House tries to keep NASA brains

The House of Representatives approved legislation on Wednesday to help NASA attract and retain the best workforce it can with recruitment and pay bonuses that can compete with the private sector.

The legislation, already passed by the Senate, is on its way to President Bush who is expected to sign it. Just two weeks ago, Bush announced a major new initiative to explore space, targeting the Moon and Mars.

"The need for this bill, it seems to me, is beyond dispute," said Rep. Sherwood Boehlert (R-N.Y.), chairman of the House Science Committee. "Events of the past year have highlighted NASA's need to attract and retain the best workforce imaginable. And yet NASA is on the brink of losing the talent that it already has."

The NASA Flexibility Act of 2003 would give NASA officials the ability to recruit scientists and others to stem the brain drain that is expected to hit the agency. Within five years, 25 percent of NASA's workforce will be eligible to retire.

Many officials, both inside and outside of government, have been pushing for better pay for NASA's workforce.

"People are NASA's most valuable asset, and we're very appreciative to finally have the necessary tools to enhance our ability to recruit and retain the nation's top scientists and engineers," said NASA Administrator Sean O'Keefe.

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