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Statement by Rep. Ken Calvert - Hearing: Does NASA Have the Right Strategy and Policies to Retain and Build the Workforce It will Need?

Status Report From: House Committee on Science, Space, and Technology
Posted: Tuesday, June 13, 2006

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Honorable Ken Calvert, Chairman, Space and Aeronautics Subcommittee, Committee on Science, U. S. House of Representatives

Opening Statement for Hearing on "Does NASA Have the Right Strategy and Policies to Retain and Build the Workforce It will Need?"

June 13, 2006

Good Morning. I look forward to hearing from our witnesses on this question that affects every aspect of the work that NASA wants to do does NASA have the right strategy and policies to retain and build the workforce it will need? It is vital that NASA have access to the critical skills necessary to lead America and the world in the areas of space, aeronautics and science. There are hard fiscal realities facing NASA, but just as important and disconcerting are the hard technical realities of which the agency will be reliant on its workforce to manage.

To respond to these challenges and to the requirement in the NASA Authorization of 2005, NASA released its Workforce Strategy in April. In the report NASA outlined those skills that will be needed to a greater or lesser degree over the next 5 years. It then outlined the strategies that NASA plans to use to meet these workforce demands. In addition, the National Research Council has also released an interim report from its committee on the workforce requirements for the Vision for Space Exploration that urges NASA to expand the scope of its workforce planning.

Although NASA's report has identified the obvious need for competencies in program management and systems integration, the report is far less specific on other skills needed or potential retention of such skills once identified. The National Academies, however, note that NASA does not currently have the expertise within its current workforce to support the many new developments planned. While many of these skills are readily available in the private sector, Dr. Griffin has made the argument that NASA already contracts out too much of its development work and needs greater in-house expertise to better manage its programs.

NASA faces workforce challenges in a number of areas in the next few years: retirement of the Space Shuttle in 2010; development of the Crew Exploration Vehicle (CEV) and the Crew Launch Vehicle (CLV); and the return to the Moon by 2020. Not only is the skill mix a critical issue, but the age distribution of the workforce is also troubling. Although the workforce mirrors the aerospace industry, it has a significantly smaller number of employees under 40 than the national workforce. It is these younger employees who will be needed to build and to operate its major exploration missions.

I have noticed that the NASA Civil Servant employment in the last 10 years has declined by more than 20%. Are we still keeping the skills we need with this decline? How will NASA prepare for its future workforce needs? What are the tradeoffs associated with completing work in-house at NASA vs. contracting them out? Has NASA been successful in recruiting and retaining those skills that it has needed to date? What are the critical skills that NASA needs to complete its goals in exploration, aeronautics, and space and earth science?

Finally, is NASA prepared for the great projects it has downstream? This workforce strategy is just a first step in creating and nurturing a workforce that bring about the Vision for Space Exploration. Now is the time to make sure that we have the policies and strategies in place to ensure we don't get held up mid-stream.

Today's hearing will allow representatives from NASA management, the NASA unions, and academia to discuss NASA's workforce planning and to place it within the broader context of the aerospace sector. We will look forward to getting these answers from our witnesses today. Thank you for your time to come to our Subcommittee to guide us through these complex and important challenges.

Mr. Udall, we look forward to hearing from you now.

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