Goldin Response To Congress About Downsizing

National Aeronautics and Space Administration
Office of the Administrator
Washington, DC 20546-0001
Jul 9 1996

The Honorable Christopher S. Bond
Chairman
Subcommittee on VA-HUD- Independent Agencies
Committee on Appropriations
United States Senate
Washington, DC 20510

Dear Mr. Chairman:

For the past 4 years, NASA has undertaken an effort to instill a renewed definition of excellence in the Agency's institution and the conduct of its research and technology programs. Driven initially by the need to formulate more realistic budgets and to achieve a streamlined workforce, NASA has embraced a philosophy of reinvention which extends beyond mandated reductions and focuses on maximizing the efficiency, effectiveness, and vitality of the Agency.

We have made significant progress toward a renewed NASA. In fact, more than half of the 7500 full-time equivalent (FTE) reductions needed in the civil service workforce to reach the target of 17,500 by FY 2000 mandated by reinvention have been accomplished through voluntary measures such as separation incentives, hiring freezes, attrition, and aggressive outplacement. In order to achieve the remaining 3500 reductions to reach that target, while maintaining the vitality of the Agency, I am requesting your support for legislation to be incorporated in H.R. 3666, the FY 1997 VA-HUD-Independent Agencies appropriations bill, which would permit NASA to offer separation incentives of up to $50,000 to its employees.

Without legislative relief, a reduction-in-force (RIF), which may need to be initiated as early as the start of FY 1998, will be the only tool available to achieve these major FTE reductions. However, NASA cannot afford the disruptive planning and execution of a RIF. As history has proven, a RIF would drain the Agency's vitality and strip it of its newer, younger and more diverse workforce, along with the new technical skills and different ideas they bring to the workplace, at the very time the Agency is undertaking some of the most complex human space flight endeavors such as constructing the International Space Station and transitioning the operation of the Space Shuttle to a private contractor while preserving safety of flight. I am convinced that Agency RIF's can be avoided by offering reasonable separation incentives.

In recognition of the large proportion of high tech, high salary professionals in the NASA workforce -- men and women who are committed to the Agency mission and view their jobs as life's work -- experience leads us to believe that an increased incentive will be needed to motivate these individuals to separate. We have outlined for Committee staff a legislative proposal involving a separation incentive of up to $50,000 which could be made available to persons who have at least that much severance entitlement and which would be offered only during a specified and limited period.

With average salaries and benefits for NASA professionals approaching $80,000 annually, we do not believe that such an incentive is out of line. NASA personnel who decline the initial offer but accept a buyout at a later time would be limited to a $20,000 maximum incentive. This sharp distinction would be made in an effort to achieve as many buyouts as possible during the first offer, thereby maximizing cost avoidance.

NASA would manage this separation incentive so as to ensure a smooth but rapid downsizing consistent with established workforce targets, funding constraints, and skill requirements already in place at our Field Centers and presently being finalized at NASA Headquarters. The benefits of this authority for NASA would be multiple and far reaching. Downsizing could be accomplished much more quickly than with normal attrition, yielding large cumulative salary and benefits savings. This approach would avoid the known, severe adverse impacts of a RIF and would avoid the cost of inevitable, protracted RIF-related litigation. Diversity gains would be maintained rather than eroded and NASA skill balances would be maintained. If managed properly, all of this could be accomplished within NASA's current budget allocations, at a cost savings over a RIF. Above all, it would enable NASA to maintain its restructuring momentum and provide a superior aeronautics and space program.

I look forward to discussing this proposal with you in greater detail, and hope that I am able to enlist your support.

Sincerely,

Daniel S, Goldin
Administrator

cc:
The Honorable Barbara A. Mikulski

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This page contains a single entry by Keith Cowing published on July 9, 1996 5:43 PM.

NASA Staff Meeting Minutes 8 July 1996 was the previous entry in this blog.

NASA Response to Union Letter About Downsizing is the next entry in this blog.

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