interest. Because the SEITT study was conducted primarily in late 2005 and early 2006, the committee is unsure about the degree to which these uncertainties remain as of spring 2007. Shuttle schedules and the effects of NASA’s buyout program, for instance, should be known, but other uncertainties may have developed in the meantime.3

The SEITT found that 93 of the 110 separate competency areas were identified as being of primary importance by at least one of the four mission directorates, thereby accounting for nearly 99 percent of the agency’s current workforce. Two skill areas—systems engineering and program/project management, which account for about 10 percent of the current workforce—were identified as being primary in all four directorates. Only 16 skill areas, covering only about 1.5 percent of the workforce, were not identified as primary for any directorate. The mission directorates did not identify any new skill areas for which there was not already some competency within NASA’s current workforce.

In terms of general trends for future demand, the SEITT study found that nearly half the skill areas (41 percent) were likely to continue to have stable near-term (2006-2011) demand, nearly one-third (28 percent) were expected to be increasingly needed, and 16 percent were expected to experience diminished near-term demand. The study also uncovered skill areas, especially in the Space Operations Mission Directorate, for which the trend would be either increasing or decreasing demand in the near term and then would reverse in later years.

NASA’s analysis concluded that as the Science Mission Directorate’s (SMD’s) programs steadily evolved, its demand for particular workforce skills would remain relatively unchanged and that the main task would be to recruit to fill vacancies created by normal attrition and to maintain an appropriate skill mix. The situation for the Space Operations Mission Directorate (SOMD) was more complex due to the combined impacts of the planned retirement of the Space Shuttle in 2010 and the onset of flight testing and, later, flight operations of new human exploration vehicles such as the Orion and the lunar lander. The SEITT identified 16 percent of SOMD civil service skill areas for which demand was expected to be reduced and 4 percent for which demand was expected to increase. It concluded that there would be decreasing demand in 40 percent of all SOMD contractor skill areas, and estimated that demand in remaining areas would remain stable.4 For the Exploration Systems Mission Directorate (ESMD), the SEITT study found that modest near-term growth was expected in all skill areas traditionally identified with the design, development, and testing phases of programs.

The committee notes that the SEITT study did not include those important skills possessed by personnel in places like the Jet Propulsion Laboratory and the Johns Hopkins University’s Applied Physics Laboratory Space Department that are also available to NASA. The committee was informed by NASA personnel that in the case of the Jet Propulsion Laboratory, such data existed but was difficult to obtain because JPL treats the information as proprietary. The committee believes that lack of such data limited the utility of the SEITT study.


Drawing in part on the findings of the SEITT report, NASA’s Workforce Strategy, a document that responds to a requirement in section 101(f) of the NASA Authorization Act of 2005 and was submitted to Congress on April 14, 2006, incorporates the agency’s analysis of key workforce issues and information as of January 2006.5

The strategy cites the following important factors as shaping the environment to which NASA’s planning must respond:

  • Implementation of the 2004 Vision for Space Exploration,

  • Retirement of the Space Shuttle by 2010,

  • Refocusing of the aeronautics program on “long-term, cutting-edge, fundamental” research,

  • Growing retirement-eligible fraction of the NASA workforce,


For example, in February 2007 NASA revealed that a lower than expected budget would result in slippage of the Orion and Ares I development schedules by 6 months.


The SEITT report identified trends in the demand for contract workers only for SOMD programs whose overall workforce is 90 percent contract workers.


NASA, National Aeronautics and Space Administration Workforce Strategy, April 2006, available at

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