NASA's Workforce Challenges to Be Exammined at House Science Committee Hearing

Press Release From: House Committee on Science, Space, and Technology
Posted: Monday, June 12, 2006


WASHINGTON - Tomorrow, the Subcommittee on Space and Aeronautics will hold a hearing on the National Aeronautics and Space Administration's (NASA) workforce strategy. The hearing will examine whether NASA is taking the steps necessary to ensure that it has the workforce to carry out its plans.

NASA is facing a critical period in ensuring that it has a workforce of appropriate size and with appropriate skills.  On the one hand, NASA has several major new undertakings related to the goal of returning to the Moon by 2020; on the other hand, to free up funds for that purpose (among other reasons), it is terminating the Space Shuttle program in 2010, reducing aspects of International Space Station research, and reducing the budget for aeronautics.  In addition, NASA never fully reassigned its workforce after canceling earlier projects, such as the Orbital Space Plane.  As a result of all these current and pending shifts, NASA estimates that it has  about 1,000 employees without sufficient tasks, but at the same time the agency faces a potential surge of retirements in the coming years. To handle its apparent short-term problem, NASA has been offering buyouts to employees, and may lay off employees in the future.  The NASA Authorization Act of 2005 (P.L. 109-155) forbids layoffs (officially, Reductions in Force, or RIFs) before March 16, 2007.

The Science Committee has taken steps in recent years both to help NASA put together an appropriate workforce and to review NASA's actions.  Most significantly, the Committee passed, and the President signed, the NASA Flexibility Act of 2004 (P.L 108-201), which gave the agency additional authority to offer recruitment and retention bonuses.  The law was based on language requested by NASA.  Also, the NASA Authorization Act of 2005 required NASA to develop an overall workforce strategy through fiscal year 2011.  This plan was released in April, and will be a focus of the hearing.  The plan has been criticized by the International Federation of Professional and Technical Engineers (IFPTE), NASA's largest union.  The Authorization Act also required NASA to submit a report describing its plans for the Space Shuttle workforce.  Finally, the National Academy of Sciences in late April released an interim report on NASA's workforce.  The report was completed before NASA's workforce strategy was released.

Specifically, the hearing will explore the following overarching questions:

  1. Does the NASA workforce currently possess the critical skills that will enable NASA to complete its goals in space and earth science, aeronautics, and exploration?
  2. Does NASA have a sound knowledge base upon which to base workforce decisions?
  3. Has NASA succeeded in attracting and retaining skilled employees?

  Tuesday, June 13, 2006
Subcommittee on Space and Aeronautics - Hearing
"The NASA Workforce:  Does NASA Have the Right Strategy and Policies to Retain and Build the Workforce It Will Need?"
10:30 a.m. - 12:30 p.m.
2318 Rayburn House Office Building (WEBCAST)


  • Ms. Toni Dawsey, NASA Assistant Administrator for Human Capital Management;
  • Dr. Lee Stone, Legislative Representative, International Federation of Professional and Technical Engineers, and an employee at NASA Ames Research Center;
  • Dr. David Black, Co-chair, National Academy of Sciences Committee on Meeting the Workforce Needs for the National Vision for Space Exploration; and President and CEO, Universities Space Research Association; and
  • Mr. John W. Douglass, President and CEO, Aerospace Industries Association.

The hearing charter, which provides detailed background information on the hearing, is available on the Science Committee website.  Member opening statements and witness testimony will also be posted to the website at the start of the hearing.

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