Thursday, January 15, 2009

Griffin warns of layoffs at NASA

Agency's current spending levels would
mean cutbacks for contractors, he says


Departing administrator Michael Griffin warned Tuesday that NASA would have to lay off an unspecified number of contractors if Congress freezes the agency’s spending at current levels.

Griffin’s comments reflected a timeworn practice by agency chiefs who often use dire warnings to try to persuade lawmakers to ante up additional funds.

He said Congress’ decision to hold NASA spending at the 2008 level of $17.3 billion could trigger the personnel cutbacks. He declined to specify the locations that might suffer the layoffs.

“If we’re going to have the continuing (budget) resolution for the remainder of (fiscal year 2009) we’re going to have contractor layoffs because we will be getting several hundred million dollars less than previously expected,” he declared at a news conference. The Bush administration had requested an additional $300 million for 2009, for a total budget of $17.6 billion.

Last fall, Congress extended funding for NASA and other agencies at 2008 levels because the lawmakers could not agree on a new budget before the Nov. 4 election.

Griffin told the Houston Chronicle that the personnel cutbacks would largely come from the Constellation program, which would launch a moonship in 2015, five years after the shuttle’s retirement. NASA requested $3 billion for the program this year; Congress authorized $2.5 billion in the continuing resolution.

Nationwide, NASA has 40,000 employees and contractors. The Johnson Space Center in Houston accounts for about 20,000 employees and contractors.

Griffin said President-elect Barack Obama faces tough choices on four aspects of the space program. They are:

• • Whether to spend up to $400 million to fly an extra shuttle mission to ferry the $1.6 billion Alpha Magnetic Spectrometer to the space station. The Energy Department partnership with 16 countries is designed to study the energy potential of cosmic radiation.

• • Whether to continue shuttle operations beyond the fleet’s 2015 retirement at a cost of $3 billion a year.

• • Whether to extend space station operations beyond 2015 at a cost of roughly $2 billion a year.

• • Whether to speed delivery of the Constellation’s Orion moonship by a year, to 2014, at an additional cost of $4 billion.

Griffin said NASA has not made up a 20 percent budget decline suffered during the eight years of the Clinton administration or the inflation-only budget increases during the eight years of the Bush administration.
Read more HERE.

No comments: