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Skills Assessment and Workforce Strategy

NASA’S SEITT REPORT

Formed in 2005, NASA’s Systems Engineering and Institutional Transition Team (SEITT) was charged with assessing the institutional implications of the agency’s new plans for the Space Shuttle, the International Space Station, and the Constellation program, which encompasses the exploration systems architecture including development of the Orion spacecraft and the Ares launch vehicles. The SEITT was asked to make recommendations in four areas—human capital and workforce, organization and management, support requirements and contracts, and infrastructure. Portions of the final SEITT report were provided to the committee in early May 2006.1

The SEITT study addressed the longer-term skills that NASA will need for space exploration and other parts of NASA’s mission. The study’s goal was to discern trends in demands for skills based on the presumption that the evolution of programs in areas such as exploration and aeronautics might dramatically alter the types of skills needed by NASA, as well as the numbers and distribution of individuals with those skills.

The SEITT developed a spreadsheet listing 110 “workforce competencies” currently in the NASA workforce and defined in the agency’s Competency Management System (see Appendix C).2 It then worked through the headquarters mission directorate offices to characterize the relevance of each competency and chose a time designator (2005 to 2011, 2012 to 2018, beyond 2018) for when the competency might be needed, or trends might indicate when it would be needed. The team sought to identify groups of skill sets that would be needed by each NASA mission directorate for each of the three time periods. Its analysis focused on what skills would be needed, but not on the size of the workforce in competency areas. A key assumption of the SEITT’s analysis was that there would be 10 “healthy” NASA field centers during this entire period.

The SEITT’s overall conclusion was that too many unknowns existed at that time to develop firm strategies for workforce hiring. Among the uncertainties cited were expected but undefined changes in aeronautics programs, uncertain schedules for the Shuttle program, the effects of a NASA staff buyout conducted in the middle of the SEITT study, and the nature of the continuing development of the exploration program over the 15-year span of

1

NASA, Office of Program Analysis and Evaluation, Systems Engineering and Institutional Transitions Study, Final Report, NASA, Washington, D.C., April 5, 2006.

2

As defined in NASA’s National Aeronautics and Space Administration Workforce Strategy (NASA, April 2006, p. 12, available at http://nasapeople.nasa.gov/HCM/WorkforceStrategy.pdf) and NASA’s Competency Management System, a “competency” is “a conceptual representation of a body of knowledge. Competencies are used to categorize the capabilities of an employee, identify the knowledge requirements of a position or those associated with projects and programs, and forecast the agency’s workforce requirements.”



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Building a Better NASA Workforce: Meeting the Workforce Needs for the National Vision for Space Exploration 3 Skills Assessment and Workforce Strategy NASA’S SEITT REPORT Formed in 2005, NASA’s Systems Engineering and Institutional Transition Team (SEITT) was charged with assessing the institutional implications of the agency’s new plans for the Space Shuttle, the International Space Station, and the Constellation program, which encompasses the exploration systems architecture including development of the Orion spacecraft and the Ares launch vehicles. The SEITT was asked to make recommendations in four areas—human capital and workforce, organization and management, support requirements and contracts, and infrastructure. Portions of the final SEITT report were provided to the committee in early May 2006.1 The SEITT study addressed the longer-term skills that NASA will need for space exploration and other parts of NASA’s mission. The study’s goal was to discern trends in demands for skills based on the presumption that the evolution of programs in areas such as exploration and aeronautics might dramatically alter the types of skills needed by NASA, as well as the numbers and distribution of individuals with those skills. The SEITT developed a spreadsheet listing 110 “workforce competencies” currently in the NASA workforce and defined in the agency’s Competency Management System (see Appendix C).2 It then worked through the headquarters mission directorate offices to characterize the relevance of each competency and chose a time designator (2005 to 2011, 2012 to 2018, beyond 2018) for when the competency might be needed, or trends might indicate when it would be needed. The team sought to identify groups of skill sets that would be needed by each NASA mission directorate for each of the three time periods. Its analysis focused on what skills would be needed, but not on the size of the workforce in competency areas. A key assumption of the SEITT’s analysis was that there would be 10 “healthy” NASA field centers during this entire period. The SEITT’s overall conclusion was that too many unknowns existed at that time to develop firm strategies for workforce hiring. Among the uncertainties cited were expected but undefined changes in aeronautics programs, uncertain schedules for the Shuttle program, the effects of a NASA staff buyout conducted in the middle of the SEITT study, and the nature of the continuing development of the exploration program over the 15-year span of 1 NASA, Office of Program Analysis and Evaluation, Systems Engineering and Institutional Transitions Study, Final Report, NASA, Washington, D.C., April 5, 2006. 2 As defined in NASA’s National Aeronautics and Space Administration Workforce Strategy (NASA, April 2006, p. 12, available at http://nasapeople.nasa.gov/HCM/WorkforceStrategy.pdf) and NASA’s Competency Management System, a “competency” is “a conceptual representation of a body of knowledge. Competencies are used to categorize the capabilities of an employee, identify the knowledge requirements of a position or those associated with projects and programs, and forecast the agency’s workforce requirements.”

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Building a Better NASA Workforce: Meeting the Workforce Needs for the National Vision for Space Exploration interest. Because the SEITT study was conducted primarily in late 2005 and early 2006, the committee is unsure about the degree to which these uncertainties remain as of spring 2007. Shuttle schedules and the effects of NASA’s buyout program, for instance, should be known, but other uncertainties may have developed in the meantime.3 The SEITT found that 93 of the 110 separate competency areas were identified as being of primary importance by at least one of the four mission directorates, thereby accounting for nearly 99 percent of the agency’s current workforce. Two skill areas—systems engineering and program/project management, which account for about 10 percent of the current workforce—were identified as being primary in all four directorates. Only 16 skill areas, covering only about 1.5 percent of the workforce, were not identified as primary for any directorate. The mission directorates did not identify any new skill areas for which there was not already some competency within NASA’s current workforce. In terms of general trends for future demand, the SEITT study found that nearly half the skill areas (41 percent) were likely to continue to have stable near-term (2006-2011) demand, nearly one-third (28 percent) were expected to be increasingly needed, and 16 percent were expected to experience diminished near-term demand. The study also uncovered skill areas, especially in the Space Operations Mission Directorate, for which the trend would be either increasing or decreasing demand in the near term and then would reverse in later years. NASA’s analysis concluded that as the Science Mission Directorate’s (SMD’s) programs steadily evolved, its demand for particular workforce skills would remain relatively unchanged and that the main task would be to recruit to fill vacancies created by normal attrition and to maintain an appropriate skill mix. The situation for the Space Operations Mission Directorate (SOMD) was more complex due to the combined impacts of the planned retirement of the Space Shuttle in 2010 and the onset of flight testing and, later, flight operations of new human exploration vehicles such as the Orion and the lunar lander. The SEITT identified 16 percent of SOMD civil service skill areas for which demand was expected to be reduced and 4 percent for which demand was expected to increase. It concluded that there would be decreasing demand in 40 percent of all SOMD contractor skill areas, and estimated that demand in remaining areas would remain stable.4 For the Exploration Systems Mission Directorate (ESMD), the SEITT study found that modest near-term growth was expected in all skill areas traditionally identified with the design, development, and testing phases of programs. The committee notes that the SEITT study did not include those important skills possessed by personnel in places like the Jet Propulsion Laboratory and the Johns Hopkins University’s Applied Physics Laboratory Space Department that are also available to NASA. The committee was informed by NASA personnel that in the case of the Jet Propulsion Laboratory, such data existed but was difficult to obtain because JPL treats the information as proprietary. The committee believes that lack of such data limited the utility of the SEITT study. NASA’S WORKFORCE STRATEGY Drawing in part on the findings of the SEITT report, NASA’s Workforce Strategy, a document that responds to a requirement in section 101(f) of the NASA Authorization Act of 2005 and was submitted to Congress on April 14, 2006, incorporates the agency’s analysis of key workforce issues and information as of January 2006.5 The strategy cites the following important factors as shaping the environment to which NASA’s planning must respond: Implementation of the 2004 Vision for Space Exploration, Retirement of the Space Shuttle by 2010, Refocusing of the aeronautics program on “long-term, cutting-edge, fundamental” research, Growing retirement-eligible fraction of the NASA workforce, 3 For example, in February 2007 NASA revealed that a lower than expected budget would result in slippage of the Orion and Ares I development schedules by 6 months. 4 The SEITT report identified trends in the demand for contract workers only for SOMD programs whose overall workforce is 90 percent contract workers. 5 NASA, National Aeronautics and Space Administration Workforce Strategy, April 2006, available at http://nasapeople.nasa.gov/HCM/WorkforceStrategy.pdf.

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Building a Better NASA Workforce: Meeting the Workforce Needs for the National Vision for Space Exploration Development of the Orion and Ares I, and NASA’s move to full-cost management. A key principle underlying the strategy is a commitment to build and maintain 10 healthy field centers. All centers are expected to have clear and stable roles and responsibilities, including major in-house spaceflight responsibility, to ensure that they all are fully engaged and productive. To ensure the workforce’s flexibility in responding to both internal and external changes, the strategy indicates that NASA should move toward using a mix of permanent and non-permanent civil service personnel. As indicated in the NASA document, the strategy is based on total NASA workforce projections that anticipate a budget-driven 10 percent decrease in the NASA workforce between 2006 and 2011, a reduction of nearly 2,000 personnel. The most significant changes described in the character of the work to be performed are for work in the ESMD and SOMD, where NASA anticipates transitioning from an operationally oriented workforce (as the Space Shuttle is retired) to one that is more focused on parallel development of the new Orion and Ares I launch vehicles, and then on developing new vehicles such as the lunar lander and Ares V rocket, and other systems required for the lunar outpost such as lunar rovers, as well as conducting spacecraft operations. The pressures on NASA to manage its workforce while still preserving skills over time, within manpower ceilings, are amplified by events outside NASA’s control, such as changes in the NASA budget compared with amounts assumed when Constellation program element schedules were developed. NASA’s management efforts are also challenged by factors that are internal to NASA but are unquantifiable, such as the impact of development problems on schedules. To enable NASA to prepare for its future workforce needs, especially to achieve the Vision for Space Exploration, the strategy assesses trends in the demand for future workforce competencies. The document summarizes the current extent of uncovered capacity (i.e., portions of the present workforce whose primary skills are not needed by the current program) and assesses both growing and diminishing competency needs for two time periods—2006 to 2009 and 2010 to 2011. According to NASA, the immediate problem with employees whose primary skills are not currently needed is most significant at the three aeronautics centers (Ames, Glenn, and Langley). NASA identified an excess capacity in the areas of “engineering and science support (technicians), workforce operations and support; program/project management; computer science and information technology; space sciences; business operations; various systems engineering competencies; electrical and electronics systems; fundamental human factors research; and certain management competencies.” The committee notes that as this study was being completed, NASA reported that the agency had significantly reduced its excess capacity problem. The committee notes that the recent reductions of excess personnel, in areas such as “program and project management” and “various systems engineering competencies,” were primarily in aeronautics programs, not spaceflight programs. NASA’s Workforce Strategy describes a variety of approaches that NASA will use to meet its long-term needs for recruiting, retraining, and sustaining its workforce. Identified recruitment tools include targeted programs (e.g., co-op student programs, internships, Presidential Management Fellows Program), streamlined hiring authorities and special incentives available through recent legislative authority, and NASA-sponsored education programs. Retention tools include nurturing NASA’s reputation as one of the best places in the federal government to work, pursuing the strategy of building and engaging all 10 NASA centers, establishing an agency-wide career development program to foster lifelong learning, and using a number of targeted incentives (e.g., pay and relocation incentives, pay enhancements for exceptional candidates in critical positions, and Intergovernmental Personnel Act assignments). The strategy also considers steps that the agency should take to respond to inevitable attrition, including retirements. These steps include the possibility of offering retirees who have critical skills post-retirement employment without the loss of annuity payments, as well as programs designed to transfer expertise from senior employees to less highly skilled employees by methods such as mentoring programs. NASA officials indicated to the committee that two related documents—a mission support implementation plan and a workforce implementation plan—are being developed by NASA to identify specific actions to be taken to implement the strategy.

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Building a Better NASA Workforce: Meeting the Workforce Needs for the National Vision for Space Exploration NASA MAKE-OR-BUY DECISIONS NASA administrator Griffin has stated publicly that one of his goals is to rebuild NASA’s in-house technical capability.6 The SEITT report, in agreement with a major conclusion of a 1991 National Academy of Public Administration report, noted that the determination of whether to conduct work in-house (make) or to acquire work from outside contractors (buy) would be a major factor in improving NASA’s ability to execute missions, improve its performance, and foster its institutional capability.7 NASA does not currently have a formal, systematic process for make-or-buy decision making or for optimizing the impacts of such decisions on institutional objectives. The SEITT report recommended that the Office of the Chief Engineer develop guidelines for make-or-buy analyses and that the agency’s senior management put in place a formal process for make-or-buy decision making for all major projects. Factors to be considered, according to the SEITT report, include organizational sustainability; appropriate government management of high-risk programs and projects; alignment of work assignments with in-house core capabilities and capacity; impacts associated with workforce, contracts, infrastructure, systems engineering, and integration; and agency-wide strategic optimization for mission performance. NASA’S IN-HOUSE SCIENCE STAFF Whereas make-or-buy decisions primarily affect NASA’s engineering and program management requirements, a similar concern involves the agency’s in-house science staff. Approximately 12 percent of the full-time science and engineering employees at NASA, or ~1,200 individuals, are scientists.8 Although not a large number compared with NASA’s overall workforce, it equals a large fraction of the level of workforce reduction being considered over the next 5 years. The committee therefore considered that it was necessary to discuss the in-house science staff. The work of NASA scientists is unique in accomplishing the agency’s mission of expanding human knowledge through space-based exploration. They provide a critical interface between the science community and the NASA engineers and managers who implement NASA missions, maintaining stewardship of the community’s science priorities and ensuring that those priorities are held front and center in the execution of NASA scientific flight missions. NASA scientists also serve the broader science community through participation in the celestial navigation experience base maintained at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory, which is vital for supporting other NASA projects; the lunar sample curatorial facility in Houston; the National Space Science Data Center at Goddard Space Flight Center; and the microgravity drop tower facility at Glenn Research Center. In-house scientists also play key roles in focused R&D programs and shepherd technology development partnerships with academia and industry that enable future missions. The roles NASA scientists play span all three phases of the exploration cycle: (1) the pre-formulation phase, during which they interface with the science community to ensure that high-priority future science goals are the focus of basic research, technology development, and mission concept development efforts; (2) the project development phase, when they serve as project and instrument scientists, among other roles, ensuring that mission science requirements are implemented to the fullest extent possible and engaging the science community in the process of implementing NASA missions; and (3) the mission operations/data analysis phase, when they continue to serve as project scientists and also are often responsible for administering the observing and guest investigator proposal review process and ensuring that data are calibrated, distributed to the science community, and archived for external use. 6 Griffin said, “As a central organizing principle of our work, and despite the fact that 80 percent of our total funding goes to industry and will continue to do so, I firmly believe that it must be NASA and its engineering staff, and not our contractors, who will assume the primary responsibility for making this program work.” Michael Griffin, remarks at National Society of Professional Engineers Professional Development Conference, Washington, D.C., January 19, 2006. 7 National Academy of Public Administration (NAPA), Maintaining the Program Balance, NAPA, Washington, D.C., January 1991. 8 NASA has 10,046 science and engineering employees out of a total of 16,745 full-time permanent employees. NASA has more than 18,000 total full-time employees, but not all of these are permanent. The number of scientists, which includes groups that were “scientific staff” (not clerical/admin or health/medical/hospital/dental), is approximately 1,150 (or 11.7 percent). This number includes mathematics. Without mathematics, the number is approximately 960 (9.6 percent). See http://naade02.msfc.nasa.gov/workforce/.

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Building a Better NASA Workforce: Meeting the Workforce Needs for the National Vision for Space Exploration Just as NASA engineers and managers must be able to acquire and continue to improve their core capabilities and maintain their technical capabilities through hands-on experience, so also must scientists maintain a presence in the science community as practicing scientists to continue to perform their duties. This work as practicing scientists, i.e., basic research, is typically done during the first and third phases of the exploration cycle outlined above—the pre-formulation phase often entails basic R&D, and data analysis is fundamentally a scientific research activity. The key is that this work is best performed within the context of a NASA scientist’s job to interface with the broader community and provide stewardship of community priorities within the agency. Neglecting the basic research role of NASA scientists would lead to an unhealthy NASA scientific workforce, ultimately weakening the agency’s ability to execute national science priorities. As a result of the transition to full-cost accounting (now called full-cost management), much of the “practicing science” work at NASA centers is now funded through the research and analysis programs, which have limited budgets. NASA scientists are thus in direct competition with the broader science community (in addition to working with it, as their roles intend). The committee was not presented with data regarding the extent to which the level of funding that was transferred to the research and analysis accounts during the transition to full-cost accounting was adequate to cover the work of in-house scientists. Anecdotal evidence from NASA in-house scientists and from research and analysis peer review panels suggests that the transferred funds were inadequate. Currently, some of the NASA center scientists are partially or fully unfunded with regard to their “practicing science” work, and have thus in many cases been at a disadvantage in proposal competitions. The committee supports the continuation of the community service role for NASA scientists, whereby, for example, the individual works in support of a project that benefits the entire science community rather than his or her own research. The committee does, however, urge NASA to develop a formal position regarding the in-house scientific staff as an element of the agency’s workforce strategy. As input for its policy, NASA should assess whether the number of in-house scientists is at the appropriate level. Such an assessment could lead to conclusions that the size and skill mix of the in-house cadre at a particular center might need to increase or to decrease. However, as NASA reshapes its workforce in the context of the Vision for Space Exploration, it is critical to maintain in-house scientific competence to provide scientific leadership and to maintain expertise in specialty areas that are not broadly practiced in universities and industry. In the context of the aerospace workforce ecosystem construct mentioned below in this chapter, NASA might consider ways in which scientists engaged in their “practicing research” but not playing key roles in a current project might better reside in academia as research faculty. This approach would capture the need for keeping the in-house science staff “fresh,” as well as providing flexibility and mobility akin to that which the committee has advocated for engineering staff. COMMITTEE ASSESSMENT OF WORKFORCE NEEDS The committee believes that through the work of the SEITT and in NASA’s 2006 Workforce Strategy, NASA has made a reasonable start at a top-down assessment of its future workforce needs, but that this process must continue in order to be useful to the agency. The committee also concluded that because the assessment was top-down—that is, conducted by the headquarters mission directorates and not the NASA centers—NASA will not understand the true capability of the existing workforce and/or staffing requirements until a more in-depth bottom-up assessment (i.e., one conducted by the NASA centers) is completed and a strategic workforce demand and development model is prepared. Based on its own assessment of NASA work as described both in the SEITT report and in presentations to the committee made by agency representatives and some of its key contractors, the committee is concerned about three specific areas. The first, which is clearly recognized by NASA, is the lack of highly skilled personnel with expertise in program/project management and systems engineering, and current experience in the development of large human spaceflight systems. This issue is addressed in the next chapter. The second area of concern to the committee is that NASA has not conducted center-specific analyses of its current workforce. The third concern is that NASA has not developed specific numbers for the competencies needed, nor has it aggregated the competency needs into actual job requirements by center and over time.

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Building a Better NASA Workforce: Meeting the Workforce Needs for the National Vision for Space Exploration Finally, the committee believes that NASA must make a formal assessment of its needs for in-house scientists at its individual centers and determine if they are at the right level. Finding 1: NASA has undertaken a commendable top-down (i.e., headquarters-directed) analysis of current agency needs and the skill levels of its current workforce that the committee believes is an excellent first step. But although NASA has considered workforce needs for the agency as a whole, it has not yet projected its requirements for future hiring in terms of (1) the numbers and specific skill sets of workers expected to be needed by each NASA center over time and (2) the timeframes for hiring based on anticipated retirements of the present workforce. The committee believes that understanding future hiring requirements will depend on an accurate, detailed assessment of the skills, VSE-related development capabilities, and expected attrition of the workforce for each center. Recommendation 1: Collect detailed data on NASA workforce requirements. The committee recommends that NASA collect detailed data on and develop accurate assessments of the capabilities possessed by the current workforce and required for the future S&T workforce. Because each NASA center has unique mission requirements and the mobility of personnel between centers is limited, NASA should complete a center-developed, bottom-up assessment of the current skills, experience levels, and projected attrition of the workforce for each individual NASA center. NASA should use the data obtained from such assessments to develop a model for projecting future NASA priorities for VSE skill development and hiring by competencies, experience levels, and centers, as well as a model for the best mix of skill development conducted within NASA versus within industry. NASA should translate identified workforce needs from competencies and experience levels into specific positions to be implemented at individual centers at specific points in time. NASA should assess whether the skill levels of in-house scientists at each field center are appropriate to fulfilling that center’s scientific leadership and service responsibilities and should ensure that appropriate efforts are made to maintain the scientific competency and currency of each center’s scientific workforce. NASA should ensure that hiring constraints—such as pay levels, personnel ceilings, and ability to recruit suitable candidates—guide make-or-buy decisions about how staffing needs will be met. NASA should ensure that appropriate workforce strategies—including providing training for staff (e.g., through the NASA Academy of Program/Project and Engineering Leadership program), contracting out work to industry and academia, facilitating exchange programs, and hiring temporary contract and term employees—are applied at each center. The committee believes that it is premature to recommend a particular mix of strategies for obtaining the desired worker skill mix until NASA fully defines its staffing needs. Finding 2: In the short term, NASA has too few program/project managers and systems engineers with the requisite experience in human spaceflight systems development to successfully oversee VSE projects. Given the lack of detailed data on NASA’s near-term workforce skills and needs as well as uncertainties over NASA’s budget, the committee did not attempt to assess the likely success of NASA’s planned steps to address near-term workforce problems. The committee concluded that there is no major nationwide shortfall in the supply of eligible aerospace workers in the short term. The 250-350 skilled program/project managers and systems engineers that NASA estimates it requires for its human spaceflight program are only a relatively small fraction of the overall U.S. aerospace workforce. However, the committee is concerned about the possibility of insufficient recent entry-level workers (i.e., in the 25-29 year age band) currently at NASA. Policy decisions made by NASA in the 1990s resulted in the agency hiring fewer younger workers and helped contribute to a situation whereby the overall age of NASA’s internal workforce has been steadily increasing for more than a decade. The committee is concerned that NASA may not have sufficient in-house personnel capable of rising through the agency ranks and acquiring the experience that will be required in the next decades to implement the Vision for Space Exploration.

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Building a Better NASA Workforce: Meeting the Workforce Needs for the National Vision for Space Exploration Recommendation 2: Hire and retain younger workers within NASA. The committee recommends that NASA implement a long-term strategy for hiring a steady supply of younger workers and subsequently retaining those workers as they rise to senior management positions so that a balanced distribution of age and skill is maintained throughout the agency’s entire workforce. NASA should take full advantage of the NASA Flexibility Act of 2004, which was passed to facilitate the agency’s recruitment of employees from industry. NASA has already utilized the act to a considerable extent, and the committee encourages the agency to continue to do so, as well as to inform Congress of any additional hiring flexibility that is required. NASA, working with Congress and the executive branch, should develop solutions to legal problems that limit the flow of senior and highly skilled employees from industry to NASA even when such employees are willing to accept lower salaries. Issues regarding shareholding, pensions, and perceived or actual conflicts of interest severely hamper personnel exchanges between industry and NASA. These problems stem from policy issues that cannot be resolved by NASA alone but instead require action by Congress and the executive branch working in concert with NASA. THE AEROSPACE WORKFORCE ECOSYSTEM NASA has several options for filling required skill areas in order to accomplish the Vision for Space Exploration. These include transferring personnel within the agency (such as from the Shuttle and International Space Station programs to the Constellation program), retraining personnel, or hiring from industry. To meet short-term needs (i.e., through 2011), training and retraining have limited ability to fill any gaps in highly skilled personnel. The committee believes that with a proper emphasis on training and on recruiting new hires, NASA could be in a position between 2012 and 2018 to have enough skilled personnel in areas key to implementation of the VSE. That said, however, it became clear to the committee during its fact finding and deliberations that only by tapping into the workforce that currently resides in industry, academia, and other government agencies can NASA obtain the skills required between now and 2012. The committee believes that it is necessary to consider NASA’s workforce issues in the broader context of an aerospace workforce ecosystem. The essence of an ecosystem is that its elements work together synergistically, adapting to environmental stresses to maintain the ecosystem’s key elements. Viewed from the perspective of the aerospace workforce, the dominant components of the aerospace workforce ecosystem are DOD, industry, academia, and NASA (Figure 3.1). In terms of the size of its science and engineering workforce, NASA is the smallest member of the ecosystem. This fact alone strongly suggests that an optimal solution to NASA’s workforce issues is not to be found by considering NASA in isolation from the rest of the aerospace ecosystem. Input to the committee from NASA, DOD, industry, and university representatives indicated clearly that there are aerospace workforce issues in common among them, as well as interconnections that are either central to, or strongly affected by, actions taken by one or more of these groups. For example, NASA and DOD presentations to the committee emphasized the need for highly skilled systems engineers and project managers. These skills have critical value for industry as well. As with any ecosystem, tensions can arise within the system because of competition for resources. In any ecosystem, the successful elements are able to deal with competition, often by forming strategic partnerships as well as by carefully aligning resources. This attribute becomes particularly important if the ecosystem is operating in an environment of stress, such as limited resources (funding). The evidence strongly suggests that this is a time of substantial fiscal stress for NASA in terms of implementing the VSE. Each element of the aerospace ecosystem has a primary traditional mission as an organization that can contribute to NASA’s realization of the VSE. However, each may also face competitive challenges in certain situations that must be considered. For instance, an aerospace company may have both a DOD and a NASA contract proposal to develop, and depending on a variety of circumstances, one may be more attractive to pursue than the other. All four constituents of the aerospace ecosystem are continually competing for talent and technology to get their respective jobs accomplished. The ultimate success of any ecosystem is its ability to achieve a dynamic balance between the external environment and the elements of the system. An important facet of the elements of the aerospace workforce ecosystem is

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Building a Better NASA Workforce: Meeting the Workforce Needs for the National Vision for Space Exploration FIGURE 3.1 The aerospace workforce ecosystem. that significantly different time horizons dominate their planning and activity. Recognition of these differences is essential to an informed discussion of the aerospace workforce for any element in the aerospace ecosystem. The aerospace workforce ecosystem must also be viewed in the context of various externalities. These could include federal policies relative to International Traffic in Arms Regulations (ITAR), legislative funding changes as well as shifts in administration policies regarding civilian space priorities, and opportunities presented by other agencies such as NSF with significant funding targeted for university programs. Despite evidence that the number of foreign students enrolled in U.S. universities has not diminished substantially in recent years, ITAR has affected the availability of these students for involvement in certain elements of the aerospace ecosystem. It is apparent to the committee that a broad perspective is the best one from which to assess and address NASA’s workforce issues. This does not in any way diminish the value of key training and hiring for the future, but those activities should also be informed by what is taking place in the broader national aerospace workforce. The committee notes that the national space policy released by the White House in early October 2006 also emphasized the importance of a skilled workforce for the overall U.S. space effort, stating: “Sustained excellence in space-related science, engineering, acquisition, and operational disciplines is vital to the future of U.S. space capabilities. Departments and agencies that conduct space related activities shall establish standards and imple-

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Building a Better NASA Workforce: Meeting the Workforce Needs for the National Vision for Space Exploration ment activities to develop and maintain highly skilled, experienced, and motivated space professionals within their workforce.”9 Given the wide range of attributes that characterize the elements of the aerospace workforce ecosystem depicted in Figure 3.1, the differing elements’ time horizons and missions, and the interconnectedness of those elements, the committee concluded that resolving NASA’s workforce issues is a task that is beyond NASA alone: it is national in character and as such requires a broad, collaborative strategy, as well as policy coordination at a high level. As the committee was finishing its work, Congress passed the Interagency Aerospace Workforce Revitalization Task Force Act,10 whose purpose is to establish an interagency aerospace revitalization task force to “develop a national strategy for aerospace workforce recruitment, training, and cultivation.” The committee believes that this act is a good first step but is concerned that the task force may be a one-time activity and believes that the aerospace workforce ecosystem requires long-term attention. Finding 3: NASA’s workforce requirements and challenges cannot be considered in isolation from those of other government and industry organizations. NASA is part of an aerospace workforce ecosystem in which the health and needs of one organization or sector can affect another. Thus, NASA’s workforce issues require the intervention and assistance of higher-level government organizations such as the Office of Science and Technology Policy in the Executive Office of the President. Recommendation 3: Ensure a coordinated national strategy for aerospace workforce development among relevant institutions. The committee recommends that representatives from relevant government agencies, the aerospace industry, including the emerging private sector, and the academic community work together to develop a coordinated national strategy to ensure an effective aerospace workforce ecosystem. The committee urges the Office of Science and Technology Policy to include representatives of the broad interests of all components of the aerospace workforce ecosystem in the development of an effective national strategy. This representation should be from organizations that can reflect the broad interests of the various components of the ecosystem, as distinct from individual companies or universities. For example, DOD could be represented by the Defense Directorate of Research and Engineering, and NASA by the deputy administrator. The committee urges that the strategy set a series of 5-year horizons for addressing, among other issues, issues of the supply pipeline, retirement, and diversity, along with ITAR and related citizenship-related issues. 9 See Office of Science and Technology Policy, “U.S. National Space Policy,” 2006, available at http://www.ostp.gov/html/US%20National%20Space%20Policy.pdf. 10 See http://frwebgate.access.gpo.gov/cgi-bin/getdoc.cgi?dbname=109_cong_public_laws&docid=f:publ420.109.