NASA LaRC Strategic Leadership Council Response to Employee Survey

Status Report From: Langley Research Center
Posted: Saturday, March 26, 2005


March 25, 2005


Following the February 28 Town Meeting that shared the outcome of the senior leadership retreat, a survey was posted asking employees to comment on the event. Over 100 comments, questions and recommendations were received (survey results will be located in the "Hot @LaRC" section on the @LaRC main page through March).

This is the Strategic Leadership Council (SLC) response to that input. The first part of the response - "Recommendations Accepted" - addresses suggestions made in the survey. The second part - "Reponses to Questions, Comments" - follows up on feedback from employees as expressed in the survey.


The Meeting

  • Announce at least two days in advance unless circumstances require shorter time period
  • Try to avoid scheduling during lunchtime
  • Provide an agenda in advance when at all possible
  • Make announcements using the following:
    - @LaRC scrolling banner
    - @LaRC article in time to hit @LaRC Center email
    - CD COMM if possible
    - Exterior marquees
    - Meetings
  • Post the meeting notes to @LaRC
  • Periodically run surveys to get employee feedback and continue to improve the process based on the responses

Communication in general

  • Continue open and honest communication
  • Provide as much detail as possible about new information, including key points, schedules, and plans
  • Spend majority of the time providing new information as opposed to repeating what employees already have been told
  • Provide answers to rumors, frequently-asked questions When forming teams
  • Give all employees an opportunity to participate


Employee feedback about the Town Meeting ranged from direct questions to comments that the SLC believed should also receive a response. Not all comments and questions can be answered at this time as some areas are continuing to be worked. As a result the

SLC is responding to the following items:

  • Job fairs: why they are being held now
  • Reduction in Force: information about the A-76 and a potential Centerwide RIF
  • Future structure: skills and competencies
  • Promotions: status of promotions during and after transformation
  • Office of Human Capital Management: role at Langley
  • Becoming a teacher: how to get information
  • Transformation: new teams
  • SLC communications: improvements being implemented
  • Cost-saving ideas: suggesting them
  • Langley contributions: more positive exposure
  • Wind tunnels: potential closures
  • Budget reductions: summary
  • Rates and work force reductions: Center approach
  • Partners, contracts and customers: timely disclosure

Job fairs

Due to FY06 budget impacts, the Agency believes employees need the opportunity to explore options in planning their futures. Job fairs are one of many options being made available to the workforce. Job fairs allow employees to consider continued employment within NASA or private industry. It is important that employees are able to meet and discuss opportunities with potential employers so they have adequate time to make a decision. Job fairs are centered around positions available within NASA and private industry; they are not targeted to specific occupations. The response has been positive from employees participating in the fairs.

Reduction in Force

Employees will compete in any Reduction in Force action based on their retention standing. In the case of the Center's A-76 Study, an employee placed in the civil service Most Efficient Organization (MEO) under a change to lower grade action usually will be entitled to grade and pay retention. As the name implies, grade retention means that for pay and other purposes, employees will retain the grade held before the effective date of the change to lower grade. Grade retention lasts for two years, beginning with the date of change to lower grade and employees keep the higher grade even though working in a lower-grade position.

An employee's retained grade is considered his or her grade for most personnel management purposes during the two-year period with the exception of Reduction in Force. Title 5, Code of Federal Regulations (CFR), Chapter 1, Part 536 (Applicability of Retained Grade), prescribes that retained grade may not be used for Reduction-in-Force procedures. The position of record that an employee occupies must be used if a subsequent RIF becomes necessary. In that situation, retention registers would be rerun and employees would compete based on their retention standing at that time. An employee with lower retention standing would not displace any employee with a higher retention standing. More information can be obtained from the Office of Human Capital Management.

At this point we do not know how future reductions will be executed. The requirement for future Reductions in Force (RIFs) must be determined by a careful analysis of the funded work and supporting skills and competencies needed to accomplish the mission. That analysis must be further broken into the desired end-state in terms of organizational structure and corresponding positions. Then senior leadership must determine those organizational structures and positions that are no longer funded or needed to support the new organization.

Once these two analyses are completed they will form the basis or "triggering event" for any RIFs. At that point, the RIF process must follow basic retention procedures to determine how employees will be impacted. RIF is a very complex and unpredictable process that often impacts employees in unexpected areas. Therefore, it is premature to speculate on which areas will be "targeted" or "passed" over.

Future structure

As discussed in the Town hall meeting, a project has been initiated under Doug Dwoyer's leadership to develop the future organizational structure. A major feature of the restructuring is the movement of the Center to more of a "hybrid organization". A hybrid organization is a term developed by the NASA Organizational Models Evaluation Team (NOMET). NOMET was chartered by Mr. Jennings to study the implementation of recommendation 3-3 of the Aldridge Commission which was to have the NASA Centers convert to Federally Funded Research and Development Centers. NOMET recommended instead that the Centers evolve into hybrid organizations which retained significant Civil Service workforce (but less than they now currently have) and significant workforce in a partner FFRDC, University Affiliated Research Center, or Institute. Any Civil Service reductions will be based in part on the requirements of the new hybrid organization, as well as budget requirements. Clearly the Center will be required to maintain the Agency Core Competencies as part of the restructuring. Therefore, a significant focus in redesigning the Center must preserve the skills necessary to accomplish those competencies. The Civil Service portion of the Core Competencies will be linked to positions and subsequently knowledge, skills and abilities required to perform the functions in the redesigned organizations. As the restructuring work is accomplished it will define what positions and skills will not be needed for the new hybrid organization or to maintain the core competencies. Those positions and skills that are no longer needed will be the areas for reductions. Since the focus for the restructuring is centered on the Agency Core Competencies it will ensure the future LaRC is mapped to the Agency's workforce plans.


Once the A-76 related RIF action is completed, the Center will resume a normal career ladder promotion process. As was stated before the January 31, 2005 freeze, Langley must ensure promotions are made to positions that are funded and where the work supporting the higher levels will remain for the foreseeable future (e.g. through FY06), prior to processing the actions. Also, the Research and Development Classification Program (RDCP) process was reviewed by an external consultant this winter to ensure compliance with the intent of Office of Personnel Guidelines. Several recommendations were made to include the "shoring up" of the process prior to the last panel. A plan has been developed and approved by the key executive stakeholders. Session 9 of the RDCP process is scheduled to begin this summer. More information about the process will be released soon.

Office of Human Capital Management

The Office of Human Capital Management (OHCM) exists to provide Human Resources support to the Langley workforce. In the last year, OHC has had to work numerous challenges associated with the Center-wide reorganization, buyouts, and other areas. These circumstances have required difficult actions that may have given the impression that OCHM does not care about employees. The office, however, will continue to be fully committed to providing a fair, consistent approach in all areas of human resource management during these difficult times.

Becoming a teacher

A number of local universities offer a full range of educational opportunities, including teaching certification. Employees with such an interest may contact the Human Capital Office, which will provide contact information for the specific programs.


The Center Transformation Project (CTP) has begun holding meetings and has issued an Announcement of Opportunity to the Center to identify employees interested in supporting this activity. Separate teams under the CTP are being established to conduct a variety of strategic development, organizational design, business model assessment, communication strategy, and systems dynamics assessments in support of the Center's transformation requirements. The CTP will review the output of the Core Competency Team headed by Cindy Lee, the Office of Director Chief of Staff, as a starting point as well as inputs from the Center's Product Units. Among options being considered are working with non-federal strategic partners (e.g., universities or university alliances). Results of the CTP will lead to a smaller institution and be subject to approval from the Center's SLC and NASA Headquarters.

As to specific question about working with foreign companies or governments, employees should press forward with such opportunities through NASA Headquarters.

SLC communications

Many employees have expressed an interest in the minutes of the weekly SLC meetings. Every effort is made to post a draft version of the minutes within two to three days of the meeting. In some cases, delays could not be avoided. They were not intentional and are exceptions to the process of writing and posting the minutes.

The minutes are intended to inform the Center at large regarding current issues and decisions being addressed by the SLC. The SLC website also has a feedback capability to provide employees an opportunity for input. Each submittal is forwarded to all SLC members. In addition, the SLC will be implementing a pilot "Open Forum" program that will enable those interested to personally communicate with council membership at one meeting each month. This program will be launched on March 29. Details will be advertised widely at Langley.

It is hoped that through the posting of minutes and the SLC "Open Forum" sessions that the two-way communication channels will be improved. Suggestions provided via the SLC website or post-Town Hall surveys will be considered as potential ways to improve the council's internal communications.

Cost-saving ideas

Comments about potential ways to reduce costs are always appreciated. These inputs will be forwarded to those managing the implementation of planned reductions. All inputs will be seriously considered as the Center strives to reduce costs that impact Langley's ability to be competitive.

Langley contributions

Every effort should be made to communicate the value of Langley's contribution to NASA and the nation. The SLC communicates regularly with Headquarters about the accomplishments of the Center and their importance to the future of aeronautics, science, and space exploration. For example, NASA's Associate Administrator of the Aeronautics Research Mission Directorate, Victor Lebacqz, highlighted X-43 while speaking before a congressional subcommittee March 16. The Center has much to be proud of in its past and its potential role in the future of the Agency. All employees are encouraged to work through their organizations and the Office of Communication and Education to help identify opportunities to better highlight Langley successes.

Wind tunnels

The Langley wind tunnels are national assets. However, the Aeronautics Research Mission Directorate projects lower wind tunnel usage due to cuts in the Vehicle Systems Program, which has been a major customer. The current scenario does not take into account other Mission Directorate needs such as Crew Exploration Vehicle (CEV) testing for Exploration. Some of the Langley facilities, such as the Aerothermodynamics Lab, will be used by Exploration. At this point, however, the Exploration Mission Directorate has not explicitly requested use of that laboratory. Langley also has a significant number of reimbursable (non-NASA) tests planned for next year. Reimbursable work provides additional testing opportunities that will contribute to maintaining appropriate Center facilities. Langley has been marketing its wind tunnels and needs to continue to do so to keep the appropriate facilities viable. Not all facilities, however, will survive the current environment and budget scenario. It is difficult to let go of these tunnels because they have meant so much to the nation and to those who have worked many hard hours in them. However, the facilities that remain will be productive assets for the Agency and nation. The Center needs to work to make them the best they can be. Until it is known which facilities will remain, Langley needs to market the availability of all of them for collaborative and reimbursable work with public and private partners.

Budget reductions

The $300 million budget reduction from FY 04 to FY 07 resulted from major changes in Aeronautics, Science, and the cancelled Space Launch Initiative. The budget calls for the following major changes from FY 04 to FY 07:

  • Minus $171 million from elimination of the Space Launch Initiative
  • Plus $83 million from Exploration mission funding awarded to Langley
  • Minus $63 million in Science from major changes due to the descope of GIFTS and completion/flight of CALIPSO
  • Minus $150 million in aeronautics reductions and restructuring

Rates and work force reductions

All levels of personnel are being evaluated, including senior leadership positions, to ensure proper staffing levels for future Center operations. The senior leadership at the Center will reduce from a current Senior Executive Service (SES) level of 41 to 25, significant progress has been made toward the target reduction number. The Center is taking action to reduce service and overhead costs. Recently, Doug Dwoyer, the Center's Associate Director for Operations, chaired a team to recommend reductions to services and overhead. The team spent nearly three months studying Center operations and costs. The team recommended a target to reduce approximately $100 million dollars from services and overhead. These reductions help address the estimated budget changes and put Langley's fully burdened rate in the competitive range for proposal activities. These cost reductions will enable the Center to price a fully-burdened scientist or engineer in a competitive range from $220,000 to $240,000 per direct depending on the organization/technical area, as S&E rates vary for different technical areas. It may be slightly higher in FY 06 due to short-term financial challenges; however our goal is to get as close to the FY 07 figure as possible. Many, if not all, of these cost reduction proposals will be painful since change is never easy, and we have become accustomed to using many of the services provided by these funds. Many reductions will impact services from our business organizations and service operations. In addition, some of the proposed changes may require us to negotiate with our partners and stakeholders prior to implementation. However, in the end, lower cost rates will ensure Langley has a competitive position to compete and win new business opportunities. More information on the noted cost efficiencies is discussed in a CD COMM distributed to employees March 10.

Partners, contracts and customers

We will continue to provide as much information on budget changes as possible to the Center's partners, contractors, and customers. Langley management has initiated discussions with such parties to ensure they understand recent and projected financial changes.

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