charge, and the committee did not issue findings and recommendations concerning it. However, the committee notes that it will shape perceptions among current and potential employees about stability and opportunities in the civilian space program.

  1. Mid-term, present to 2012—corresponds with the retirement of the space shuttle in 2010, completion of International Space Station construction, the period for development of a crew exploration vehicle and crew launch vehicle, and the early development of the lunar exploration hardware.

  2. Long-term, post-2012—the period during which NASA will be conducting full-scale development of the human lunar exploration systems.

The committee understands that NASA has concentrated heavily to date on the immediate near-term problems. However, except for the results of some modeling of age and retirement eligibility demographics, the committee received little information about NASA analyses or planning for the mid- or long-term workforce skill mix demand or supply. The one exception with respect to skill mix was NASA’s observation about an agency-wide need for systems engineers and project managers. This concern is widely shared by senior managers in the Department of Defense (DOD) and industry, as well. During the workshop NASA did not discuss plans or options for training activities to address the agency’s mid- and long-term needs in any detail. The committee did not see any information about whether or how the agency might be coordinating with other agencies (e.g., DOD) that are facing similar workforce concerns. DOD has created several programs to develop systems engineers, but there was no indication that NASA is working with DOD on these programs.2

The committee’s initial examination of relevant demographic data about aerospace workforce supply and demand led to the following conclusions. First, although there are currently some problems in meeting demand, particularly for specific skills, the situation for employers such as the DOD and the large aerospace companies is not now a major problem. Data on employment demand are difficult to obtain, particularly broken down by relevant skill areas, and those data and projections that exist are often ambiguous as one looks beyond the near-term future. Second, many longer-term projections do forecast a gap between supply and demand that is larger than exists today. However, the size and scope of the gap are not clear. Third, the problems with meeting future demand in the DOD are influenced by the need to employ U.S. citizens and permanent residents who can obtain security clearances. NASA’s workforce pool will be constrained in a similar fashion as the DOD’s because NASA must hire people who can work in areas controlled by ITAR. Fourth, people with strong technical backgrounds can often acquire the specialized knowledge to go into different (but related) fields. Consequently, recruitment need not be too tightly targeted to the momentarily required specializations. Finally, NASA’s mono-generational employee age distribution (i.e., having a peak at only a single age; see Chapter 2) is different from the distribution seen for the DOD and industry, both of which were described at the workshop as being either bimodal or more nearly like the distribution of the U.S. workforce as a whole. However, so far NASA has only begun to examine skill distribution and is becoming aware that it has an age distribution problem, but the committee saw no indication that the agency has begun to act on this concern.

NASA is not currently experiencing a supply problem in terms of overall available personnel. But the agency is experiencing a more complex and subtle problem that will grow over time. Like other government agencies and aerospace contractors, NASA is experiencing difficulty in finding experienced personnel in certain areas, such as systems engineers and project managers. NASA’s workforce also has a skewed age distribution arising from hiring policies first implemented in the 1990s. The agency did not experience a hiring freeze during that time, but it adopted policies whereby it filled specific positions but did not hire younger people and “grow” them into positions. As a result, the agency’s mean age has

2  

In January 2004 President Bush signed the NASA Flexibility Act of 2004 (P.L. 108-201). The act authorized NASA to increase recruitment, relocation, and retention bonuses, and it streamlined the hiring process for recent graduates. It also expanded pay flexibility and authorized science and technology scholarships that can pay for a student’s undergraduate or graduate school education in return for a commitment by the student to work for NASA for a prescribed period of time following graduation.



The National Academies | 500 Fifth St. N.W. | Washington, D.C. 20001
Copyright © National Academy of Sciences. All rights reserved.
Terms of Use and Privacy Statement