ARC RIF Update: Notes From the Trenches

NASA ARC Reader note: "Last Friday (October 14th) was the final day on the "back side" of the WARN Act invoked here on the Lockheed Martin contract in August (reported by NASAWATCH earlier). Somewhere in the neighborhood of 60 LM personnel (highly experienced scientists and engineers) were processed and let go."

"Many scrambled to try and slide over to defense projects at Lockheed Martin Sunnyvale in the last few weeks prior to last Friday. Particularly hard hit was the science and engineering staff previously supporting the Space Station Biological Research Facility/Centrifuge, being developed in collaboration with JAXA (and which, ironically, just last month completed its Critical Design Review. Obviously, the hardware and software expertise is essentially scattered to the winds and, for all intents and purposes, nearly impossible to recover or recreate.

Also, last week, JSC personnel were told to stop work on the Centrifuge Accommodation Module to help complete the death throes of these ISS efforts. A lot of built-up expertise in developing life science facilities and Space Station modules for manned space is decimated by this decision, including a significant loss of capability at Ames, in, what was once, not very long ago, viewed as a "core capability".

The previously minor level of work at Ames in Astrobiology now emerges as some hope for the future, but the carry-over of expertise is pretty empty and exactly where "Astrobiology" figures in contributing to the current NASA vision seems sketchy at best.

As reported at other centers (JPL, others?), the decision process on who got laid off did not seem to track well with seniority/experience: many of the most senior personnel with long-term successful flight experience were laid off, while many less-senior personnel (and a teaming contractor) are still being retained. Not only is this, in the long term, ill-conceived (if there is a hope to acquire NASA work in the future and have the talent to know-how to get the job done), but it leaves a plausible opening for potential "unlawful termination" lawsuits, an area that Lockheed had trouble with at Ames about 12 years ago (deja vu?). Lockheed Martin, for quite some time, has indicated that if work in one area of the Ames contract was cut or scaled back, the most valued personnel would likely be transferred to the remaining parts to retain the talent base. Good words. Very little of that actually happened (vacuum of leadership and/or wisdom?), and the selection process for who received a layoff and who didn't was done hastily and the approach is nebulous, at least from all of the affected employees' standpoint."

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This page contains a single entry by Keith Cowing published on October 18, 2005 10:35 PM.

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