United Space Alliance to Cut Half of Space Shuttle Workforce

[Satellite TODAY Insider 04-19-11] United Space Alliance (USA) will implement a major workforce reduction in late July and early August following the final mission of NASA’s space shuttle program due to the completion of tasks related to day-to-day operations of the fleet, USA announced April 18.
    The company said the reduction would affect multiple disciplines and multiple organizations across its business and is expected to impact between 2,600 and 2,800 jobs, including 1,850 to 1,950 employees in Florida, 750 to 800 employees in Texas and 30 to 40 in Alabama. USA employs about 5,600 employees between the three sites.
    "Though USA will be a significantly smaller company after the space shuttle program is completed, we are optimistic about our future," USA President and CEO Virginia Barnes said in a statement. "USA has a great deal to offer in the way of skills, experience and expertise, and we are looking forward to providing our unique capabilities to a wide variety of new and existing customers."
    This is the second major layoff USA has announced during the course of the past year. In October, the company laid off about 15 percent of its 8,100-employee space shuttle workforce. USA said the layoffs were necessary to align its workforce level with the company’s space shuttle program operations contract work scope and current budget. The reduction impacted, "about 800 to 1,000 employees in Florida, about 300 to 400 employees in Texas and about 10 in Alabama," the company said in a statement issued in July.
    The U.S. space industry has been experiencing an employment crisis for several years, which fueled the fire of an intense debate about NASA’s future role in space exploration. In February 2010, the Obama administration unveiled a plan to support NASA’s manned Constellation lunar mission program and invest $6 billion in commercial launch companies to replace the retiring space shuttle fleet.
    At the time, Aerospace Industries Association (AIA) Workforce Manager Daphne Dador said the organization’s members, which include U.S. manufacturers and suppliers of aircraft, space systems, equipment, services and information technology, are working to transition these individuals and their skill-sets to new jobs within the sector. "Companies are holding job fairs, but these workers are not going to be placed in the space programs. They may be developing rockets one day and working on missiles another day. We know there are efforts, but it’s not going to be easy [to transition the workforce]. There are a lot of creative ways to see where we can place these workers, but with the uncertainty and the lack of contracts, it impacts what we do and speaks to the larger skillset issue."
    The commercial launch industry also is working to employ personnel with NASA-related experience. In March, SpaceX announced it hired former NASA Astronaut Garrett Reisman as senior engineer of astronaut safety and mission assurance. Reisman joined another former NASA astronaut, Ken Bowersox, in preparing SpaceX’s Falcon 9 rocket and Dragon spacecraft to carry astronauts.

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