FIGURE 2.1 The age distribution of NASA’s current workforce compared to the totals for the aerospace sector, the federal government, and the U.S. workforce. SOURCE: Garth Henning and Richard Leshner, NASA, presentation to the Committee on Meeting the Workforce Needs for the National Vision for Space Exploration, February 22, 2005.

Pace also noted that there are a number of factors that will complicate NASA’s workforce challenges, such as uncertainties about the future pace and scope of some program areas (e.g., nuclear systems), program volatility (e.g., the near-term reductions versus longer-term needs in life sciences), outside competition for workers, NASA’s need to hire U.S. citizens, workers’ ability to rotate between NASA and industry (i.e., with NASA employees working at an industry site and industry employees working at NASA sites), and NASA’s immediate needs for workers who already have significant experience rather than more junior people who require training.

The committee notes that one difficulty in understanding and characterizing NASA’s potential workforce problems is that the agency’s job definitions do not correspond with the standard occupational classifications produced by the Bureau of Labor Statistics. The problem is not that the agencies and BLS use different classifications (although that problem existed in the past), but that the BLS occupational classifications lack sufficient detail to be useful to NASA. This is a common problem as well for other fields, such as information technology, where an occupation such as “computer programmer” does not indicate which type of programming languages a person is knowledgeable about. The challenge for the committee—or anyone attempting to assess NASA’s workforce problems—is that it is difficult to compare the agency’s demand for workers with the available supply.

Michael Hecker, Acting Director of Constellation Systems in NASA’s Exploration Systems Mission Directorate, summarized NASA’s exploration and systems architecture plans for accomplishing the exploration vision (see Chapter 1). He described NASA’s plans for organizational roles and

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