workforce generally, the more relevant comparison population. The fraction of the NASA workforce in the age range from 35 to 55, the span generally agreed to represent the more productive years of technical staff, is 68 percent, nearly identical to that for the aerospace industry generally over the same age range. However, more than one-third of NASA’s workforce is in the age range from 35 to 45, compared to only 27 percent of the aerospace workforce generally. In addition, the aerospace industry workforce’s second peak, in the age range from 50 to 55, a peak that is lacking in NASA’s workforce, represents people with vital experience who are present in higher numbers in industry than at NASA. It appears that NASA’s workforce issue is not one of age or sheer numbers; it is one of skill and experience. Most of the space hardware development over the past one to two decades has been done by industry, not NASA, and therefore agency employees have not benefited from this experience.
Almost 60 percent of NASA’s civil service employees are scientists and engineers. Within that cadre, about 85 percent are engineers and nearly 10 percent are scientists. According to NASA officials who briefed the committee, the average age of NASA scientists and engineers is 45.8; 24 percent are younger than 40, 67 percent are between 40 and 59, and 9 percent are 60 or older. NASA has determined that 12 percent of its engineers and 21 percent of its scientists are now eligible to retire, and it projects that in 2011, 28 percent of its engineers and 45 percent of its scientists will be eligible to retire.