NIST to cut 100 jobs

About 100 employees at the National Institute of Standards and Technology will lose their jobs because of a $20 million budget shortfall for the laboratories this year.

Employees have until Friday this week to accept $25,000 buyouts being offered, but it could be several weeks before agency officials know how many scientific and technical research employees will be laid off, NIST spokesman Michael Newman said today.

Newman also said it is too early to know how the agency's information technology programs will be affected by the job cuts. Few groups will be untouched, he said.

At a House subcommittee hearing earlier this year, Benjamin Wu, deputy undersecretary for technology at the Commerce Department, had testified that NIST would continue its work on computer information security standards despite a budget shortfall. But he said other information technology research projects would likely suffer.

To give them more time to consider early-outs and buyouts or retire if they are close to retirement age, between 100 and 120 employees have already been told their positions would probably be cut, Newman said. "Once we know how many are taking those options, then we'll have to sift through and see what is happening."

Congress appropriated $331 million for the NIST laboratories in fiscal 2004, $20 million less than the $$351.9 million appropriated in fiscal 2003.

The administration has requested $417.5 million for the laboratories in its fiscal 2005 budget, but Congress has not yet appropriated money for the budget. "With what's happening now, we don't believe that we're going to be able to reinstate people if we were to get those funds," Newman said.

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