NAPA: NASA needs a more flexible workforce

NASA: Balancing a Multisector Workforce to Achieve Healthy Organization (.pdf)

NASA needs to adopt a data-based workforce model to better suit its needs, according to a National Academy of Public Administration report released April 2.

Those needs include maintaining 10 remote facilities outside NASA’s Washington, D.C., headquarters and balancing a contractor-heavy workforce during a time when budget priorities are shifting toward space exploration. The Bush administration’s Vision for Space Exploration Program has made building a new international space station and manned flight to Mars top priorities for the agency.

In the 244-page report, NAPA said NASA will need a flexible workforce to face those new challenges. The space agency should use surveys, performance metrics, data analytics and constant feedback to gauge the priorities of the workforce. Currently, NASA’s workforce is composed mostly of engineers who work as contractors; nearly 40,000 of the 58,000 employees at NASA are contractors.

“NASA should rigorously collect and analyze workforce data, share the evaluation of that information in a transparent manner and make decisions based upon those analyses,” the report states.

Historically, NASA has used a rigorous performance process for employees involved in its major missions programs.

NAPA also recommended that NASA adopt further flexible management policies related to reducing its workforce. This is in addition to other workforce flexibilities detailed in the 2004 NASA Workforce Flexibility Act. The act gave workers higher salaries, more time off, student incentives and retention bonuses. NAPA said NASA should go further, and recommend adopting a new reduction-in-force policy, an all-encompassing buyout authority and a reduced authority to modify retirement policies in the event of an emergency.

The Senate Appropriations Committee requested the report last year. NAPA interviewed 100 workers from NASA’s headquarters and branch offices.

NAPA is a 35-year-old independent organization chartered by Congress to provide analysis to improve government effectiveness, efficiency and accountability.

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