Press Release

House Science Committee Chairman Committes to Action on NASA Workforce Problems

By SpaceRef Editor
July 18, 2002
Filed under ,

WASHINGTON, D.C. – House Science Committee Sherwood Boehlert (R-NY) pledged
today, “to move forward with some proposals that would ensure that NASA has
the people it needs.” The Chairman’s statement came at a Space Subcommittee
hearing on NASA’s workforce problems.

“With the expected retirement bulge and competitive market for top
scientists and engineers, NASA may be left without the workforce it needs in
the coming years,” said Chairman Boehlert. “That’s a situation we must
avoid. NASA has to have the ‘cream of the crop’ as it did at its
inception.”

Space Subcommittee Chairman Dana Rohrabacher (R-CA) added, “I’m pleased that
Administrator O’Keefe is making progress in getting NASA back on track. It
is critical that NASA be an agency of innovators, bold thinkers, and hard
workers.”

NASA Administrator Sean O’Keefe testified on the plan NASA has submitted to
Congress to invest in the human capital the agency needs to successfully
complete its mission. “Today, NASA faces an increasing management challenge
in attracting, hiring and retaining the talented men and women who…will
help mold the future of our Nation’s aeronautics and space programs,”
O’Keefe said.

NASA’s age 60+ scientists and engineers outnumber the under-30 workforce
3-to-1, and approximately 25 percent of NASA’s S&E workforce is eligible to
retire within the next five years. National trends in the reduction of
science, math and engineering (particularly aerospace engineering) students
have contributed to NASA’s workforce problems. Moreover, NASA faces serious
knowledge gaps in key areas such as nanotechnology, propulsions systems and
information technology.

NASA presented legislative proposals to help combat the workforce problems,
including a scholarship for service program that was unanimously supported
by Members and witnesses. Other proposals include an industry exchange
program, enhancing the Intergovernmental Personnel Act, streamline hiring
authority for critical needs, and early retirement options.

David Walker, head of the General Accounting Office said, “To put NASA on a
better footing to fulfill its vision, the agency is taking on a major
transformation aimed at eliminating stovepipes, becoming more integrated and
results oriented, and reducing risks while working more economically,
efficiently, and effectively.”

Mark Roth, General Counsel of the American Federation of Government
Employees, criticized NASA’s plan saying, “the proposals contemplated in
this legislation have been presented elsewhere as governmentwide changes,
and have been largely rejected on the grounds that they undermine merit
system principles, that they would exacerbate the federal government’s
so-called ‘human capital’ crisis, and that they would create serious
conflicts of interests between private sector interests and the public
good.”

Hearing testimony and an archived web cast of the hearing can be found on
the Science Committee web site at http://www.house.gov/science.

SpaceRef staff editor.