NASA Workers Get $15M Training Grant
Major shifts to NASA's agenda are expected to affect 20,000 workers, but job training and transition services are in place and well funded. Job cuts will affect contract and subcontract workers of ASRC Aerospace, Boeing, United Space Alliance and others in Florida, Texas and other states.Amid expected job loss for contract and subcontract NASA workers in Florida, the Department of Labor announced it is providing a $15 million grant toward job assistance and transition services to 3,200 workers. The cause of the job loss is the impending retirement in November of the space shuttle program, which has been manning operational flights since 1982.
The grant has been awarded to program operator Brevard Workforce Development Board, which is part of Florida's 24th Congressional district in Brevard County.
"We must take every step possible to maintain the Space Coast's highly skilled workforce, and this grant will provide critical support to workers and help them find new job opportunities in our community," said Florida Democratic Rep. Suzanne Kosmas, who joined Secretary of Labor Hilda Solis for the announcement at the John F. Kennedy Space Center. "At the same time, I will continue working to minimize the human space flight gap and attract new businesses to the Space Coast in order to strengthen and diversify our economy."
The Obama administration has come under some political fire for the job losses in Florida, Texas and other states resulting from the planned retirement of the space shuttle program-although it has been in the works since 2004. The Obama administration has set aside $40 million to help workers affected by changes to the NASA agenda.
"During nearly three decades of continuous space shuttle flights, these dedicated and talented workers have helped move our nation-and the world as a whole-forward in a broad range of disciplines," Solis said during the announcement. "Today, these hardworking Americans need and deserve our support, and I am pleased that this grant will allow them to upgrade their skills further and gain access to work opportunities in high-demand industries."
In January, eWEEK reported that the Obama administration had shifted NASA's priorities and cancelled the manned moon missions known as the Constellation program, developed under President Bush. After review by a panel of experts on the lack of funding and progress on the program, it was scrapped.
"The U.S. human spaceflight program appears to be on an unsustainable trajectory. It is perpetuating the perilous practice of pursuing goals that do match allocated resources," the panel said in January. "Space operations are among the most complex and unforgiving pursuits ever undertaken by humans. Space operations become all the more difficult when means do not match aspirations. Such is the case today."
But all is not lost for NASA, which continues to receive federal funding to the tune of $5.8 billion, as granted by the Obama administration in January. Changes to NASA's priorities-which will be more centered on research-are expected to affect roughly 20,000 workers in 2010, according to reports from the Department of Labor.
"To many, including myself, defenders of the status quo for NASA-be they many or be they few-base their views solely on the job impact," said Senate Commerce Committee Chairman Jay Rockefeller, as quoted by Washington political blog The Hill. "I don't think we can afford to do that. NASA's first mission must be to do what's best for the nation. The American people deserve the best from their space program and NASA's role cannot stay static."
"If you look at every area of technology in this country, as you advance there are fewer and fewer manual-type jobs," said NASA Administrator Charles Bolden in an interview with The Hill in May. "That's what happens when you advance technology."