Large Budgetary and Personnel Cuts Lay Ahead for NASA Goddard

By Keith Cowing
November 28, 2005
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Large Budgetary and Personnel Cuts Lay Ahead for NASA Goddard

According to a briefing given just before the Thanksgiving holiday, a large budget decrease – and large job cuts – lay ahead for NASA Goddard Space Flight Center (GSFC) located in Greenbelt, Maryland.

GSFC Center Director Edward Weiler held a meeting with GSFC contractor representatives last Wednesday. Among the topics discussed was the impact of budget decisions on the contractor workforce.

According to sources present at the meeting, Weiler said that there will be a $700 million cut in FY 2006 funds that had been expected at GSFC. The cuts the result of decreases in exploration and science cuts as well as reimbursable budget item decreases.

“There will be 500-1,000 fewer jobs in Maryland” Weiler told the attendees.

In a memo to NASA management dated 14 November 2005, NAS Administrator Michael Griffin made it very clear that he needs to reduce the number of employees at NASA. A series of buyout offers are currently in effect across the agency wherein employees voluntarily take a lump sum financial payment and retire or leave the agency in the next few weeks.

Griffin made it very clear, in an underlined passage at the opening of the letter that “These [buyouts] will be the only Center buyouts NASA will offer during the current fiscal year.”

If the agency does not reduce the number of civil servants via voluntary means to a level that meets Griffin’s satisfaction, a RIF (Reduction in Force) may be necessary. A RIF is a detailed process whereby government employees can be laid off involuntarily. In his memo Griffin noted “In June 2006, I will assess our progress and decide at that time whether or not the agency will conduct a RIF in early fiscal year 2007.

Of course, the budgetary environment for FY 2007 may serve to increase the number of people who may need to leave the agency and increase the pressure to conduct a RIF. Weiler said that the agency was awaiting the so-called “passback” of the FY 2007 budget request that NASA had submitted to the White House.

In the mean time, in addition to personnel cuts in the contractor workforce and civil service buyouts, GSFC plans to address the shortfall by deferring maintenance – and canceling the NASA Headquarters/GSFC shuttle bus.

SpaceRef co-founder, Explorers Club Fellow, ex-NASA, Away Teams, Journalist, Space & Astrobiology, Lapsed climber.