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NASA budget woes leads to layoffs

Mar. 17, 2011 - 06:00AM   |  
By JAMES DEAN   |   Comments
Space Shuttle Endeavour sits on the launch pad at Kennedy Space Center, Fla.
Space Shuttle Endeavour sits on the launch pad at Kennedy Space Center, Fla. (Bruce Weaver / AFP via Getty Images)

CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. —Already coping with thousands of layoffs tied to the shuttle program's end, Kennedy Space Center is cutting more jobs because of flat federal financing so far this year.

About 150 positions are expected to be eliminated by April 1 to reduce costs associated with the center's day-to-day operations.

Custodial, library, health, security and transportation services are among those affected by reductions in hours or staffing.

"I know that these reductions will not be easy," center Director Bob Cabana wrote in a memo to employees last month. "All of the changes have been thoroughly considered, and we believe they are the best possible solutions to a very difficult problem."

The problem is that the space center, like the rest of NASA, has been operating at 2010 financing levels for nearly the first half of the 2011 fiscal year while Congress has haggled over the budget.

While money has remained flat, costs for various contracts and goods have increased, creating a $33 million shortfall.

Officials say the situation is made worse by a rule change that prevents money being rolled forward from one budget year to the next, limiting flexibility to adjust to some cost increases.

Cabana's memo said spending freezes and other initiatives already implemented had reduced the shortfall by half, but that cuts to services and jobs were necessary to make up the rest.

With the latest temporary federal budget set to expire Friday, an extension through April 8 was expected to again avert a government shutdown.

That's the same day an estimated 700 to 800 space center workers will be laid off as part of planned shuttle program reductions. Several thousand more layoffs will follow after the last mission, which is now targeted to launch June 28.

Some in Congress are pushing for deep federal spending cuts this year that could affect more jobs.

The center now employs about 11,000 contractors and 2,100 civil servants. Only contractors are affected in the recently announced cuts.

James Dean reports for Florida Today.

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