Chairman Wolf Gives Green Light for Civil Service Layoffs
SILVER SPRING, MD – Only six months ago, President Bush signed the NASA Authorization Act of 2005 into law, which passed both the House and Senate without dissent, a stunning endorsement of NASA's missions in Aeronautics, Science and Space Exploration. This law calls for a reinvigorated budgetary commitment to NASA, commensurate with the awesome new tasks and responsibilities borne by the Agency and its employees. Late last night however, the House of Representatives passed HR 5672, The Fiscal Year 2007 (FY07) Science, State, Justice and Commerce Appropriations bill, embracing a cut to NASA's overall budget below the President's already inadequate budget proposal.
The bill's Aeronautics budget of $824.4 million incorporates a whopping 14.3% decrease compared to that approved by the Authorizers and is 9.6% less than last year's appropriation of $912.3 million. The bill's Science budget of $5,404.8 million also falls short, being 3.4% lower than the FY06 appropriated level and 7.2% below from that spent in FY05.
"While IFPTE appreciates the decision to increase NASA's Aeronautics and Science appropriations slightly over that proposed by the President, these half-measures, funded largely by cuts to important technology research and development programs, still leave NASA at serious risk," said Gregory Junemann, President of the International Federation of Professional & Technical Engineers, (IFPTE), NASA's largest union.
"Large cuts to NASA's Aeronautics programs have been repeatedly rejected by Congress in past years. Yet this year's Aeronautics cut ignores NASA's key role in maintaining America's leadership in aeronautics R&D as well as U.S. economic competitiveness. At a time when Europe is investing heavily in this area in an overt attempt to dethrone us here in the United States, it is prudent to remind our leaders in Congress and the White House not to abdicate their responsibility to the flying public and to the U.S. aviation community to keep NASA's aeronautics R&D capabilities second to none.
"NASA's Administrator rejected cutting 'one thin dime' from NASA's Science programs last year. Yet we are now seeing unwise short-term expedience pilfer Science programs to pay for unfunded mandates to accelerate hardware development projects. This is harming both the taxpayer's return on science investments made over the past decade, as well as the hardware programs improperly accelerated to the point of simply imitating 25 year-old designs.
"Most troubling is the bill's implicit endorsement of NASA's current workforce planning activities. On June 13th 2006, IFPTE testified to the House Space and Aeronautics Sub-Committee and presented irrefuted evidence that NASA's Human Resources workforce projections of so-called "uncovered capacity" are deeply flawed and cannot be used to support intelligent workforce planning decisions. Chairman Wolf's decision to nonetheless embrace NASA's faulty data and to incorporate language that gives a green light to an ill-conceived Reduction-In-Force in FY07 is regrettable.
"The cynical scapegoating of its dedicated civil-service workforce is causing NASA to drive its senior technical staff into early retirement and to scare away its young talent. This misguided human capital strategy will harm the Agency's ability to recruit the best and brightest new talent for years to come. It will make it very tough to encourage young scientists and engineers to view NASA as a smart career move and even tougher to encourage younger Americans to view science and engineering as good education choices. We at IFPTE are hopeful the Senate appropriators see the weaknesses in the House bill and act to correct them."
To view the IFPTE Workforce testimony, please visit www.ifpte.org.