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Glenn Mahone/Bob Jacobs
Headquarters, Washington
(Phone: 202/358-1898/1600)

February 25, 2004
 
RELEASE : 04-071
 
 
President Signs NASA Work Force Flexibility Act Into Law
 
 
NASA Administrator Sean O'Keefe today expressed his appreciation to the President for signing into law a new act giving NASA greater flexibility to restructure and revitalize its work force. President George W. Bush yesterday signed the NASA Flexibility Act of 2004.

+ View President's Statement

"I am very excited about this human capital legislation," said Administrator O'Keefe. "With fewer students entering math and science studies, there's greater competition to attract those graduates who do make science and technology a career. This law now gives us additional tools to address the 21st century challenges we face in recruiting and retaining the exceptional talent required to carry out NASA's mission of exploration and discovery."

NASA created a Human Capital Legislation Implementation Team in August to begin work on the many tasks that must be accomplished before using the new authorities provided in the act. The team also is leading the change-management initiatives underway to ensure effective communication with the entire NASA work force regarding the human capital legislation.

Sponsored by U.S. Senator George Voinovich (R-Ohio) and U.S. Rep. Sherwood Boehlert (R-N.Y.), the bill builds on existing law. Among other reforms, it provides the agency the ability to improve recruitment and retention, and to compete with the private sector. The legislation also establishes a Science and Technology Scholarship for Service Program, which provides financial assistance to students in exchange for a commitment to work for NASA.

"A quarter of our work force will be eligible to retire in a few years. We have to take creative steps to get students interested in these important fields and energize them about contributing to America's technology future," added Administrator O'Keefe. "I appreciate the bipartisan congressional support this measure received and we look forward to working with the House, the Senate and the Administration as we move forward during this important time for the agency."

The General Accounting Office has continued to rank "strengthening human capital" as one of NASA's top management challenges. The agency's over-60 science and engineering work force outnumbers its under-30 employees by nearly 3-to-1. The potential departure of these individuals represents a dramatic loss of knowledge, experience and leadership.

The bill adheres to existing merit principles, veterans' preference and equal employment opportunity guidelines, as well as supports the rights of labor organizations. NASA involved its unions, the American Federation of Government Employees (AFGE) and the International Federation of Professional and Technical Engineers (IFPTE), in pursuing this important legislation. Last year, the IFPTE, NASA's largest union, endorsed the measure.

Additional information about this NASA initiative is available on the Internet at:

http://nasapeople.nasa.gov/hclwp/index.htm

 

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