pay scale and grade coded as “AD 00.” Learn more about the Astronaut Corps at NASA.

TSP’s I-Fund Switching to New Index

Back in November, TSP confirmed the I-Fund’s underlying index will be changing. The current index, the MSCI EAFE index, invests in roughly 800 large and medium-sized companies from 21 developed countries, covering about 55% of all non-US markets. The new index, the MSCI World ex US ex China ex Hong Kong, covers about 90% of all non-US markets, expanding to 5,000 large, medium, and small companies from developed countries and 23 emerging markets. The transition is taking place this year and the I-Fund’s investment managers will be strategically buying and selling securities, making the index switch a gradual process. The timing of the purchase and sale orders will not be disclosed to the public as it could give some investors an unfair advantage similar to inside trading.

Shortage of Wildland Firefighters

Federal Employee News Update: The NFS currently employs more wildland firefighters than any other agency with 11,000 on the payroll, but one-third of them are temporary. Most work between the months of April and October. Their best shot at getting a permanent position is to move near one of the NFS’ nine regional offices or to leave the “fire line” to attain a Master’s degree in forestry. There was also an alarming 45% attrition rate between 2021 and 2023 and the shortage of these firefighters has real consequences – including the death of five people during a 400,000 acre blaze that occurred this past Labor Day weekend in Lionshead, Oregon.

The amount of land where the federal government fought fires quadrupled between 1993 and 2021, meaning the shortage has hit when these workers are needed the most. The nation’s federal wildland firefighters include approximately 450 smokejumpers, people who parachute into remote locations to battle early-stage wildfires. There is also an elite group known as ‘hot shots’ who go deep into the wilderness with chainsaws to deplete fuel on the edge of wildfires to prevent the flames from spreading out-of-control, which is what happened at Lionshead.

Two major problems are exacerbating the firefighter shortage at the federal level. One – the pay is not competitive despite a temporary pay boost enacted by the White House. To quote an NFS spokesperson, “It is accurate to say the Forest Service has lost firefighters to better paying jobs.” In 2021, one smokejumper made $43,000 that year, but the base salary was less than half of that. Most wildland firefighters rely on hazard pay and overtime pay, working 700 to 1000 hours overtime every year. The second reason for the shortage is health. Evidence is emerging that suggests residential firefighters are less susceptible to lung cancer and that the percentage of wildland firefighters with lung cancer is set to grow from 8% to 43% as wildfires become more destructive. The physical and emotional demands of the work is taxing on their health. It was also reported at 78% of wildland firefighters were binge drinkers at some point during or after their career.


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**Federal Employee News written by Benjamin Derge, Financial Planner, ChFEBC℠ The information has been obtained from sources considered reliable but we do not guarantee that the foregoing material is accurate or complete. Any opinions are those of Benjamin Derge and not necessarily those of RJFS or Raymond James. Links are being provided for information purposes only. Expressions of opinion are as of this date and are subject to change without notice. Raymond James is not affiliated with and does not endorse, authorize, or sponsor any of the listed websites or their respective sponsors.

Federal Employee News - TSP Update - image: NASA Astronauts, hotshots, and stock graph

Federal Employee News : TSP Update, NASA Astronauts, and Firefighter Shortage