Status Report

Ames Federal Employees Union Email: Term and Permanent Employees at Ames

By SpaceRef Editor
August 23, 2004
Filed under

Date: Mon, 23 Aug 2004

From: Chris Knight

Organization: NASA Ames Research Center


Subject: Term and Permanent Employees at Ames

Dear Center Director Hubbard,

The Ames Federal Employees Union is concerned about recent
announcements made by Ames senior management with regards
to a policy of hiring term employees and conversion of
permanent Civil Service positions to term positions.

It is our understanding that term employees are hired with
a set period (e.g.. for four years) that can be renewed,
converted into a permanent position (via competition), and
terminated at will by management for any reason at any
time, whereas permanent employees are hired for career

A key conclusion of the CAIB Report states, “management
techniques unknowingly imposed barriers that kept at bay
both engineering concerns and dissenting views, and
ultimately helped create ‘blind spots’ that prevented them
from seeing the danger the foam strike posed.” [CAIB Report
Volume I, p170] We are strongly concerned that a shift to
term positions at Ames will radically alter the present
independence of the Civil Service scientists, engineers,
and managers who raise concerns about mission success and
safety without fear of retribution.

Further, a shift to term positions will diminish the
capability of Ames to attract and retain key personnel. The
nation’s best and brightest are far less likely to take a
position with NASA when offered a short-term position that
may end at any time. Offering an employee a permanent
position reassures that they are a valued asset to NASA and
illustrates a concern with the employee’s job satisfaction
and growth. While management has stated that they still
intend to retain key personnel, this implies that much of
the Civil Service workforce is not key to NASA’s mission.

Our concern is amplified when the Project Management and
Engineering Directorate (Code-P, created earlier this year
under your leadership) was the first to announce pending
buyout authority and a policy of term position hiring and
conversion. Please explain this when, in your center-wide
e-mail, you stated this organization was being formed to
obtain a critical mass of engineering and project
management talent as well as strengthen the Center’s
ability to compete for and execute future major Agency
hardware and software projects. Is the directorate not
competitive in its current form and not looking to hire a
critical and competitive Civil Service workforce for the

With the President’s Exploration Vision, NASA has set forth
long-term missions of manned and unmanned space flight over
the next decades. Establishing a workforce with a
short-term time frame of employment will drastically
increase turnover at NASA and we risk losing much of the
corporate knowledge and capability that will be essential
in realizing this vision.

Projected lower budgets are being used as a justification
for creating more term positions. This has obvious
implications of using conversions as a tool for downsizing
the Civil Service workforce. Contracts are the key tool for
staffing on demand; permanent Civil Servant positions
provide the long-term continuity for insuring that core
services are provided and scaling those services to meet
increasing or decreasing demands.

In conclusion, we are concerned that the projections show
Ames budget has dropped precipitously while NASA’s budget
has not been reduced. We hope you will explain to our
workforce the steps you are taking to increase the center’s
budget and correct this imbalance, your reasons for
choosing buyouts and conversions to address the budgetary
constraints, and your vision for the Civil Service
workforce at the center for the coming missions in the next


Suzanne Meyer, Vice President for Membership and (Acting)

Chris Knight, Partnership Council Co-Chair and (Acting)
Second Vice President for Negotiations

Roger Ashbaugh, Vice President for Publicity — Ames Federal Employees Union, IFPTE Local #30,

Cc: Bargaining Unit

SpaceRef staff editor.