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AFEU concerned for health of Ames Research Center

Press Release From: Ames Federal Employees Union, IFPTE Local #30
Posted: Monday, June 5, 2006

Constellation assignments too thin; Aeronautics and Science cuts too thick

MOFFETT FIELD, CA The Ames Federal Employees Union (AFEU), International Federation of Professional & Technical Engineers local 30, which represents more than 1,100 scientists, engineers, and support staff at Ames Research Center (ARC), is pleased that ARC has been assigned the lead for Thermal Protection Systems for the Constellation program. Clearly, Ames possesses both the facilities and intellectual assets needed to lead that critical effort. We are also pleased that Ames has been assigned a number of responsibilities in Information Technology, Flight Software, Training, Safety, Computational Fluid Dynamics, Intelligent Systems, and Human-Machine Interactions. Finally, the AFEU is very pleased that Associate Administrator Horowitz assured us that the Lunar Crater Observation and Sensing Satellite project is 'absolutely safe' despite its transfer to a program that appears to be shifting focus.

The AFEU however remains concerned about the overall health of Ames Research Center. "SOFIA, our premier astronomy project, remains completely unfunded in the FY07 budget and faces a possible transfer elsewhere; Astrobiology still faces a 50% cut; and NASA's aeronautics budget still faces cuts of nearly a quarter," says Dr. Paul K. Davis, President of AFEU. "While these Constellation assignments are a step in the right direction, far too much of Constellation's activities remain centered, for political reasons, at Johnson Space Center, even though other NASA Centers have equivalent or better capabilities in certain key areas. We hope that the subordinated support roles in the current assignments will be allowed to grow into leadership roles for all of NASA's Fields Centers based on capabilities and merit. More importantly, the current assignments do little to keep NASA's Scientific Research and Technology Development capabilities healthy at Ames, or JPL, Glenn, Marshall, Goddard, and Langley for that matter. We are, however, pleased that Administrator Griffin said that Science will be incorporated in the Constellation plan 'when the Scientists say so'. We look forward to that happening soon, before NASA's in-house Science and Technology capabilities are allowed to atrophy."

The current Constellation assignments do not protect:

  • our Space Scientists, key explorers of our Universe;
  • our Earth Scientists, front-line guardians of our home planet from looming climate change;
  • our Life Scientists, critical enablers of any safe long-term human space presence on the Moon or Mars;
  • our aeronautics engineers, unsung heroes of our current and future safe and efficient airspace systems;
  • and the rest of our research and technology staff.

"Ames, and all NASA Centers, must remain institutionally and technically healthy to be able to contribute in the future. Three years ago, Ames had an annual budget of about $850 million, yet next year we will be facing a budget around $550 million. Today's assignments are too small to affect that picture much," says Davis. "This remains a serious concern for Ames and is paralleled at the other Research Centers."

For further information or inquiries, please contact Paul Davis (pres@afeu.org or 510-676-5477).

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