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Witnesses Say That NASA Workforce Must Be Ready for Future Challenges

Press Release From: House Committee on Science, Space, and Technology
Posted: Thursday, May 17, 2007

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WASHINGTON Today, the Subcommittee on Space and Aeronautics heard from a panel of expert witnesses who addressed workforce challenges faced by the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), due to shifts in priorities in order to accommodate new mission challenges.

"The workforce is so vital to NASA's mission," said Rep. Ralph Hall (R-TX), Ranking Member of the full committee. "NASA must constantly evaluate its future needs, and be ready and able to take pre-emptive actions when necessary to ensure the right people are there to do the exciting and challenging missions, and continue to accomplish extraordinary scientific discoveries."

NASA is undertaking a sizeable shift of programmatic activities as the agency endeavors to carry out the President's Vision for Space Exploration. Challenges NASA will face in implementing the Vision include retiring the Space Shuttle by 2010, completing the International Space Station, developing the Orion Crew Exploration Vehicle and refocusing the aeronautics program. All of these challenges are at a time when NASA is facing a very tight budget environment.

Ms. Toni Dawsey, Assistant Administrator for Human Capital Management at NASA, acknowledged the upcoming workforce challenges, but was confident in NASA's plan of action. She said, "Implementing the President's Vision for Space Exploration clearly represents a great management challenge, now and for many years to come." She continued, "The issues associated with these transitions are complex and our planning, already well underway, will be an iterative, evolutionary process featuring tight integration between these efforts and NASA's ongoing Science and Aeronautics Programs."

Dr. David Black, co-chair of the Committee on Meeting the Workforce Needs for the National Vision for Space Exploration at the National Research Council, summed up the current workforce challenge, saying, "NASA has too few program and project managers and systems engineers with the requisite experience in human spaceflight systems development to successfully oversee Vision for Space Exploration projects."

To remedy this problem, Black recommended a solution that was echoed by number of the panelists, "that NASA implement a long-term strategy for hiring a steady supply of younger workers and subsequently retaining those workers as they rise to senior management positions so that a balanced distribution of age and skill is maintained throughout the agency's entire workforce."

Also of note at today's hearing, Ranking Member Hall officially recognized the appointment of Rep. Tom Feeney (R-FL) to Ranking Member on the Space and Aeronautics Subcommittee. Feeney replaces Rep. Ken Calvert (R-CA), who recently accepted a position on the House Appropriations Committee.

Also testifying at today's hearing were: Mr. John G. Stewart, Fellow at the National Academy of Public Administration and Member of the NASA Multisector Workforce Panel; and Dr. Lee Stone, Legislative Representative at the NASA Council of International Federation of Professional and Technical Engineers (IFPTE) Locals.

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